When is no decision actually a policy? In government it’s often the default position, a deliberate plan to stay the course and keep things the way they are. Bureaucracy has a tendency to be conservative, punting whenever it can and allowing things to stay as they are. But in a time of great change or even crisis, is this acceptable? Increasingly there are signs that Minnesota has become a state mired by diffuse responsibility and an inability for the government to respond to the situation at hand in a way that is effective.
No action can be very dangerous. But there is increasing evidence that it is become a serious problem – and I doubt that Minnesota is alone.
Y’ins gon’ rut fer Stillers? I ask the room for its opinion in my best Pittsburghese, a language I’m woefully out of practice with. Nevermind. Out here in Saint Paul no one can tell if I’m getting it right or not. The language, with deep Polish and Appalachian roots never made it outside of the hills of Western Pennsylvania a land with its own rugged rhythm tempered by a gentle decency. It’s an easy culture to define by language but a hard one to get to know.
The upcoming Superbowl features two teams from “The Midwest”, the industrial heart of the nation that quietly defines much of what we consider solid and good about the USofA. We can find this stretch on a map as one people, but we can also hear it in the way they talk and the values they cherish. It’s where football itself was founded and continues to thrive in basic principles of fair competition. It’s America both unassumingly small and big hearted at the same time.
The room was constantly abuzz with curiosity. In the back room of the dimly lit restaurant newcomers would shyly approach the long table carefully, hoping to find a face they knew, a connection to the crowd. This is how a “tweetup” usually goes because as well as many of us know each other, it’s through our keyboards. The faces, the laughs, the eyes and the smiles are still apart. That’s why any of us tromp out into the cold of January in the first place.
But really getting to know people isn’t just about face time. It’s a learning process. That’s the message I took away from one of the many conversations I had.
In the warm-up before the State of the Union address, the sides are digging in. A strong focus on debt appears to be the main point of contention, with Obama proposing investments that will pull the US out of its funk and the opposition apparently finding a religious fervor in the size of our debt.
About to get lost, once again, in the big story out of Washington are hundreds of smaller stories across the US of debt running out of control at the State and Local level. Smaller investments made one highway at a time, one transit line, one park, one new factory or housing development paid with tax increment financing are starting to dominate our crisis. And they get very little attention.
Anyone who follows their horoscope has probably heard about the “new” set of astrological signs. The controversy continues as people’s ability to relate to their world has been thrown into chaos. But shouldn’t everyone involved have seen this coming if it’s so predictive? Actually, since there’s nothing new here at all, a bit of history tells us that this was a long time in coming. Horoscopes may seem like fiction to most people, but they had their roots in the foundations of science and civilization itself.
The main difference here is that fiction, as a product of the human mind, has to make sense. History doesn’t have such limitations.
Is the economy improving or are we just “muddling through”? Over the last year I’ve tried to note what we should look as reams of economic data are released and then spun by an eager, if naïve press. It’s time to go back and review what’s happening now that data for the end of 2010 is starting to come in.
“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”
– The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Every year Dr. King’s Birthday comes around, and every year we have the same talk around the dinner table. My kids don’t feel that in a time when a black man is President there is as much need for Dr. King – the man, the life, the struggle, the values. Every year they want to tell me that this is their day, and they can honor Dr. King by honoring what he has done to make the world what it is, and I have to tell you I am happy for it.
But so much of what I want to tell them is what was not done, can never be, not in one man’s lifetime or in all the lifetime’s of all of us still here on this Earth. The ongoing struggle for a society that is just and decent is eternal.