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The Fellowship Of Those Who Dare To Know, Dare To Understand

I like the old gospel song that begins, “What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms …”   I remember the congregation enthusiastically singing those words in the church of my youth — a congregation where there was a wonderful spirit of togetherness and fellowship. This is my dictionary’s definition of “fellowship” :

A community bound together in fellowship: companionship, companionability, sociability, comradeship, camaraderie, friendship, mutual support; togetherness, solidarity.

We are in an era of intense partisanship. One benefit of partisanship is fellowship — a solidarity, a companionship — with other like-minded individuals, just as members of opposing armies enjoy companionship and troop camaraderie. The problem is, our emphasis on partisanship is failing to produce the thoughtful and energetic government that we must have — if our republic is to survive the huge challenges coming our way.

We must move beyond partisanship. It is clear that a long-term answer to fixing our system will require a big increase in nonpartisanship — cooperation and unity within the system — it will require more peace, love, and understanding. I’m thinking it will require a big increase in the fellowship of those who dare to understand. Such a fellowship would be focused on understanding:

  • the social, economic, and political world in which we live,
  • the challenges of the future
  • competing points of view of others.

The “Dare to Understand” is a reference to Immanuel Kant’s famous essay, “What is Enlightenment?” The opening paragraph:

Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage. Nonage is the inability to use one’s own understanding without another’s guidance. This nonage is self-imposed if its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in indecision and lack of courage to use one’s own mind without another’s guidance. Dare to know! (Sapere aude.) “Have the courage to use your own understanding,” is therefore the motto of the enlightenment.

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Suppose Gort — From Outer Space — Returns And Demands A Big Increase In Public Virtue, Or Else!

Suppose Gort — the big alien — demanded a huge increase in public virtue.

Suppose Gort — the big alien — demanded a huge increase in public virtue.

Ronald Reagan’s favorite movie was, “When The Earth Stood Still,” and in a speech at the UN Reagan mused about what would happen if, as in that movie, an alien force of insurmountable power demanded that the world work together peacefully.  Reagan said, “I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.”

Gort — the big alien shown in the movie ad — gives this warning, “Your choice is simple: join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration”

I’ve been reading a little of John Adams and I’d like to see a remake of that movie where Gort makes a more specific demand:  “Your choice is simple — within five years show a big increase in public virtue— or else!”

Public virtue! You can imagine the committees of experts who would scurry about trying to decide how to respond. First, they would try to understand what exactly public virtue is.

Our founding fathers emphasized that for a republic to survive and flourish, it must have a citizenry that is virtuous. Virtue, they noted, has two aspects: private and public. Private virtue is demonstrated in character traits like frugality, honesty, temperance, personal responsibility, etc. Religion was seen as having an important role to play in developing those traits, as was education.

Public virtue was defined as actions motivated by a desire to advance the public good. These are the words of John Adams:

Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private, and public virtue is the only foundation of republics. There must be a positive passion for the public good, the public interest, honor, power and glory, established in the minds of the people, or there can be no republican government, nor any real liberty: and this public passion must be superior to all private passions. (John Adams, letter to Mercy Warren, April 16, 1776)

What would a society look like that took Adams’ warning to heart — that public virtue in the essential foundation needed for republics? What would its educational system look like if one of its big goals was to establish in the minds of youth a positive passion for the public good? What would its TV programs look like?

 

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How Do We Judge The Robustness of Our Constitutional Republic?

What is the condition of the health of our republic? By what criteria should we evaluate its vitality?

Ten years ago, I made a little speech to a Kiwanis Club and asked my listeners to answer this question: “On a scale of 0 – 100%, to what degree is our government of, by and for the people?” The average of the answers was 55%.  The attendees at that meeting agreed that our republic has a long way to go to realize its potential and that overall the vitality of our republic is weak. I’d bet, here ten years later, that same group now would give an even lower score.

Faith in the strength of our republic seems in sharp decline. Opinion can change quickly. What is needed is an objective system of evaluation that doesn’t rely on opinion. Science has identified thousands of objective indicators of health in the human system — through blood chemistry, body imaging, etc. There’s not much disagreement among scientists as to the validity of these indicators. Similarly, we need a scientific approach to understanding and evaluating the health of our constitutional republic.

We need to find criteria for system evaluation that has wide agreement. I want to create a 1000 point system of republic evaluation that becomes widely accepted as valid. I’m thinking of calling it the “Bock Scale Of Republic Robustness” (BSRR). A congressional district could be scored each year and over time the change in the constitutional health of the district could be monitored. This idea needs to be thought through but, here is my initial list of criteria:

  • Percentage of citizens who vote in general elections
  • Percentage of citizens who vote in primaries
  • Amount of competition in primaries
  • The number of active members in political party organizations
  • The degree to which political party organizations operate as small-d democracies
  • The attendance at city council and school board meetings
  • The number of citizens who are active in civic organizations
  • The number of “town halls” and candidate discussions / debates / forums
  • The percentage of citizens engaged in town halls, etc.
  • The percentage of citizens engaged in neighborhood organizations.
  • The quality and availability of civics education, youth and adult
  • The opportunities for meaningful service to community
  • The degree of transparency of elected boards and elected officials at every governmental level
  • Opportunities for meaningful contact and conversation between diverse individuals and groups.

