Wednesday, April 16, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

The rural life: Thoughts the morning after

Last Wednesday, on the day after the election, though my guy had won I didn’t feel like doing the naked happy dance. The anguish of voters on the other side of the divide was too palpable. What I wished more than anything, and still wish, is for a way to reach out that resonates with those who are dismayed by the outcome of the election.

I’d want to reassure you, as ridiculous as it sounds, that everything is going to be OK. I’d say that, despite your doubts, America is still America, still operating the way the framers of the Constitution intended, still choosing her presidents by a vote of the citizens, still motoring resolutely into the future.

With this election, if not before, you’ve likely noticed that our demographics are changing. This may seem alarming, but it shouldn’t. From its beginning, our country has allowed people who believe in the American spirit and the American way to come and build their lives here, to become Americans. The newly apparent fact that not everyone in America is white and descended from the Mayflower is not something to be feared or overcome. It’s a reality to be embraced and worked with and, ultimately, celebrated.

It’s a good thing.

I remember vividly the first time I volunteered to help at a speech-and-debate tournament held at my daughter’s high school, Ponderosa. That was my school, too, back in the day. At that time, in the late 1960s, pretty much all the students were white. More recently, the campus has a few more kids of color. On this morning in 2010, however, when students had come from all around the Sacramento area to compete at the tournament, I was astonished to see how varied were the faces: black, brown, yellow, and white, in seemingly equal measure.

At first it felt a little strange. It was certainly different! But then I noticed how the kids themselves were dealing with it. They weren’t. They were oblivious to each other’s color and ethnicity. All that mattered were the rhetorical skills of anyone in question, and whether they might trump one’s own.

The insight I gained that day — that we’re all just people, really and truly — has stayed with me, in a reassuring way that I wish I could share with you.

I also wish I could reassure you that our country’s love of individualism is still alive and well, even after the election. It’s tempered as it has been throughout our history by a corresponding value, our devotion to community. Individualism and communitarianism, in a push-and-pull balance. You may worry, based on punditry, that individualism in this country is somehow now diminished, but it’s not, actually. Far from it. (E.J. Dionne explains all this brilliantly in his new book, Our Divided Political Hearts: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent. I highly recommend it.

What it means in practice is that all of us, each of us, can still work hard to earn as much money as we want, in some cases becoming multimillionaires or more in the process. But all of us also still have a vested interest in enabling every other American to have a fair shot of supporting themselves, at the least, and ideally to thrive. We don’t accept that the poor will always be with us, and assign the bulk of responsibility for the poor to charities (no matter how well-meaning). We use the power of us — the government — to provide opportunities that can enable the poor, with work and persistence, to someday move into the middle class, to become not-poor. We understand that this process takes time, often even generations, and that we’ll have to carry some freeloaders along the way. That’s OK. The ultimate goal of an America firing on all cylinders is worth it.

In his acceptance speech, the president said that “while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.” More than anything in this post-election period, I wish everyone on all sides could realize the truth of this sentiment, and allow it to ease their doubts and fears.

Challenges lie ahead. My side, like yours, is worried about the federal deficit and our national debt, and we’re ready to face painful cuts in order to pare them down. We’re with you on that, 100 percent. But it will also take compromise on everyone’s part, and a willingness to be fair. I know in my heart you understand that, because that’s what Americans are at their core, always, in the final analysis: fair.

Gov. Romney was eloquent in his concession speech.

“At a time like this,” he said, “we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work. And we citizens also have to rise to the occasion.”

I agree with Gov. Romney and I believe that we will find a way to rise to the occasion. And I sincerely hope you do, too.

Jennifer Forsberg Meyer is a biweekly columnist with the Mountain Democrat. Share your thoughts with her at jfmfeedback@earthlink.net.

