In August I hit the big “5-0”. Depressing, yes; end of the world, no. While I hate to date myself, I recall as a child loving Kool-Aid and mixing up batches of it with my Mom. ‘Way back then it didn’t come in premixed containers; each flavor came in a single packet, which you combined with sugar. It was a cheap, overly sweet drink for kids. I even carried on the tradition by buying fruit punch flavor Kool-Aid to fix for my children on occasion.
Our presidential election will take place in about a month, give or take, from when this article appears. But, as I write it, both the Republican and Democratic national conventions have just ended and I can’t help but ask if you’ve drunk the red Kool-Aid or blue Kool-Aid?
I’ve focused on politics in more than one edition of Nursery Insight; it’s not my first and probably won’t be my last. In fact, I pretty much had this month’s column done when I was compelled to push it to the side and start from scratch. Why? Because, while I am a registered Democrat and tend to favor blue Kool-Aid, I fear we’re all in jeopardy of being addicted to red or blue when perhaps – just perhaps – we’d be better off with the color purple.
Now, first and foremost, I am an advocate of being a registered voter as well as someone who exercises her constitutional right to cast a ballot. There is nothing I hate worse than those who whine about our politicians or the government when they fail to take any action other than to flap their gums and complain about the situation. As Plato said, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”
The Republican National Convention took place while I was at Farwest tradeshow. The Democratic National Convention followed when I returned home. While in Oregon, I was struck by how few election ads I saw on TV. In Ohio the ads are absolutely non-stop. There are daily visits to Ohio by both parties, which always are covered by the news. In my opinion, the ads and campaign speeches focus too much on what the other guy or the other party aren’t doing, or did wrong, instead of saying what that candidate is doing, wants to do or providing concrete plans and solutions for problems.
While the focus is on the Presidential election, I think our problems as a country go beyond the office of the President. It’s not about one man. We do, after all, have a Congress and Senate that we need to hold equally responsible. And accountability should flow over into key government positions as well. But I believe one of the reasons we fail is that the moment an elected official gets into office, a major factor in decision-making for them is: How will my stance or vote on issues affect my ability to get elected next term? Their votes should be about what’s best for their constituents, not about what’s best for them or for their party.
During and directly after each convention, FaceBook came alive with rants about how horrific the other party is. My fear is that, both as parties and as people, we are becoming too polarized. I really get nervous when the “I’m right, you’re wrong” mentality meets “I won’t even listen to your opinion.” You want to get really scared? Watch C-SPAN. Now, that’s frightening!
At the DNC, former President Bill Clinton spoke. If you heard him you may not have agreed with all, part or most of what he said, but when he talked about how politicians are no longer reaching across the aisle to work together to find a compromise or solution for the betterment of all, well, that’s a point I certainly hope we should agree on.
For nine terms Steven LaTourette has represented the 14th district in the state of Ohio and has been my Congressman. He is a Republican who earned my vote more than once. He’s not the first “R” I’ve supported with my vote and dollars, and he won’t be the last. To me, it doesn’t matter what letter of the alphabet you represent. What does matter – and it matters a lot – is whether you have some level of common sense, and you are supportive of my beliefs and, in particular, my needs as a business person.
Congressman LaTourette recently announced he would not seek re-election and a 10th term. At his press conference he said, “I have reached the conclusion that the atmosphere today and the reality that exists in the House of Representatives no longer encourages the finding of common ground.” He made a lot of other “real world” comments at his conference. It’s just too bad it had to take his retirement for him to say exactly what he thought and, even worse, that politicians can’t seem to lay it on the line each and every day.
This leads me to the words of President John F. Kennedy, who I think summed up things best. He said, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
I realize I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know. And yes, “Only government can take perfectly good paper, cover it with perfectly good ink and make the combination worthless,” according to Milton Friedman. But even having said that, I’m lucky enough to live in America where I can exercise my right to free speech – hence this column. And while this election may be more about choosing the lesser of two evils, so to speak, at least you can vote.
Don’t throw away your chance to make a difference this November. Make your voice heard – get out and vote! Afterwards, we can all take a much-needed breather with the holidays and then get back to the business of beautifying this great country we live in!
– Edited and reprinted from American Nurseryman Magazine, October 2012 issue