Tuesday, June 6, 2017

When the needs of the many outweigh the needs of a few...

Briana Bierschbach raises an interesting question in today's MinnPost. She asks: Can anything be done to make the Minnesota Legislature more transparent? I would argue that, at least theoretically, the answer is "Yes," if enough Minnesotans, of all political persuasions, want it. Here's how I think it could be done. I offer this because I'm tired of the sausage I've seen made of our environmental protections the past few legislative sessions.


My proposal is based on the belief that politics, as played today, has become strictly a "gotcha" win-lose game. It doesn't have to be that way. I wonder, he wrote rhetorically, how many current and future Minnesota legislators and other politicians are familiar with the book Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Do we have any reason to believe those who would represent us are familiar with the contents of Getting Past NO, Negotiating with Difficult People? If our politicians have neither training nor experience in creative, win-win negotiations, we have no reason to expect better results than we've seen for the past few years. Politics may not be rocket science or brain surgery, but neither is it an arena for rank amateurs or litigators. Politicians must be familiar with how to successfully negotiate. Political leaders must have training in win-win negotiations.

You may be thinking by now "that's all well and good, but how do we get there?" At least I hope that's what you're thinking. I want to beg, borrow or steal a strategy from the conservative side of the aisle. We get there by drafting and getting those political candidates who value our support to sign a pledge. The pledge is to participate in win-win negotiations for the benefit of all Minnesotans, not just their own constituents and political party. (Sort of like a "no new taxes" contract.) If candidates sign our pledge, we support them. If candidates don't sign our pledge, no support, no votes, and, if need be, we recruit or drum up a viable challenger at convention/primary time. There has to be a political price to be paid for putting the good of the few ahead of the good of the many.

We aren't going to get the kind of governance we deserve if we continue to elect those who put politics first, support party over principles, and treat governance as a "winner take all" game. I don't know about you, but I'm tired of the games I see played every session in St. Paul (and in Washington, D.C.). I'm fed up with "politics as usual" because I've watched politics perform on a downward trend for most of my adult life. I've also had the honor of helping to elect those whom I believed offered a compelling vision of the kind of future I wanted for myself and my descendants. Recently, at both the state and national levels, I've watched other countries and states exercise better and more successful leadership than we have in Minnesota and much of the United States.

quote from: John Morley, 1st Viscount Morley of Blackburn, OM, PC, FRS
(24 December 1838 – 23 September 1923)

When I was younger, more idealistic and more radical, I had a poster on the wall of my office. It read "You have not converted a man because you have silenced him." I fear too many of our current and would be representatives and leaders, and, in all likelihood, too many of us, no longer hold that perspective. We need it back if we are to thrive and not barely survive. Shall we start drafting that pledge?

Let America Be America Again



Langston Hughes, 1902 - 1967


Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!


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