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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 10:38 am | Fair 58º


Harris Sherline: Our Government, Society Raise More Questions Than Answers

We're in a slump — in more ways than one — and getting us back on track is easier said than done

Here are some questions I have been asking myself — some philosophical, some practical, some merely rhetorical, perhaps some even a bit naïve.

Are Americans so immature and self-centered that we really can’t see what is happening to us? Have we become too soft and self-centered to survive? Do we really care, or are we more concerned about personal advantage and profit than solving problems?

Is there really a connection between today’s decisions and future events? Seems obvious, doesn’t it, but all too often people behave as if their words and actions don’t have any consequences.

Why are we debating tactics as if the judgment of every citizen should be taken into account about how we conduct a war? Who should be in charge and make the major decisions about conducting the wars we fight — politicians, professional military or the general public?

Can America ever win another war? Not a battle but a war?

Is mankind destined to destroy himself?

Why is loyalty to one’s political party considered a greater virtue than loyalty to the country?

Where are the “statesmen” of our times, men like Winston Churchill, William Fulbright, President Dwight Eisenhower and George Marshall?

Where are the political leaders with true courage, such as the Founding Fathers and Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan?

Why do we continue to tolerate young people who deface their bodies in such a way as to make themselves not just unattractive but repulsive? Who on earth would want to hire them, except for the most menial jobs, such as washing cars, busing dishes, etc.?

Why does our society continue to tolerate such crimes as child abuse and molestation?

How is it that our government is so infused with fraud, corruption and misrepresentation and that no one really seems to care?

How did we manage to allow our government employees to reach the position where the taxpaying public is actually working for them and their generous pensions rather than the other way around? What, if anything, can be done about it?

Why do we tolerate a political system that has made “public service” a lifetime career, with pay and perks that far exceed those of the average American?

Doesn’t anyone do anything anymore just because it’s “right,” not because they get something out of it?

What makes people who have little or no qualifications think they suddenly become instant experts on just about any subject immediately after they have been elected to public office? Fighting wars and managing the economy are good examples.

Why do so many people seem to think that out-screeching or preventing others from speaking makes for a convincing argument? Screeching types obviously don’t understand or care that tirades don’t help their cause or convince anyone of anything, except of course those who may already agree with them.

We are constantly being told that the public wants comity and consensus from our political types, so why do we so rarely see either?

The answers to these questions are obvious, you might say. But if they are, why are we talking everything to death? And why aren’t the people we elect doing their jobs instead of playing politics with every issue that arises?

America is not a democracy, although a lot of people mistakenly think it is. It’s a republic, a representative government in which we are supposed to choose the people who will represent us and let them do the deciding. Unfortunately, too many Americans now confuse our system with a pure democracy, which is run by plebiscite, where almost every issue is put to a public vote.

I’m sick of listening to the endless stupid and vapid discussions and arguments that bludgeon our senses nonstop. Much of it isn’t even interesting or informative, just confrontational. And far too much of it is about people who are airheads with no special abilities or talent that makes them worth listening to or learning about.

My experience has been that if you try to please everyone, you please no one, and that making important decisions necessarily involves having some people dislike, even hate you. Decision-making is not a popularity contest, nor should it be.

Why is it that so many average citizens seem to think our leaders should cater to them (translation: do as I say or want) when it comes to making decisions concerning matters about which the public in general has little or no knowledge, training or background?

I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want my spouse being the national decider about how we should be handling situations such as Iraq, Iran or North Korea. And I’m confident she feels the same way about me. How about you and yours?

If you have any answers to my questions, please take me out of my misery and tell me what they are. But wait, isn’t that what we are asking our representatives to do for us — that is, make reasoned and informed decisions on our behalf?

I’m beginning to feel a little like a hamster, endlessly running on a wheel, going nowhere and never getting there.

— Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who as lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his blog, Opinionfest.com.

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