The Body Politic

I am a Democrat but I’m not anti-Republican (not Republican history, anyway). I am a Liberal but I am not anti-Conservative. What I believe is that liberalism is necessary to move our conservative nature in the direction of progress.

Believe me, I have as many friends on the right side of the aisle as on the left and they are all people I respect and whose company I enjoy.  I spend a great deal of time trying to understand our differences for the purpose of finding common ground to resolve conflict. My goal has always been to create a more civil dialogue that could lead to positive changes in our lives.

One of the mistakes that we make is in believing that either side (right or left) is consistent and that the modern labels of “Republican” or “Democrat” carry historical accuracy.

Thomas Jefferson was a Democrat-Republican. He and Madison formed the party to oppose the Federalists whose policies were in the interests of wealth, to form trade agreements with Britain and to create a National Bank. By today’s definition, Jefferson more closely resembles a Democrat but the Democrat-Republicans favored states’ rights and strict adherence to the Constitution and eventually became known as Republicans.

From this fragmentation, a new party focusing on individual freedom, led by Andrew Jackson, emerged.  Known only as Democrats, it must be noted that the “freedom” Jackson believed in only extended to white males, but this was the “majority” opinion of the day.  Disenfranchised Democrats along with the dwindling Federalists, joined what would become the Republican Party and swayed the party toward many Federalist values.

The line is already blurred and we’re only up to 1828…..

Once upon a time, in fact, it was not unheard of to be a conservative Democrat or a liberal Republican.

While Lincoln was a Republican, his socio-political positions were “liberal” while his devout nationalism might label him “conservative.”

Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, was a champion in many areas that are now considered the domain of the left (the environment, labor rights, regulations on big business). The Republicans, in fact, turned their back on him and he formed the Progressive Party to run again.

So why is it today that we believe there is historical consistency with our party values and why do we define each other with contrary terms rather than look for common threads to build new alliances?

Because, it’s easier to believe that we each naturally follow the beacon of unalienable rights that extend back to the eternal spark of creation.  It’s easier to follow than it is to lead….

Why, then, do people affiliate with one party over another and why are the differences between us so contentious?

I believe that every human being carries within them a conflicted polarity; a duality where we struggle between light and dark; a fight in our souls between fear and faith. We choose to, or we are conditioned to, conform our guiding principles to follow one direction over the other so that we can give that conflict rest.

I believe that at the core of modern conservatism is wisely measured caution, but also fear.  Fear of losing that which has protected us; that which has given life and sustained us (the status quo). It is perfectly rational to have that fear, we all do, but fear can also make us selfish.

Liberals are scared too, but at the core of liberalism is a critical evaluation of our frailty; it is a position to counter the natural forces that will nurture our fears (which can lead to selfishness…and from selfishness the soil becomes more fertile for intolerance, bigotry and greed to grow).

Liberals view our country’s greatness, not by the great system of accumulation that has been created, but by the compassion that we demand from that system.

At the risk of betraying my own premise by reducing ideologies to easy sound bites: Modern Republicans believe that what is good for them as individuals is best for the whole, while Democrats believe that what is good for the whole will create the best opportunities for the individual.

Would it be too pedestrian of me to suggest that both sides are right?

What’s really funny is that the genesis of each party came from almost reversed positions. Jefferson was a secular humanist whose own political philosophy started from an agrarian influence, and he was the original Republican…or Democrat depending on which party’s website you’re on.

Could there be a synergy of common goals that could become the answer for better government?  Could we develop a more civil dialogue so that the experience of our disagreements would be more….agreeable.

Though Love and Life make tearful intercession…

dc82853e7904b0731f4e903e56980211Theologian, A H Strong, defined the human will as “the soul’s power to choose between motives and to direct its subsequent activity according to the motive thus chosen.”

No more apt description of the duty of a true politician has ever been written.  Such reflection is what strengthens our moral purpose, and as a candidate for public office, the convergence of my ideas and motives are what will reveal to voters what kind of a representative I will be.

Strong continues his description of will as “The soul’s power to choose both an end and the means to attain it.”  Within our soul is our moral purpose.

