Denial, it's not a river
Addiction treatment programs begin with the addict admitting the problem and his/her inability to handle it alone. We have problems here in Maine and we are not doing what’s needed to resolve them. Heading that list of problems is the lack of jobs. It’s not only that there aren’t the kind of jobs that allow people to fulfill their potential and live comfortable, affluent lives. Despite the progress Maine has made in the last four years, there still aren’t enough jobs of any kind to employ all those who want to work. Second on my list would be the use of drugs and alcohol. Those who abuse substances make themselves unfit for work and destroy the lives of those around them. A third problem we must confront is that we’ve enabled the growth of government bureaucracies that are dysfunctional, arrogant, abusive, and addicted to corruption.
Surely it’s time for all of us to look ourselves in the face and admit we’ve "hit bottom" and if we don’t get help, we’ll perish. That help is the same greater power within us to change ourselves and stop denying our role in creating the mess we’re in. That role was to abandon to others the responsibilities for adapting to new economic realities and a society that was renouncing bedrock principles and values to embrace relativism. I suggest none of us are satisfied with what “THEY” did while we weren’t looking.
The fundamental economic problem we have is that businesses do not choose to locate here. We cannot legislate that away and we cannot create a vibrant alternative economy of jobs funded by government taxing and spending. We may not know why businesses go elsewhere, but it’s surely not beyond our capabilities to ask them. We can’t force them to change, we have to change whatever it is about ourselves and our state that drives them away. We may find that among the reasons businesses go elsewhere is our workforce is not, reliably, what it once was.
We can’t force other people to get sober or adopt a work ethic. We can’t change people who, like the murderess from Belfast, found “…that working thing just took too much out of me." We can change what we do and what we say and possibly the example we set for our children and our neighbors. It’s not an unreasonable expectation that people get up and go to work every day. It’s not unreasonable to demand that parents make child care arrangements and arrange tiered backup. It’s not unreasonable to expect that people show up sober and stay sober throughout the workday. It is not "demonizing the poor" to communicate disapproval of bad behavior and to refuse to support programs that enable irresponsible behavior. We must distinguish between providing basic support and making people comfortable in their poverty. We must indeed discriminate between those who cannot work for reasons they cannot change and those who don’t work because work gets in the way of their chosen lifestyle.
One thing we can change virtually overnight is the arrogance, abuse, and corruption in our government institutions. If we leave aside the threat of immediate danger to our national security, is it ever OK with you that the government lies and destroys evidence of criminal wrongdoing? There is no question among those with even a rudimentary knowledge of computer technology and with the requirements for public record preservation, Lois Lerner’s emails were not lost. As one of those, I’ll say emphatically those emails exist and those who say otherwise are lying. (Such a conspiracy would surely have produced at least one whistleblower.) The simple fact that the IRS has made the claim should make all of us livid. It’s as transparent as a 2-year-old with chocolate all over his face insisting he’d not been in the cookie jar.
Have we become so unprincipled that we accept any administration lying to us? Have we become so complacent that we accept 40 percent of Maine’s budget* being controlled by such a remote and corrupt entity? Have we become so corrupt ourselves that we’ll deny serious wrongdoing rather than admit we made bad choices? Have we become so malicious that we’d sooner shoot our neighbor’s mule than let it be apparent that he’s made better financial choices than we have? Are we so detached from real values that we’d riot in the streets over winning or losing a ball game, or so purely evil that we’d kill another who chose a different faith?
It’s time we stopped denying that:
We’ve allowed ourselves to be separated from traditional core values and from each other over insignificant differences.
We have a problem when we seek to force others to conform to our viewpoint, our religion, and our lifestyle.
It’s our ego at play and our intellectual sloth at work when we demonize and slander others rather than listen to their arguments and accept the weaknesses in our own.
Abandoning our responsibilities to a remote, inefficient, and insensitive government is the source of many problems and few, if any, working solutions.
Our economy is our most pressing problem and root of so many others. Our own personal failings keep us from coming together and making the changes in our work environment that will improve opportunity in Maine and allow us to stop exporting our children while importing other states’ destitute. Government and politicians have neither the capability nor the motivation to fix what’s wrong. It’s our job, together, to lead and it’s the government’s job to follow or at least get out of the way. Let’s get started!
* Subsequent “Another View” pieces will address the sources and dispositions of Maine’s budget.