Editor’s note: Sen. Lowen Kruse served in the Nebraska Legislature from 2001-09 and is also a retired United Methodist minister. We have asked him to share ideas on how persons of faith can effectively discuss difficult issues and affect important community decisions.
Our public chatter has many jokes and much nonsense about serious public issues. What is worse, sometimes we repeat a foolish statement. These “jokes” do not become humorous and often hurt us.
The manufactured “jokes” replace serious talk, which we really need on some subjects. When I was a boy, the “jokes” about President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) were endless — many I cannot repeat. Some centered on the contention that he was as dumb as a fence post. Everyone laughed; men would guffaw and women quietly nodded to each other with “ain’t it awful.”
FDR merited criticism, as does every president, but “dumb?” Never. That is lazy talk. We are wasting valuable time on nonproductive chatter and put ourselves down by ignoring the ideas of our president. (We now label some of them “wise.”)
What do we hear today? To start, all kinds of jokers attempt to set aside climate change. They go for a cheap laugh, at the expense of “those eggheads.” It is clear 97 percent of the scientists who study this say it is real. Do we actually want to be anti-science? If you do not like education, try ignorance. At what cost do we ridicule knowledge?
Or, a political candidate points at an opponent and glibly says, “I am the tax cutter.” Not ever. Invariably this is said by someone who, unwittingly, will raise our taxes (somewhere else!) in the long haul. It is nonsense that we will be reducing total taxes when we have so much to attend to, like bridges falling down. Serious comment focuses on specific issues and the strategies by which citizens could choose to pay for them. There are several other things I’ve heard:
“All Democrats are do-gooders. “(Loud applause.) Hey, I know a large number of Democrats and some of them do no good at all. The many who are helpful are in it because they passionately care.
“Republicans are greedy.” (“Ain’t it the truth?”) Hey, I know a lot of Republicans. Some of them pushed a finance drive over the top. We should be having prayers for caring Republicans, that they can find a consensus by which to help all of us. Most do care and we should be cheering those on.
“Blacks are pulling us down.” Let’s start with George Washington Carver, move to the Black Airmen from Tuskegee and come to Colin Powell. Again, the downer in this foolishness is that we are not discussing who can help us focus on public problems and what we can accomplish together. Innovative Blacks need support.
“Raising the minimum wage will hurt the economy.” Never has. And is always followed by a small upturn — for good reason. Those who work hard are rewarded and feel better about themselves. More money is put into the economy. We then have a way to sort out the low-level jobs that are really underpaid. And higher minimum wage reduces taxes big time! Why should taxpayers be subsidizing those who underpay employees?
Workers are even told (by employers who are fake conservatives) to get government help in order to provide a living wage. Too often the rest of us respond as though that is a conservative strategy.
“The poor are notorious takers.” Not by a long way compared to the wealthy — who receive more in subsidies. Top income corporations receive far better treatment from the government than a small farmer — who is always mentioned in the list of takers. Bailouts were not planned for low-income citizens.
“Gays will ruin our marriages and hurt our families.” Hello? Let’s talk about what is really bothering us instead of taking shots at those who are easier to put down.
Back to the president. One of our favorite indoor sports is to put down those who are in authority. Criticism can be valid, but the manufactured stuff hurts us all. “Obama is a Socialist.” Not. In our country we have nothing near Socialist government, where the government owns all means of production. I hear no leader urging that. We do accept (demand?) that the government manages tasks which are needed by all — roads, schools, mail delivery and fire/police protection. We have been burned when we tried privatizing pieces of that and so we continue with what works. We are practical — as is every president.
Another loud one is that the president does not want everyone to work. He supports ways to keep folks from working? Huh? Again and again and again what he says is about every able person working, every middle class family having jobs that keep folks independent, every employer paying workers according to their value in the business. There is no evidence he thinks differently. Again, this is about us. The president states the consensus by which we talk and move forward. Lying about what he says is misleading ourselves about what we hope for. We lose direction.
In summary, this nonsense is not by true conservatives, who hold values that deserve development. These are shallow statements by wanna-be conservatives (and some wanna-be liberals) who are appealing to the quick guffaw or applause on a campaign trail. Do not repeat their hurtful chatter if you want the air to be clear for thought-filled discussion of progress.