“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.
At this time every year we have the same kind of conversation around the dinner table. My kids are growing up in a different world, one even more thoroughly defined by the struggles and triumphs of Dr. King’s generation than mine was.
But as they grow older, they see the work left to do more plainly. It is disheartening and difficult to watch those who once thought that the old black and white news film of dogs and firehoses was a document of a black and white history – a story of races and realities laid bare for history to pass its judgement. Now that they are in school they’ve seen and heard what racism is. The struggle is still alive, and every year more than just black and white.
Two years ago, nearly to the day, a curtain of gloom hung over progressives in Minnesota. A constitutional amendment was passed and sent on to the voters to enshrine in the state constitution that marriage was “between one man and one woman”. It was largely a cynical play to demonize homosexuals and get people out to the polls to vote Republican. The left was shocked and demoralized.
Today, Governor Dayton signed the bill which creates Marriage Equity in Minnesota, or legalizes gay marriage if you insist. It’s a remarkable achievement for this state, the 12th in the US to do so, but the two year path from despair to elation is a fantastic story too intricate to tell here. But one thing can certainly be said of this story:
It was one of the biggest political goofs in history – and if we learn from it this could be a turning point.
Sequestration. It’s a big word that most people have never heard before. Constant repetition in the media doesn’t help explain or define it, and the implications of what is pending (barring a last minute deal) are brutal.
The word “sequester” means to “set apart”. In this case, $108B per year is planned to automatically be set aside from the US Budget, half from the military and half from other discretionary programs (that is, not including Medicade and other entitlements). This is not a sequestration, it is a meat axe to the budget.
Assuming there isn’t a plan to stop this at the last minute, either by delaying it or passing a real budget for the first time in four years, what we have is the axe. You’re probably tired of hearing about it by now, but the use of words is important. The lack of a clear, common talk shows just what this is all about – an inside game that has to stop. How do we get past it?
Leadership. There has been a lot of talk about it lately, or more to the point the lack of it. In common talk it is defined as “Doing or standing for the things I like” far more often than is useful. But most people will agree that the inability for our US Government to do something about a large deficit coupled with a lack of support for genuine growth comes down to a lack of leadership.
I argue that this is to be expected, given the horrible lack of leadership everywhere in the developed world right now. Can anyone name a powerful nation with good leadership? Perhaps you can name a few businesses that have it, but not many. How about social leadership? Religious leadership? Are there more than a few people in rich nations anywhere who have a strong following that is capable of getting done what they want or need to?
Then again, the lack of leadership is hardly surprising. It is not about a charismatic figure that molds the masses to action – it’s about getting things done. That requires strategic thinking, and strategy is something horribly under-appreciated. I might chalk that up to excessive selfishness or a failure of moral character in our world, both of which are issues. But upon reflection, it seems to come down to a lack of understanding of what Strategy is and why it is important. And how we got here may well be fascinating.
It’s been the kind of week you swim through. The thick languid air drags back as if yesterday was a long time ago and tomorrow might never come. It’s not a day to get much work done, but we all slog through.
Daze like this I admit I go back through the Barataria archives to see if there’s anything that needs updating. Starting from July of 2011, however, it’s positively depressing. Employment is still lagging and the economy has not done anything new. At least funding is being secured to restore the old Rathskeller at the Schmidt Brewery on West Seventh – we locals are moving forward with heart and arm and brain. But at the big level, things are simply languishing as if summer never ended.