The journey I am on has led me to biographies of political leaders to learn more about their motives and recently I have been drawn to biographies about Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and James Garfield.

universe-wallpaper-20It would be easy to develop a fatalistic point of view, considering that each of these men were assassinated, but my belief is that life is a series of capricious events orchestrated by our capacity for reason; we attach meaning to stories drawn from the collision of our will and forces outside of our control.

My point of view does not deny the existence of God, it only admits that I cannot define God any more clearly than I can define love for my children; the concept transcends the confinement of words.

Lincoln, Kennedy, and Garfield each seemed destined, yet their demise was the result of careless mistakes; a lack of attention when they should have been more aware of their vulnerability.  As purpose and fate comingled in my mind, I began to think about my own mortality.  Not in a morose “Oh-my-God-I’m-past-the-halfway-point-and-the-last-half-includes-incontinence!” way, but in a reflective “What-is-the-sum-of-this-journey-so far?” kind of way.

Life will always reveal a lesson when our awareness is heightened.  I was on a flight from Chicago to Cedar Rapids in pitch-black darkness, zero-visibility cloud cover, andplane-lightning-100610-02 buffeting crosswinds from a huge storm system passing through.  I fly a lot, but this was one of those flights where the wings tilt dramatically side to side and simultaneously hit air pockets where the plane drops several feet, and I’ll admit that I said a prayer.

It wasn’t a fear of dying at that moment, but I thought to myself, “What if I did?  What was the sum of my life?  What would people say?  Would I be remembered as a good man?  Did I remember to pay the cable bill?”

I try to tame the tendencies of self-indulgence by mediating such thoughts, but I think it’s a primordial human desire to want to be worth something to others.  Suddenly a moment with my father popped into my head.  It was only two months before he passed away and he asked me if I was happy.

Not willing to recognize that my father wouldn’t be here for years to come, I replied, “Yes…why are you asking me?”

GE DIGITAL CAMERA“Because I’m not going to be around forever and I want to know that my family is happy. I can believe that I had something to do with that.”

I asked him if he was scared of mortality and he said, “No.  I raised good sons and that’s how I want to be remembered.  And maybe you’ll tell your children that there was once this man named Glenn Kroeger…”

I found solace in his words because I already knew that my memories of my father would always construct a story about a good man, who was kind, wise, intelligent, and who loved his family. It would be the story of a man who achieved great success by giving his children the safety, comfort and dreams that his own childhood was denied. His flaws would be as forgiven in death as they were in life; they were not the measure of the man.

On this flight I asked myself, “Will my children feel the same way about me?”

There was an unsettling vibration under the fuselage as the plane banked against the wind to land.  But as we touched down softly and safely, it occurred to me that the answer lies in the question itself.  In these moments of perceived peril that turn into the fortune of living, our vanity is arrested by reality.

The present is a moving target that passes seamlessly into the future and instantaneously becomes the past; and it was within that infinitesimal space where my lesson found words:  To live the best of my life from each moment on.  Value is not measured by quantity, but quality. The number of years, the amount of wealth, or the accumulation of things, have no bearing on the value of a life.

My motive in this quest to become a public servant is exactly that.  As I serve the purpose of being a father by sharing with my children the best that I have to give, I will serve my constituents with the same resolve.

As my father could have proffered:  “We are immortal when our sincerest motives live in the memories of those we’ve loved. And served.”

 

Knock, Knock, Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door

Greetings from the down ticket!  That’s the first level of representation alongside city officials.  That’s not meant to be a self-deprecating comment, nor is it meant to diminish the importance of state and local government; it is simply where the office of a State Representative resides in the matrix of elections.

At the top are the presidential candidates, of course, followed by the United States Senate and the House of Representatives in Washington.  Governorships would be of AR-140509959equal stature, followed then by the State Senate and the State House.

Politicians running for a seat in Washington are at 30,000 feet, raising insane amounts of money, to yield insane media coverage, to create awareness as insanely as possible.  Whereas, in a state race we are in the trenches, going door to door, handshake to handshake, to literally eyeball our constituents hoping to inspire their support.

