Five hundred forty-five is the number of members of our government who make, interpret and enforce the laws of our land. There are 435 members in the House of Representatives, 100 senators, nine Supreme Court justices and one president.
The president is often like a football quarterback in that he gets too much blame when things go badly and too much praise when things go well. In some cases, the leadership within any of these branches, or lack of it, deserves the blame for things not going well.
We are in the midst of the next chapter of things not going well in our beloved country.
I’ve gone through a pile of clippings, articles and essays that I’ve collected over the past few years and have returned to the thesis I’ve been writing about for a year or more. We the people are not paying sufficient attention to the truth or the reality of the consequences of our actions and inactions.
What I mean is those 545 people we elected either directly or indirectly to govern our nation are failing to discharge their duty.
Notice that I didn’t call out any particular political party or individual politician. Whichever side you’re on, you’ll find a reason to complain and point fingers at those people in Washington who, it seems, are screwing up everything they touch.
How did we let it get so bad? What went wrong? Here is my take on what we the people failed to do.
• We became too busy with our day-to-day efforts to achieve our particular American dream. We found "normal" news boring and uninteresting. Congress critters all started looking and sounding alike. Who cares? Voting? It won’t make a difference.
• We gave in to our laziness. It was easier to just pop open another Bud Lite than to actually listen to or read about what the laws and rules being discussed and passed in Congress. We gave de facto trust to our "leaders."
• We did not become informed. Instead, we gave in to the shouting demagoguery of talk radio and television. The louder they shouted and the more the yellers played into our fears, the more we bought into their views instead of developing our own.
• We refused to become activists. During the Vietnam era, activism reached an all-time high in this country and look what happened. That activism had its good and bad sides. It contributed to bringing the bloodbath in Asia to an end, but it also gave us the scandals of President Richard Nixon. It exposed our cultural differences, but it almost tore us apart. It showed that civil disobedience can change policy, but it also gave us the Chicago Democrat Party Convention riots and confrontations with Mayor Richard Daley’s police. Today, our relative pacifism sends signals to Washington and our state capitals that we don’t mind what they’re doing.
• We haven’t controlled special interests. In our individual worlds of hyper-connected isolation, aka cell phones, iPods, etc., we became victims of our own selfishness and self-indulgence. Well, the special interests did the same thing, but instead of listening to the latest noise from one-chord musicians, they went and purchased the ears, hearts and minds of the politicians "we" elected.
You will notice that I used the term "we" in these five points. That means us — all of us who, in some form or other, failed to execute our inalienable rights as citizens. We kept mute while the big money interests usurped our government.
Doing the right thing is not that hard to understand, so why can’t our government do what is right with budgets, social services, wars, work opportunities, education and internal affairs?
Why can’t our government simply say that the will of the people is to do the right thing by them and not America Inc., LLC? It shouldn’t be that difficult, should it? After all we’re the ones who elect 536 of those who govern in Washington.
This column is a plea to all who read it to become activists today. Inform yourself, then write/call/e-mail your representative constantly until you get their attention.
If we don’t, America Inc., LLC will be in charge, not We the People.
Turner is a retired teacher and industrial engineer who lives near Marble Falls. He is an independent columnist, not a staff member, and his views do not necessarily reflect those of The Tribune or its parent company.