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Observations: Cracks in the road ahead

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image The view from 35,000 feet shows a nation at peace. Perhaps things aren’t as bad as they seem. The future can be a bright and shining place. Photo Mitch Traphagen

The rhetoric on just about everything is so far over the top that people have become immune to it.


Thirty-five thousand feet over America provides a view of a peaceful, almost pastoral nation. So many things have changed in the world and in my own country since I took my first flight decades ago. But the view from above isn’t among them. All I see in peering out the aircraft window is a nation at peace.

The view was something of an allegory to my life of late. I keep thinking that I’ll find what I’m looking for in life by looking far down the road, into a hazy horizon from which no details emerge, while praying to God that He’ll keep me from tripping on the rocks and the cracks in the road directly beneath my feet. And then each moment passes, unappreciated, waiting for something I can only feel might happen in the future.

Perhaps that perspective is born of age, but more likely it is born of circumstance. Our world is a stressful one. It’s unfair, and sometimes ugly. And for some reason, we seem, by circumstances twisted all on there own, to celebrate that.

When did we decide that the bizarre, perverted and downright obscene was what we wanted the news to report on in today’s world?  The rhetoric on just about everything is so far over the top that people have become immune to it. You can’t just disagree with someone, you have to call them a Nazi and threaten to destroy everything about them. Anyone who believes that either political party has all of the answers is delusional — and it is stunning and sad that we allow our elected officials to promote such thinking. It’s even more sad that with the entire world of knowledge at our fingertips with the Internet, by and large we tend to seek out only that information that confirms or validates our already held beliefs. That mentality makes it really hard to advance much, I would think. I am as much to blame for that as anyone.

I saw a joke of sorts on Facebook recently that appropriately describes what I was referring to. If we had to explain our smartphones to a person who had just been transported from a half-century ago, we could tell them that the tiny device is capable of connecting us to nearly anyone, anywhere in the world, and has instantaneous access to all of the cumulative knowledge of the world. But we use it to argue pointlessly with strangers and watch cat videos.

The reporting of bad news is necessary; in my opinion it is critical to the functioning of what is supposed to be a largely transparent government. Although it seems to be forgotten at times, elected officials work for us, not for their respective political parties. Reporting bad news is critical to keep increasingly powerful businesses as honest as possible. It is critical to shed light on injustice and even ineptitude. We need to know about misfortune, catastrophe and adversity if we hope to correct it. And, as a nation, I know we hope to correct such things. That is who we are as Americans. But that doesn’t mean that good news should not be celebrated as well. Lord knows we could sure use some of that today. We must not let those with selfish motives or ill intent speak for us. That must stop.

And speaking of which, I was wrong last week to paint such broad strokes about the ineffectiveness of elected officials. I honestly believe that most of them are good people, hoping to do good things for their constituents and this nation. A case in point, from my perspective, at least, would be Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman. At any given time, you may or may not agree with her politics, perhaps in the course of her career as a public servant she has made mistakes — she’s human, after all — but she is just what her office suggests: a public servant. She puts herself out in the public for face time with real people, she invariably attends public meetings, making herself personally available to those she represents and I know from seeing her over the course of years, that she works hard to do the right thing for those she represents. Not every elected official can say that but she can.

The northern plains stretch far outside of my window on the airliner. I’m sure that out there somewhere, someone is profitably taking advantage of someone else. I am certain that somewhere out there, someone is lying, taking the name of God and country in vain. I’m equally certain that others are giving a few bucks to a person who is truly and temporarily down on their luck. I am positive that someone is reaching out a hand, literally and figuratively a hand of hope, to someone who felt there was nowhere else to turn. I know that someone is working hard to serve their neighborhood and this nation.

We are good people. It’s time to stop letting those with less admirable qualities speak for us. That includes the greedy, the soulless and, in some cases, the elected.

Out there, somewhere on the hazy horizon is my future, our future. Despite all that is happening in this nation today, I know that when we arrive there, it can be a better place. Whether or not that happens is entirely up to us — but it’s important to keep an eye on the rocks and cracks in the road lying directly beneath our feet as we slowly, sometimes painfully, make our way there. Today can be a pretty good place, too, if we just look around to see what all we have.

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