Getting it done

Robert Valentine Senior lecturer of advertising

Column by Robert Valentine, Senior lecturer of advertising

As nearly as I can tell, here’s how this country is supposed to work.

First, everyone is free to look for happiness, get happy and stay that way. Most people are happy if they are reasonably healthy, have most of the things they need and some of the things they don’t need but want.

Second, if you have some shortage in health, food, possessions or relationships, the Constitution gives you the freedom to do whatever you can to correct that situation. It’s not always easy, but it is always your responsibility and you are free to do what you can to fix it.

Third, most people are born into families, and all of us have friends and acquaintances who can help in time of need. They are a back-up plan when everything we have tried seems to have failed. From money to housing to food to a warm hug and a patient, listening ear, your family and friends should be there for you, and you for them.

Shortly after I was married, Vicki woke me at 3 a.m. one late spring morning after the telephone had started the job of disturbing my sleep. “Let’s go,” she said. Someone’s house had been struck by a tornado and her network of friends was calling out the militia.

“What are we going to do?” I asked, pulling on my boots.

“We’re going to be there,” she said, and we were. It is what you do.

Finally, we come to governments. As individuals, we cannot exterminate a plague of mosquitoes, build a road from Murray to Hazel or construct a hospital. We cannot even do that as a family or, perhaps, as a community. That’s where governments come in.

A government, after all, is just a big collection of people with something in common, all of whom have agreed to work together sometimes for their common good. Cities, states or nations, we have to work together no matter who we are or where our grandparents came from.

Governments that know their role and respond to what people really need seem to work pretty well. The bigger they get, the easier it is to lose sight of what they should do, but wise people can still get the job done with everyone’s help.

But lately, we have not been electing the wisest people to lead the governments. As Dave Barry observed, since 1960 (when television got involved in campaigns), we have not elected a president who was under six feet tall and did not have a full head of hair. In short, Dave seems to be saying we elect TV personalities rather than political leaders.

Abraham Lincoln could not win this year (not very photogenic; squeaky voice), nor could Harry Truman (too short; Missouri accent). Now, one of the party front-runners is encouraging his supporters to beat up hecklers and protesters.

Some presidential candidates have said, “Oh, shut up,” when hecklers interrupted them. Some have invited hecklers onto the stage to debate the issue. No one in this country, lately, has encouraged supporters to attack dissenters. Mr. Trump, not content to demean the office with a public discussion of his private parts, has done just that – proudly and unapologetically. It’s like a movie, isn’t it? Great entertainment.

But this is not a film; the consequences of this behavior won’t end when the credits roll. Mr. Trump’s supporters probably won’t wear brown shirts, but they will respect rights just as the last such candidate’s supporters did. Divisiveness, demeaning and disrespect for the rights of others has never produced a worthy government or a decent society.

You need to talk. You need to vote. Say what you will and vote as you please, but find someone to lead a united society of people in search of happiness. It’s your job. It is how we get things done in this country.