The up ticket does that too, mostly for photo ops, to appear as connected, but here at the city and state level we are the true Retail Politicians.  Our issues are ones that connect people more closely with the lives they hope to lead.  We aren’t necessarily talking about Foreign Policy, Federal Income Tax, or the EPA, but we are talking about Education Funding, Clean Water, Building Roads, Creating Jobs, and Access to Medicine while drawing straight lines to our communities.  I like it here.

victorianKnocking on doors is an experience everyone should have, yet almost no one reading this ever will.  It is, admittedly, a bit unnatural going door to door asking people to support you.  It was a lot more comfortable as a Boy Scout selling magazine subscriptions because there was a product other than oneself and a cause that few people would argue with; namely helping a young person achieve a goal.  But, few people get up in the morning, or go out to the garage to do some cleaning, hoping that a politician will come by at any moment.  As one of those “politicians” it is incumbent upon me, therefore, to be as engaging as the intrusion will allow, or as brief, yet effective, as a handshake can muster.

I enjoy the process and can honestly say that meeting people is something I’ve always embraced, but politics create a plenitude of reactions, some of which are challenging.  Yet  I’ve always found people to be quite friendly by nature, even those predisposed not to support me because of party lines, will smile, shake my hand and say “Thanks for stopping by.”  Supporters are also often brief, but occasionally someone will really want to talk for awhile about a specific issue.  The candidate must be equal part ears and eyes.

As we head into the last 2 months of campaigning, I can feel lines being drawn.   Yard signs are going up defining party turf and rhetoric is solidifying as ideological shields for the battle.  The reactions at doors are becoming more defined, as well.

While I can honestly say that I am greatly encouraged by the majority of people I meet who are interested in my candidacy or who outright support me, there will be the occasional door that shuts with: “You’re that Hollywood Liberal!” and yesterday I was told that I am “a Hillary Democrat” as the door closed.  Well….labels are just shortcuts to make the process of elections a little easier to deal with.  The contradiction is that no label can accurately define anyone and when we tag a politician with such a confinement, we take a step away from knowing who they really are.

I don’t line up perfectly with any label that I’ve heard.  I was not shy, for example, in my 10436support of Bernie Sanders, particularly on the grounds of countering the oligarchic policies that are destroying the middle class and the opportunity for prosperity for most Americans, and I will continue to express myself in that regard.  I am also not shy about being a Democrat who aligns with traditional liberal ideologies of civil justice and equality.  But I look at every issue individually and go as deeply as I can to consider how it will benefit or detract from what I believe is best for the world my children will inherit.

Is that a Hollywood Liberal?  Sure.  It’s also a lot of other people from other places, including right here in Iowa.  It is also, quite simply, an American who cares deeply about the engagement of ideas and the pursuit of Life, Liberty, and Happiness for us all.

Meanwhile, look for me if you’re out cleaning the garage.

 

Education Must Resonate

This link was sent to me at the end of the last school year:  https://msg.schoolmessenger.com/m/?s=P7Mxhkr5lN8

When I first began to think about running for public office, I asked friends, already in office, what moved them to take the leap into the political arena. They all had different sets of priorities with regard to issues, but all had one thing in common.  They all said, in varying ways:  “There was one issue that stood above all others, that told me that something has to be done.  Now.”

That resonated clearly with me. And the answer to that question, for me, was:  Education.

Education is the issue that I believe defines economics, opportunity, progress and quality of life. Education is essential to our representative democracy, to our ingenuity, production, and stability.  The creation of thinking minds is the foundation of justice, equality, civility, and freedom.  Furthermore, great schools are what attract businesses and promote the highest standards of quality.  In long and in short, our educational system, from the buildings themselves to the curriculum, teachers, and students that occupy them, are what lead us to greatness.

Education in Iowa has been marginalized by budgets that don’t meet the needs of our schools and force regent universities to increase tuitions, making them less affordable. The education crisis is exacerbated by our Governor’s (and complicit members of the Iowa Legislature) insistence on increasing corporate welfare and reducing what Iowa needs to support its infrastructure; ironically, the very things that attract businesses.  It is a state imposed Catch-22 where special interests have cut off the nose of our greatest special interest:  Our future.

Here is that link again:  https://msg.schoolmessenger.com/m/?s=P7Mxhkr5lN8

The Cedar Rapids School System is articulating the entire issue right here.  And this is a paramount reason as to why I am running for the Iowa House of Representatives:

 

 

 

Progressive American Gothic

“Progress is impossible without change.  And those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”  –  George Bernard Shaw

The other day I was asked a question by a conservative friend that I often have dialogues with.  “Gary, what does it mean to be a progressive?”