Notice that none of the BSRR criteria are partisan. They are all non ideological. I’m thinking that within the citizenry there is a core group that is being drawn to nonpartisan activism aimed at increasing the health of the republic, aimed at getting the system to work as it should. Nonpartisan action aimed at improving or securing the common good, aimed at strengthening the republic, is the essence of patriotism. There seems a growing passion for the expression of such patriotism. What is needed is a means to channel that passion into practical work and actions that result in big increases in the BSRR.

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TV Ads Are Urging Dayton Voters To Encourage Congressman Mike Turner To Destroy Obamacare 

America First Policies (AFP), a nonprofit organization, is running a 30 second ad on Dayton TV stations that declare that “Obamacare is a disaster” and that urges voters to thank Congressman Mike Turner “for his courage and for standing with President Trump to repeal Obamacare now.” Here is the text of the ad:

Obamacare is a disaster: premiums up, care down. Americans forced into plans we don’t want and can’t afford. It’s going to get worse. That’s why Congressman Mike Turner is taking on Nancy Pelosi, standing firm opposing Obamacare. Congressman Turner is taking on special interests and keeping his promise to the voters to repeal Obamacare.  Call Congressman Turner. Thank him for his courage and for standing with President Trump to repeal Obamacare now.

AFP is a 501C(4) tax exempt organization and as such is not required to reveal its donors. It was started by six of Donald Trump’s top campaign aides and its purpose is to back the White House agenda.

According to a comment on the You-tube page, Congressman Turner released this statement concerning the ad:

“Thank you for contacting me to express your views on Obamacare. The ad you saw on television is not mine; it was put out by America First Policies, a nonprofit created to generate support for the President’s policy initiatives. “While I support the repeal of Obamacare, and its replacement with a plan that ensures affordable health coverage for all Americans, I opposed the American Healthcare Act, the replacement bill sponsored by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and the Trump administration. After numerous discussions with the White House and the Speaker’s office, in an attempt to improve this legislation, I could not support the bill as written. It not only fails to reduce insurance premiums and control costs, it would leave our most vulnerable citizens, including persons with serious health conditions and those who are victims of the opioid crisis that continues to plague the Dayton region, without the health coverage they currently receive. The opposition to this bill from me, and several of my like-minded colleagues, forced the Speaker to pull the legislation from the House Floor. I cannot support any plan to replace Obamacare that would put at risk the health benefits of residents in Ohio’s Tenth Congressional District. “My guiding principles with respect to healthcare reform are to lower costs, and provide to affordable access to insurance coverage for all Americans. The House bill failed to meet this standard. Therefore, I could not support it. I will continue to work with my colleagues in a bipartisan effort to enact healthcare reforms that ensure that patients receive the care they need, at an affordable cost.”

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Note To Fred Strahorn: To Fix Our Republic, We Need To Build An Infrastructure Of NonPartisan Civic Communities

Fred Strahorn, representative for OHD-39.  (This pic was taken from Fred's Facebook page.)

Fred Strahorn, representative for OHD-39. (This pic was taken from Fred’s Facebook page.)

I had an opportunity to have a short conversation recently with Fred Strahorn who represents Ohio House District 39 — most all of Dayton. I first met Fred a number of years ago when he spoke at the dedication of the Vietnam Memorial and gave special mention to my childhood friend, Guy LaPointe, who lost his life in Viet Nam and won the Congressional Medal of Honor. I was impressed by Fred’s words and spirit at that time, and Fred evidently has had a positive impact on a lot of Ohio Democrats. Fred is the leader of the 33 Democrats in the Ohio House. (There are 66 Republicans.) This is the email that I sent to Fred.

Fred — Enjoyed our conversation and the purpose of this email is to expand on the theme I started to develop.

I agree with you that we need to think in terms of systems. (My interview with W. Edwards Deming is here and here.) Our republic is a system as outlined in our constitution. The mission of this system is to produce a government of, by and for the people. As it is, our republican system is in dysfunction and is far from realizing its mission.

Extreme partisanship and sharp divisions encumber the system. The system is being controlled by what separates us, not what unites us. Increased partisanship will not help. Quite the opposite. A long-term answer to fixing our system will require a big increase in nonpartisanship, cooperation and unity within the system — more peace, love, and understanding.

Groups that have found a way to excel often are good models of nonpartisanship and cooperation. Such groups owe their success to the fact that they are organized as communities where members know and have affection for each other, where everyone has a voice and where everyone is seeking to advance a common purpose. Families, churches, clubs, schools and businesses where members are empowered in such a community demonstrate cooperation, unity, harmony — and success.

My observation is that there is a big lack of civic communities — groups of citizens who are focused on giving service to their local towns and cities — and that establishing such groups would be one strategy for increasing cooperation and unity in the system. The idea is that these communities would have a civic purpose that would unite its members regardless of views or politics that would divide them. Politics is all about building relationships and within a relationship political views that are seemingly unreconcilable have less power.

My thought is that the current energy of charged politics should be channeled into building civic communities. My POV comes from education and my thought is that the mission that could unite individuals of diverse views and backgrounds is the mission to increase theirs and the public’s understanding of civics. “Understanding” is a very big concept and a huge goal. The idea is to create groups of citizens who are committed to working together as a community advancing a common purpose. Part of that purpose would be to understand each other’s points of view. The idea is that such groups — seeking to act as civic communities — would have such a positive purpose and impact that they would be encouraged and supported by churches.

Anyway, this is a little more explanation of topics in our conversation. My conclusion is that To Fix Our Republic, We Need To Build An Infrastructure Of NonPartisan Civic Communities. I’m thinking through a specific proposal that I will share with you soon and then we’ll have more to talk about.

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