Jennifer Forsberg Meyer

Jennifer Forsberg Meyer is an award-winning journalist and author with three published books to her credit. Currently she is a senior editor with Horse & Rider magazine. Jennifer lives in rural Latrobe with her husband, Hank; their daughter, Sophie Elene; and the family’s assorted animals.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 8 comments

  • kggNovember 12, 2012 - 8:38 am

    "America is still America, still operating the way the framers of the Constitution intended, still choosing her presidents by a vote of the citizens, still motoring resolutely into the future." well said - thanks for that healthy dose of reality.

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  • Jack MartinNovember 12, 2012 - 4:41 pm

    First of all, I find it so interesting that it's always the left-leaning members of the media who keep bringing up race and demographics. Always counting the numbers, making observations on the diversity of the faces. Conservatives don't give a rat's ass about someone's skin color. We care about their political views. We care that, regardless of skin color, the mentality of this country is changing. As one tv pundit observed, "People are no longer following John Kennedy's credo of not asking what your country can do for you. That's exactly what they are asking. They want free stuff." This is new in American history and will permanently change the country. And how will an individual be free to become a millionaire or billionaire if this mentality persists for another decade? The heaping regulations, punitive taxes and IRS intrusions on 7-figure earners drastically reduce any incentive someone has to achieve. And this quote "We use the power of us — the government — to provide opportunities that can enable the poor, with work and persistence, to someday move into the middle class, to become not-poor. "...is merely your opinion. Conservatives do not believe it is the government's role to confiscate wealth and redistribute to whomever THEY deem fit. That idea is NOT American. That idea, however, does lead to dependency and ultimately, to Greece. Ms Meyer, all the while you are preaching to us to not be afraid of change, you are misunderstanding the nature of the change itself. We do not fear an America that is less white, we fear an America that is less motivated, whatever its aggregate skin tone may be.

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  • James E.November 12, 2012 - 4:55 pm

    Mr. Martin, I have read your three comments below. We won, you lost, suffer the pain and stop relying on Rasmussen and Gallup.

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  • CatherineNovember 13, 2012 - 9:56 am

    I wish people would judge the country by how it treats its its most vulnerable citizens. Personally, my husband and I have paid millions in taxes, and it has never once dawned on us to achieve less because we'd be taxed. I also have disabled family members, and I want to live in a society that ensures their health, safety, and autonomy. Sharing is hard, but it should be how we measure civilization.

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  • James E.November 13, 2012 - 10:12 am

    Catherine, too much greed and me-me-me in our society. Sadly, I doubt it will change, but we can hope.

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  • Jack MartinNovember 13, 2012 - 11:18 am

    For the sake of the discussion Catherine, I will accept your assertion that you and your husband have paid... millions... in taxes. And I can appreciate your concern for the most vulnerable in society. So... how many more people could you have employed and DIRECTLY caused to be less vulnerable if your tax bill had been, let's say, half? You could have employed a LOT of people for the half of the MILLIONS you paid and they could have driven their own destinies. But instead, it went to the government who wasted approximately 40% of it (depending on which audit you believe) on bureaucracy and waste and then arbitrarily decided who would get the rest.

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  • Kirk MacKenzieNovember 13, 2012 - 12:28 pm

    Mr Martin -- I agree with you on: "But instead, it went to the government who wasted approximately 40% of it (depending on which audit you believe) on bureaucracy and waste and then arbitrarily decided who would get the rest."...and that's just accounting for what governments are *trying* to do, as opposed to what we want them to do. I also agree with the author agreeing with Governor Romney: "And we citizens also have to rise to the occasion.” I believe We the people must improve the way we carry out our constitutional duties. And that starts with our relationship with our representatives, from the city council to the House of Representatives.

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  • CatherineNovember 13, 2012 - 4:15 pm

    More than a million in a single year. And we paid AMT on money we never even earned. Shocking, yes, and rather painful. But we put the rest into property, like the Romneys, so nothing would have trickled down had we not been taxed. Government is messy and wasteful, just like corporations, so certainly we all want to work to improve that. But this notion that the country is being taken down by lazy, poor people is just so dismal and simplistic.

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