That appears as a simple question, but I knew that it was also a disguise for an editorial comment, so, I started my answer thusly:  “Well…I’ll tell you what it doesn’t mean, first.  It doesn’t mean that I’m what I’ve heard you call a knee-jerk, tax and spend, liberal, who wants to hand everything away.”

That took the wind out of the sail that I knew he was tacking, and a half smile-half smirk came across his face.  I continued:  “What ‘progressive’ means is this- if something isn’t working, change it!  Pro-gress from where we are.”

His eyes start to roll, but I was on sure footing.

“Progressive ideals don’t simply adhere to issues or solutions because they carry a label; they are a pragmatic process and rationale to create the greatest opportunity for people and for our communities to grow. They are a set of values that place people first.”

Values should play a vital role in politics, but I believe that many politicians confuse the term. They create a certain set of values to engineer support with a majority of constituents, but use a different criteria in private.  Therein lies the fundamental flaw in modern government where we find ourselves misrepresented.  Because there is one value that must stand before the rest:  Truth.

Without “truth” as our preeminent value, all others become moot.  What is a “value” if it’s not sincere?  And what do politics accomplish if we are not in pursuit of truthful ideals?

Politics are, essentially, a perpetual debate over what are, and what are not, our “Rights” and the definition and protection of them.  Whether it’s the right to bear arms, the right to celebrate our religious beliefs, the right to freedom of speech, the right to live and love as we choose and to have dominion over ourselves, we are connecting our rights with our values.

AmericanGothicAs Iowans I believe we are unique in that respect.  We are a confluence of rural and urban sensibilities with an innate respect for personal rights.  Often we baffle the rest of the country with our social progress within our ruggedly conservative nature.  I moved back to Iowa 13 years ago to give my children that very sense of propriety and progressive spirit.

We live by our values, and what we value is respect for one another and a commitment to family.  We value air, water and soil, and two of our greatest historical values are of education, and the well-being of our communities.  Those values drive how we live and how we behave.

I continued with my friend.  “Every policy idea should be preceded by serious and unrelenting questions:

Will this embrace the full spectrum of families by making them stronger and more secure?

Will this give our children the best education in the nation or will it diminish the teachers, resources and materials that will achieve that end?

Will our land and the people who work it flourish and grow?  Or will they be stagnated by special interests?

And will our community, and the communities within them (veterans, entrepreneurs, students, senior citizens, the neglected, disadvantaged or infirmed), be made stronger and more economically vibrant?

Do we uphold our ethical standards?

This is what it means, to me, to be progressive and these are the values that compel me to run for the Iowa House of Representatives.  I intend to give a strong voice to Iowa values that once put people first.”

My friend donated 50 bucks to the cause.  🙂

www.kroegerforiahouse.com

My Thankful Prayer

Someone said to me, “Gary, I don’t see any evidence of American pride in your positions.  You criticize our great country.”

I was startled.  I honestly feel that my perspective is a tribute to America, even when I am critical of politicians, policies and political parties.  I never take for granted what this country provides, and I consistently give thanks for all that I have.  I’ve been educated, I have a great job, I have healthy children and I am free to speak my mind in the public square.

To bring some harmony to this dissonant chord I decided to form my political views, realized and hopeful, into thoughts of thankfulness.

I am thankful to live in a country where we are free to protest, to peaceably assemble to empower the voice of the people.  A country where such a right is recognized as essential to securing our freedom from tyranny.

I am eternally grateful to our military men and women who have bravely sacrificed so that we may have that freedom.

I am thankful that I live in a country that has recognized that clean air and clean water are vital to the health of our nation.

I am hopeful that health care reform will continue, and improve, so that more Americans can live healthier lives and reduce the fear of illness and financial ruin.

I am thankful that I live in a country where the rights of citizens are protected by ethical laws regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion; and that these laws are vigorously examined to suppress the tendencies of prejudice and fear.

I am thankful to live in a country that offers support and help to those who have fallen on hard times or who are challenged by obstacles of ill health, physical or mental, or who have been raised in an environment without advantages.

I am thankful to live in a country where education is acknowledged as the engine of prosperity and freedom, and public education is offered to every child.

I am thankful to live in a country where more reasonable voices can subject an imperfect system to better governance and demand accountability from those who have taken advantage of its flaws.

