Time to turn the page and design a country we want

Monday, January 19, 2009 | 10:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:14 a.m. CST, Monday, January 19, 2009

Listening to some people who are unaffected by the country's economic downturn discuss the situation reminds me of how callous people can be about other people's problems. These are the kind of individuals who blame the automakers' problems on the United Auto Workers Union for their refusal to work for minimum wage without health insurance and other benefits. Now, of course, if these workers get laid off and the taxpayers have to pay them welfare benefits, the workers would be the scum-of-the-earth who should have taken better care of themselves when they were employed.

Somehow, we have built up a culture in the society that asserts that people who sit behind desks and give orders are entitled to earn lots of money, but people who do the work to supply the service or build the product should not be paid well. Are we all willing to accept the fact that those who are paid well deserve tax cuts and those that are paid little should be taxed heavily? This only makes sense to Americans and we need to ask ourselves why. Could it be that we believe economists who wax theoretically about how a textbook economy that one of their mentors has worked out on paper actually works?

Almost everywhere one goes these days, people say they are hopeful that with a new president we are coming into a new day. That can be true only if all of us are prepared to shed the old ideas that never worked but we kept because we bought the theory that it was the American way of doing things. Actually, we are the American people and it is up to us to define the American way.

According to the circumstances and situations that were prevalent during the life and times of our forebearers, they constructed a design that enabled them to make the most of their lives. But each generation must do this for themselves. Our world is radically different from the world of our parents and grandparents. So we must seize the courage to draft our own design.

Now, the old guard is determined to hang on. But we have all been teenagers and remember how our parents were shocked with the way we dressed and the way we talked. Whenever there is a drastic change in ideas and behavior, there will always be a backlash. Change can be painful. It means you have to give up something. You have to turn loose something you may not necessarily have held dear, but was something you had become accustomed to. The good news is, with time, people learn to adapt.

On the other hand, some of us are ready for a change. For example, I've never liked the idea that I'm supposed to dislike people from another country whom I've never met, simply because somebody else tells me that they are bad. I don't like being told that I'm not a good citizen because I don't accept enemies that other people have chosen for me. And, by the same measure, I prefer to choose my own friends. Countries that some may consider to be friends cannot be my friends unless they are willing to change their behavior.

And I firmly believe in the separation of church and state. I realize that there are many people who want to combine the two. If these folks can garner enough support to change the Constitution so that we become a theocracy, the rest of the society will have to comply. Until then, I will refuse to have their ideas forced down my throat. In the first place, these folks would resist a democratic theocracy where individuals would be able to choose the religion of their choice because they only want a Christian theocracy. Now, how democratic is that? This, I suppose, would make us a theocratic republic, but they obviously don't follow their theories to their obvious conclusion. After one conversation with these advocates, it becomes clear that there is no room for discussion.

Furthermore, I'm sick of the idea that America is always right and everyone who disagrees with us is wrong. I've never been out of the United States, so I would never claim to be a globalist, but I know that we are a young country and we could not possibly be smarter than everybody else all of the time. And even if we were, does that mean we have to be arrogant about it?

As the saying goes, I'm definitely ready to turn the page. Maybe, if intelligence earns respect again, there will be a day when kids will get excited about going to school, parents will become enthusiastic about encouraging their children to get an education and teachers will be able to look forward to getting out of bed in the morning. And the future of the country will begin to glow.

I don't know how you feel, but I'm ready for that.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at

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