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GENE ROBERTSON: Citizens must participate in policy decision-making process

Monday, March 12, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:18 p.m. CDT, Monday, March 12, 2012

Martin Niemoller, the pastor and outspoken foe of Hitler stated, "First they came for the socialist, and I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist."

The quote ends with — "and then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak out for me."

When politicians introduce policies that they say are for the good of the community as a whole but will immediately affect the inner city,  the disadvantaged or some other vulnerable aspect of a the city, I am reminded of Martin Niemoller.

Policies that can be defined as urban renewal, such as gentrification, blight enhancement, enterprise zones, or a number of other terms that allow and encourage financial vehicles to be developed must be examined carefully. The addition, modification or removal of laws to allow precedents to be set may later be utilized in other contexts with "new vulnerables" that may include you and me.

We are all in the same boat. If we are not the predators, we may soon be the prey. We do ourselves a great disservice when we disconnect from each other and fail to realize it's not just them. It's us, all of us, who will soon be affected.

Remember President Barack Obama's and Attorney General Eric Holder's excuses for not vigorously pursuing the perpetrators of the housing, energy and hedge fund scams. They were not sure that any laws were broken due to early modifications of previous laws. That same kind of encroachment is slowly taking place regarding invasion of privacy, unlawful arrest and even killings. Devious and diabolical schemes, i.e., insurance, payday loans and gerrymandering are constantly being devised for financial and political gain against populations we call "others" at the national and local levels. In reality we are all the others — all of us!

We are all vulnerable, but we are not necessarily weak. We have potential power if we choose to use it. We need to first recognize our kinship and interdependence with each other. We next need to organize, research and develop strategies to express our common interest. And jointly hold our elected, hired and appointed officials accountable for their behavior or lack of behavior.

We must all become aware and ever vigilant. We are all vulnerable and in need of our joint unified potential. We cannot abdicate our responsibility with lame excuses, i.e., we are living in a post-racial time. They have mothers and sisters and daughters. I know them personally, and they would not do it to me. They told me they have my interest at heart.

We need broad citizen organizations to participate in the decisions around predatory practices, with seductive titles. Such as enterprise zones and job creation or revenue generators. If we do nothing, we are complicit in the perpetration of the injurious acts.

Participating in the decisions that affect our lives can take many forms. We don’t all have to occupy, protest, attend meetings or make phone calls. Often dialoguing, researching and seeking clarity regarding policies with a friend’s relative and neighbors as well as political representatives will help. Generating other ways to make your interest known will help. Providing any resources you can to contribute resources will help. If we all do a little, it's not such a heavy burden.

Most importantly, allowing the decision makers to know that you care enough to be involved and that you are watching them could help in their decision-making. Passionately and fearlessly exercising our citizenship is a small price to pay for the freedoms we enjoy.

Remember, if you do nothing, they soon may come for you.

"The battle sir, is not to the strong alone. It is to the vigilant, the active and the brave," Patrick Henry +said.

William E. "Gene" Robertson is a Columbia resident and a professor emeritus at MU.


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Comments

Michael Williams March 12, 2012 | 9:32 a.m.

Well, Gene....those are fine words, and mainly I agree.

The problem is that you are quite comfortable watching my ox get gored, and you only write such lovely missives when it's your ox getting gored.

You can't have it both ways if you want my help.

(Report Comment)
Gary Straub March 12, 2012 | 10:19 a.m.

I could not agree with Mr. Robertson more. WE have become a society so absorbed with taking sides that we have blurred the the reality of what it is we are as a society. We have much more in common than not. We all eat, sleep, breathe, and try to make ends meet. By creating and bombarding us with the latest catch words, those we gave power have managed to keep us divided while they move their agendas forward. We are convinced that things like marriage, contraception, ID cards, right to choose or not, race, religion...etc. are the important things in our lives. All the while things like soaring healthcare costs, income disparity, wars, invasions, torture, nation building, and perhaps most importantly, ecology are things best left to those in charge.

WHILE we fight and bicker among ourselves, they have managed to convince us that we need war and all the new billion dollar gadgets to wage it. That outrageous health care costs have no fix. That bankers are immune from fault for stealing our money and taking our homes, then using our money that they stole to buy into oil futures so they can take what little we have left. That it is too expensive to clean up our environment. That it is OK to put chemicals in our food, and then add 10% water to boost profits. To spend millions of dollars on a remake of a highway to an airport that we have to subsidize to get an airline to even come, while the existing roads are deteriorating.