I am concerned, however, that the national debate has turned into demagoguery that could compromise much of what I am thankful for.

I am concerned that many politicians are working to marginalize, even eliminate, many of those great things that we have fought for.  Things like civil rights for all Americans, environmental protections, equality of opportunity, public education, religious freedom and valuable social programs.

I’m a divorced father with two young sons, and this year my family has been extended. Today we will all gather for a lively conversation of hopes, blessings and politics.  My 17 year old is becoming engaged in the world around him and I believe he gets a little memory chip from Dad’s passion for public service.  Lately he’s been coming to the table to play his own hand.

My youngest is 11 and little of this resonates, but this won’t be the last time ol’ Dad talks about how much he cares about America.

And for now, I am thankful just to have them all for dinner.

To Sir, With Love (a defense of teachers)

tosirwithlove3

In a never ending quest to bridge ideological differences between Democrats and Republicans (and Independents and Libertarians), I consistently engage in conversations with people with whom differences exist. If I have any trait for which I may be uniquely suited as a representative, it is that I welcome such engagement.  And it is with a genuine purpose to reach understanding.

This leads to a lot of anecdotal evidence, and I’ve even been criticized for my posts that begin with, “I was talking to a Republican friend the other day…” but that is criticism I gladly accept. I believe that it is from real interaction and not platitudes from slanted media or party doctrine, that we can glean the truth.  So….

I was talking to a Republican friend the other day…

And we were talking about education. His position was that we spend enough of our budget on education (“It’s the biggest percentage”) and he’s tired of hearing about how we don’t have enough money for teachers and programs when he’s “paying for professors who take the summer off and teach only 15 hours a week.”

(By the way, I have his permission to share this story)

“I don’t mind paying taxes,” he told me, “but I do mind paying for things I shouldn’t have to.”

That last statement said a lot. First of all, I agree with that statement 100%.  I want the same value for every dollar I pay in taxes as much as any Republican or Libertarian.  Truth be told, so do most Democrats.  The question is:  What should we pay for and when are we paying too much?

Easy question to ask, but if it were easy to answer, Congress would be toasting each other across the aisle rather than sit-ins, government shut downs and unscheduled vacations. Even when we consider all of the gradations of party affiliations like Libertarians, Independents, the Green Party or the Tea Party, what our conflict boils down to is what criteria do we use to examine evidence, and at what point are we convinced that we have enough information?

Again, easier said than done. My friend pointed out that our education budget is inflated because of the salaries of college professors, “protected by unions” who “often put in less than half a normal work week” and take the Summer off while “still getting paid well above what such a schedule should allow.”

“I don’t accept that teachers have to be laid off,” he continued, “or that classes have to be cut, because the Iowa Legislature approved only a 2.25% increase rather than 4%. That money is just going to salaries.”

We were in the company of others who all agreed with his statement.

“Well….” I said, “I believe that you are determining your policy based on a myth. A myth that is being perpetuated within Republican ranks by conservative media.  From my view, it is created to diminish the value of education, in general.”

I knew that I was going to get a reaction that was less than positive, but I was telling the truth as I saw it.

He countered:  “I’m fine with paying taxes toward education and I’m fine with the fact that most of our budget goes toward education, but it isn’t a ‘myth’ that a lot of it is being wasted. What we don’t need to do is spend more.”

“Then why is Iowa ranked in the middle,” I asked, “and in some studies toward the bottom in several measures of education where we used to lead the nation?”

His answer was swift. “Because we are allowing for substandard results, and letting bad teachers continue to teach because their union protects them.”

Not a drum beat that I haven’t heard before.  My mother was a teacher, many of my friends are teachers, and so this is territory in which I am not unfamiliar.

“Okay,“ I said, “let me tell you what I know. Most teacher salaries do not keep pace with inflation.  One of my college professor-friends works at another job all summer simply because of the fact that her salary does not pay all the bills.  During the summer, she, like many others, takes classes to improve her knowledge in her field, in order to continually improve her curriculum.”

My friendly adversary smiled (was not convinced), and asked if we could continue this at another time, as we were both on our way to other functions.  I told him I would and today I emailed him my thoughts:

During the school year the time in the classroom is only a third of the time required forteacher-and-students each class. They prepare lessons, grade papers, counsel students, stay after school tutoring those who are struggling, and also keeping up with meetings and myriad activities required by an institution.  Offhand, I’d say those ‘low hour’ teachers are putting in 20% more time, year ‘round, than the average full time worker.  That’s not to mention the research that is required by a university.  Research incumbent upon them in order to keep their jobs, but also that’s critically important work in the broad scheme of improving society.

The average salary for a college professor in the U.S. is just over $70,000 annually. Nothing to sneeze at, but not exactly inflated.  K through 12 is around $40,000.  When compared to real hours dedicated to their students and schools (not the ‘myth” of sabbaticals in the Bahamas and diminished hours during the day) they are being grossly undervalued.

In Iowa, first year teachers are paid below the national average. I know of several young graduates from UNI who have left the state for better salaries in Minnesota and elsewhere.  How do we compete if we do not retain, or even attract, the best new teachers?  How does America compete globally if we don’t start with the teachers themselves?

And if it’s economic impact that concerns us the most, a Stanford University study concluded every excellent teacher (determined as above average by a defined criteria) raises each student’s lifetime earnings by $20,000. If there are 20 students in one class, that is $400,000 more generated income. If that seems like small potatoes in an individual sense, consider that there are 21 thQWFDNSJRmillion students in America. That’s over 80 trillion dollars.

What is imperative is to listen to the teachers themselves who are saying that they are not getting the funding for the tools, and to retain the teachers and classes, that give our students the best advantage.

A state representative said to me the other day: “Do you think teachers are happy with the budget the state of Iowa has given them?  Ask them.”

I did. They aren’t.

I immediately received an email response and it was short and direct, but also respectful:

“We can agree to disagree. State government is wasteful in many ways and I can point to several cases where funds were allotted to various institutions that simply inflated salaries.  I simply cannot absolve government when it comes to oversight and spending our tax dollars the most efficiently.”

On that, I do not disagree. And from here, maybe we can build a consensus or coalition or even re-evaluate some ideas.  At the very least, we can continue a respectful conversation.

And at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of every worthwhile exchange, there will be education.…maybe, that’s what we need more of, in general.

 

 

Government and Manure

Now that I have your attention….

An article was posted today in the Iowa Daily Democrat and it perfectly illustrated the role of government in our society.  The subject was the application of manure from large animal confinement feeding operations.

Current state laws are weak with regard to animal waste and with relatively few inspectors we have “compromised Iowa’s water quality and endanger our citizens’ 100630-ipp-logo-cert5health,” according to the non-partisan Iowa Policy Project. There are laws on the books that put restrictions on confinement animal feeding operations, but the report argues that those restrictions have too many exceptions.

“Iowa’s numerous exemptions add to the degree of vagueness and complexity, making it rife for potential abuse or honest mistakes,” the report continued. “Iowa also does not compare well to other states in staff to enforce rules and regulations.”

Not long ago individual farmers raised small herds of hogs to supplement their income, but all that has changed as America’s appetite for pork has increased and so has Iowa’s production. Today Iowa is the nation’s top producer of pork and livestock is central to Iowa’s agricultural economy. The new paradigm for production and profit in the Iowa pork industry has created huge hog confinement facilities where thousands of hogs are raised under one (giant) roof and hog producers can see big profits from that scaled model.

(Note:  This is not an article about the ethical questions surrounding animal confinement or consumption, it is about Iowa’s economy and community health concerns from the existing industry)

Commensurate, however, to growing profits, is a growing load of….crap.

The manure generated from those facilities is enormous. Manure, it must be noted, is valuable as a cheap and sustainable resource to enhance crop production and so the incentive exists for producers to keep manure from runoff that pollutes our lakes, creeks and rivers.  But even when liquified into lagoonseparate lagoons, the liquid masses have become so large that one could literally surf the waves (only a slight exaggeration).

As so the question becomes:  How do we dispose of and use that waste in compliance with the public health, while allowing farmers to maintain profitable margins?

Good government.

Farming, like any industry, is going to maximize margins as much as existing regulations will allow. That’s not evil, that’s not dishonest; it is simply making the most of what the system will allow.  Government’s role is to protect the public’s interests and health, but also to allow for free enterprise to prosper.  Good government finds a balance between these priorities, but tilts slightly toward the interests of public health.  It cannot be the other way around and still be a representative democracy.