IF we keep sticking our heads in the sand with the hope that since it does not affect me it will be OK, we may find that when we do pull our heads out there could be nothing left.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 12, 2012 | 10:59 a.m.

Gary re: Your post.

See? You agree with Gene's missive, bemoaning that we can't all get along, then make claim for all the things YOU think are most important.

What if I don't agree? Now what?

I wrote in another thread about how enhanced taxes affected my decision to expand my company. Whether you understand it or not, that decision affected you, too. Indirectly, 'tis true, but it affected you. Yet, folks like you have NO sympathy for that particular business plight; indeed, when I've posted that in the past, there were folks in this place who simply did not believe me.

Fine.

But you and Gene shouldn't come on here bemoaning divisiveness, and then stake out hard-nosed, uncompromising positions of your own. I'm unlikely to sympathize.

Divisiveness requires two sides.

(Report Comment)
Gary Straub March 12, 2012 | 11:58 a.m.

Michael, So you are saying, that you like war, and spending a lot on war machines, you like extremely high health care costs, you are happy that mega banks drained our savings, you like a dirty environment and additives in your food, and getting 10% less than what pay for, and you really enjoy dodging potholes, and paying many times the real value for fuel? Really!!

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 12, 2012 | 2:01 p.m.

Gary...You missed the point.

But, my answers to your questions are no, no, no, no, no, no, and no.

We sure differ on the causes and the solutions, tho.

Now, turn it around: So Gary, you are saying that you like irresponsibility, bailing out others for their bad choices, high taxation that stifles entrepreneurs, politics intruding upon religion, poor life's choices, poor financial strategies, no private property, the current state of our schools, porno everywhere, self disarmament, no guns, tying arms behind the backs of the police, no identification at the polling places, unlimited immigration, and so on.

Yes, both questions are absurd and silly....from you AND me...because they require conclusions not stated or believed. Illogical-R-Us.

Like I said, bemoaning a divided society and then staking out inflexible positions of your own isn't gonna cut it. This article got the author published, but accomplished nothing else.

Instead of ME adopting your positions, why don't you change to mine? That would fix this divisiveness in a real hurry.

Yeah, I didn't think so.......

(Report Comment)
Justin Thomas March 12, 2012 | 6:09 p.m.

Michael, you're sounding pretty self-righteous; and, if all that you want to do when you read this is attack me, or Gene, or Gary, you'll just be proving the point. I do it all the time, so I know what it is, and we I do I am usually pretty sure that I am right. There comes a point at which it becomes more important to ask whether it is not only not helping anyone but in fact making the situation worse for everyone.

Is what you are doing here helping you, or any of us?

You'll have to forgive my cynicism (or not), but I don't know your story and it doesn't seem to me like you are interested in engaging in any productive dialogue here. Are you saying that citizens should not participate in their government?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 12, 2012 | 6:39 p.m.

Are you saying that citizens should not participate in their government?
________________________

No Justin. I'm saying talk is cheap. It's useless and unproductive to bemoan divisiveness, and then be divisive.

Of course it's good for citizens to participate in their government. I never disagreed with this and do not know where you came up with such a notion.

The argument "and then they came for me, but there was no one else to speak for me" is useless if you spend a life standing by while someone else's ox is getting gored. If you or anyone else stands motionless while I'm losing something I hold dear, then don't expect action from me when they "come" for you.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 12, 2012 | 9:32 p.m.

Michael:

Paraphrased (by me) the story went, "First, they singled out the Jews, but I wasn't a Jew. Then they started in on the Catholic church, but I wasn't Catholic. Finally, they started in on Lutherans, but by then there was no other group left to join with to fight them." (The speaker was a German Lutheran minister.)

One thing is certain: it is far easier to lose one's right to participate in government than it is to get it back.

(Report Comment)
Jonathan Hopfenblatt March 12, 2012 | 10:04 p.m.

@Michael: You asked Gary these questions, but I'll throw in some answers because I disagree that the reasonable answer to all of them is "no."

"Now, turn it around: So Gary, you are saying that you like...