In this case, there is a verifiable threat to public health (and anyone living in Iowa understands the pervasive qualities of hog manure). Regulations currently exist, but they do not reflect the realities of the newer paradigm of hog 2977889_Gproduction.

New regulations cost something.  They almost always do, as they must be enforced, and they can change the profit parameters.  We cannot strangle the productivity or discourage profitability, but neither can we afford to compromise water or land quality and jeopardize the public health.

To maximize the benefits of manure for farmers, to protect the environment and for the health of the communities downstream, Iowa must regulate how we allow manure to absorbed on every level; from individual farms to giant corporate facilities.

Can cleaner, healthier standards be self-enforced with incentives?  To some degree, yes, but if such autonomy were authentically embraced, we would already have seen voluntary expansion and compliance of existing regulations, rather than a consistent pressing of those parameters.  The contamination of drinking water and the creation of hypoxia, causing ecological and economic harm, has increased.

That is where representative democracy steps in.

I don’t like big government and I look at any new regulation with skepticism first.  I consider economic, ecological, and health values, and also what and how compliances should be implemented.  Can it be private, or must it be public?

What I like is government that is the correct size to do the correct job:  To serve the public good iowa pigsas a collective tasked to protect the safety and the well-being of its citizens.

 

 

The Die Hard Constitution

Bruce Willis has a message for advocates of stricter gun control legislation:             “Don’t infringe on my rights!”

attends 'Die Hard - Ein Guter Tag Zum Sterben' Germany Premiere at Cinestar Potsdamer Platz on February 4, 2013 in Berlin, Germany.“I think that you can’t start to pick apart anything out of the Bill of Rights without thinking that it’s all going to become undone,” said Willis.  “If you take one out or change one law, then why wouldn’t they take all your rights away from you?”

Not an illogical concern, but also not rooted in a full understanding of representative democracy.  Hold onto your Beretta, but our Charters of Freedom are not perfect, nor did the Founding Fathers delude themselves into thinking they were.

When the Constitution was written, it was written by, and for, white, male land owners (probably less than 15% of the population); not exactly the perfect document to express freedom and inalienable rights.  The Bill of Rights and the ratification process of amendments were created to give evolving relevance to the charter and to inform citizens of constitutional protections so that laws could be written to enforce those rights and to govern fairly as we grew.

That is where their collective vision came into play.

ca. 1980-2001

The truth is, the Constitution was written to define only two purposes:  1) to establish a federal government and 2) to delegate to that federal government limited (and enumerated) powers.  The Constitution does not give us rights, but is designed to protect our rights.

The intent of the Bill of Rights was to prevent misconstruction of governmental powers and to ensure public confidence as a unified proclamation defining issues, deliberated upon to a point of agreement.

For example, voting within the system of government originally set forth, did not include women, but as our social consciousness progressed we came to realize, through our process of representative democracy, that the right must be clarified to include women, and the 19th amendment was ratified.

The rights of citizenship did not include former slaves even after emancipation and the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments were written and ratified to clarify the purpose and extent of freedom protected by our government.bor

The 1st Amendment was written to give the promise of freedom a strong foundation, but it also continues to be clarified in courts as slander and defamation issues will always nugentsurface.

When 2nd Amendment rights are bandied about by everyone from Bruce Willis to Ted Nugent who profess that, “We cannot meddle with what our Founding Fathers put forth,” it is without the understanding of what they actually “put forth.”

The 2nd Amendment must also be examined and interpreted as society itself changes.

Even 100 years after the Constitution was written it remained inconceivable that Americans would use firearms inappropriately.  It was, in fact, considered un-American that the President of the United States would ever require security- even after Lincoln was assassinated!  The American people remained steadfast that assassination was contrary to our national psyche.

It was only after the third assassination of amckinley-assassination2 president, the murder of President McKinley, that we started to think differently.

Today, as we examine the words “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed” we absolutely must put them in the context of their time.

We can, indeed, rightfully “bear arms” but as our societal norms have changed, as our weaponry has changed, parameters must be created and continually re-examined to accommodate or contain new realities.

That is not an affront to the Constitution as Mr. Willis has implied, rather, it is the realization of its true intent; to create a society of fair and just laws to protect our liberties in a changing world.

Life and Death

Gun Control is a very difficult subject when you are running for office in Iowa (anywhere, actually).  But, it is an important subject because it illustrates a candidate’s approach to policy and so I feel that it is imperative to address my views.

Conventional political wisdom may be to dance around issues which are so divided, but I am not running to be every candidate; I am running as a candidate who welcomes difficult discourse.  Disagreements should not only be acceptable, but can be healthy in a free society.  My principle is to be forthwith and transparent with my views, hoping to have honest conversations with genuine depth and not expedient political rhetoric containing all-too-common double-speak.

This article was in the news recently: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/their-6-year-old-was-killed-with-a-neighbor%e2%80%99s-gun-a-court-just-decided-how-much-his-life-was-worth/ar-BBtsvAB?li=BBnb7Kz.  It would be hard to imagine a story any more relevant to explain gun control.

Let me be clear: I am not against gun ownership.  What “gun control” is about is not the elimination of guns, but logical standards of compliance so that events like this become less frequent.

There is an inherent flaw in the argument being put forth by those calling themselves defenders of the Second Amendment or Constitutional purists.  They often claim that they are holding the values of the amendment sacrosanct and that there can be no room for elastic interpretation; “the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”  The NRA has stated:  “The NRA proudly supports the right of law abiding Americans to carry firearms in defense of themselves…”  That, in itself, is an elastic interpretation.

There is a prefatory clause to the amendment:  “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state.”  That means, on the most elemental level, that Americans have the right to keep and bear arms in defense of their nation.  And in the context of the time, that meant from foreign invaders on American soil.  What the amendment did not imply was personal defense from other Americans.

With parameters of interpretation existing on both sides of the gun control argument, it is incumbent upon us, therefore, to look at the risks presented in our present state of affairs.  The story linked above is sobering.  On average, in America, there are over 250 accidental shootings a year by children under the age of 18 due to careless storage of firearms.  Half of them are fatal.  The NRA can argue that with 300,000,000 privately owned firearms in America that is a low percentage, but to those victimized families that is little consolation.  Those tragedies were avoidable and that is where gun control can be defined.

And this is where I stand in the debate.  Guns are legal and they are also lethal.  Sure, anything can be lethal, even a container of aspirin, but no other instrument is created as a personal cannon to fire a lead projectile at the speed of sound.  Hatchets, automobiles and even butter knives, can be dangerous when used incorrectly, but they were created to serve our domestic necessities; a firearm is created specifically to obliterate, destroy, and kill when they are deployed.

That necessitates an understanding and respect that demands a higher level of responsibility.  If the father of the child who fired his rifle had been compelled to comply with certain standards, the other child could be alive today.

What standards?

Just like traffic laws, no rule, regulation or law, eliminates the negative results they were created to stop.  Traffic laws, however, remain in place even though some people violate them, and for the most part they restrict bad drivers and reduce traffic accidents. They are society’s demand that we hold ourselves accountable to a standard of skill to avoid mayhem and even death.  When we violate those laws, and are caught, our freedom to drive is suspended or revoked.

The father has been prosecuted and convicted, but that consequence will not bring back the victim of his careless mistake.  A control has to precede the potential for tragedy.  I would advocate for firearm aptitude certification.  That is not an encroachment of government as some gun owners will surely claim, rather it is an encroachment of common sense.  After a background check (that includes second party sales and gun shows), a potential gun owner takes an exam to indicate essential knowledge of deadly force before they can legally possess.

A hassle?  Maybe.  Logical?  Of course it is.  And it isn’t an offense of the 2nd Amendment; it is an admission that the 2nd Amendment must command our utmost respect.

Would taking an exam that included questions about safe storage have stopped this tragedy from happening?  Not necessarily.  Anyone can answer correctly without genuinely believing in what they answered.  But, maybe, knowing that unsafe practices are a violation of the certification they earned would have created a different outcome.

A couple of weeks ago I was driving in the country when I camestop_sign_on_a_country_road__michigan_by_kaitou_ace-d4hxpjp upon a stop sign and I stopped.  A full stop.  There wasn’t another car within a mile and no one would have ever known if I hadn’t stopped completely.  There was no reason to….except for the fact that it was a requirement of the license I earned to exercise my privilege to drive.

That was conscientious traffic control.  Just as gun control can be.