-irresponsibility: No.
-bailing out others for their bad choices: Yes, if bailing them out is helping them not make future bad choices.
-high taxation that stifles entrepreneurs: Yes, because stifling entrepreneurship is not what necessarily follows from higher taxes, contrary to the extra text you added. Those who are willing to take the risk will take it regardless, furthermore they'll be sure to do their homework first.
-politics intruding upon religion: Yes, so long as religion continues to intrude upon politics.
-poor life's choices: Yes. See #2.
-poor financial strategies: Yes. See #2.
-no private property: TBD, because I have no idea how or why this is a concern at the moment.
-the current state of our schools: No, but I'm curious as to what solutions you might offer in this respect.
-porno everywhere: Yes, ignoring the hyperbole in your phrasing. It's very strange that people in general are way more comfortable around violence than sex.
-self disarmament: ???
-no guns: Yes. Guns for sport are one thing, but there's a huge problem when people need guns to defend themselves. I'm not saying "ban guns" either, but rather "we need to work toward eliminating the need for 'em."
-tying arms behind the backs of the police: Yes, ignoring the hyperbole and negative connotation in your phrasing. The reason why is about the same as the answer you'd give if someone asked you if you were in favor of "tying arms behind the backs of the government."
-no identification at the polling places: Non-issue, unless there are statistics out there proving that double-dippers, non-citizens, and unqualified voters have changed election results.
-unlimited immigration: No, but the answer is not as easy as building electrified fences along our borders.

(Report Comment)
Ken Geringer March 12, 2012 | 10:21 p.m.

Please, just leave the goofs alone. It makes for a quicker read.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 12, 2012 | 11:38 p.m.

Jon, read the entire thread first:
_____________________

Gary's post: "Michael, So you are saying, that you like war, and spending a lot on war machines, you like extremely high health care costs, you are happy that mega banks drained our savings, you like a dirty environment and additives in your food, and getting 10% less than what pay for, and you really enjoy dodging potholes, and paying many times the real value for fuel? Really!!"

My post: "So Gary, you are saying that you like irresponsibility, bailing out others for their bad choices, high taxation that stifles entrepreneurs, politics intruding upon religion, poor life's choices, poor financial strategies, no private property, the current state of our schools, porno everywhere, self disarmament, no guns, tying arms behind the backs of the police, no identification at the polling places, unlimited immigration, and so on."
___________________

Both are stupid since they assume facts not in evidence...i.e., they require unstated conclusions and beliefs from both of us. Both are hyperbole, useless, and show how easily a conversation can turn divisive; just stake out a position, make an assumption, and let-er-rip. In a thread from an article asking "Can't we all agree?"....well, the obvious answer became quickly apparent....no. It took 2 posts.

"Can't we all agree?" are empty, plaintive words I've heard for decades. Political history didn't start yesterday; indeed, in many ways it was MUCH worse in times past. "Divisive" has been around since.....prolly Australopithecines or maybe Neanderthals but certainly Cro Magnons. It's a human thingie and I hold little hope for change.

(Report Comment)
frank christian March 13, 2012 | 7:51 a.m.

"Both are stupid since they assume facts not in evidence.."

Mike was feigning "stupid". Gary?

"Political history didn't start yesterday"

Of course not. For liberals, it started shortly after 1960.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 13, 2012 | 4:05 p.m.

Here's a place where citizens can get involved:

http://www.sodahead.com/united-states/is...

You can't make this stuff up.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 13, 2012 | 4:15 p.m.

Or, get involved here:

http://campaign2012.washingtonexaminer.c...

Or even here (trading one dependency for another):

http://www.click2houston.com/news/U-S-to...

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams March 13, 2012 | 4:19 p.m.

Hmmmm.....having trouble with this site dropping comments; let's try again......

You can also get involved here (trading one dependency for another):

http://www.click2houston.com/news/U-S-to...

Or....uh-oh for Obamacare:

http://campaign2012.washingtonexaminer.c...

(Report Comment)
Justin Thomas March 13, 2012 | 4:52 p.m.

Thank you Dr. Robertson.

Douglass Park Neighborhood Association:

http://douglassparkna.weebly.com/index.h...

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin March 13, 2012 | 5:27 p.m.

Thanks Justin for returning this story to at least some local focus, which I think was Dr. Robertson's intention.

Another local site for citizen involvement is:

Citizens Involved and Invested in Columbia (CiViC)
http://www.facebook.com/groups/civiccomo...

CiViC is hosting a Town Hall meeting at Parkade Center tomorrow night, 7 pm, on the Blight Decree. Guest participants include City Council members.

This issue is what Dr. Robertson was referring near the beginning of his column.

(Report Comment)

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