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Advertise on the Tentacle

April 28, 2011

Why We Need Government

Patricia A. Kelly

Easter weekend in downtown Frederick, in the most beautiful season of the year, left the city desecrated by trash.


Being creatures of habit, we on Third Street put out our trash and recyclables on Thursday night, in spite of notification from the city that Good Friday was a holiday so nothing would be picked up. That’s forgivable, of course, as we’re all suffering from sensory overload, but please! There’s a city ordinance requiring walks to be cleared of snow within 24 hours. I guess we need a new law about how long trash piles are allowed.


My luncheon guests commented: “My, your street looks beautiful today,” tongues firmly wedged in cheeks. Imagine those beautifully dressed, very reverent churchgoers across the street, stepping over trash to get to their place of worship.


If people weren’t so damn bad, inconsiderate and lazy, we wouldn’t need a government at all.


Is that what government is for? Keeping the bad, inconsiderate and lazy people in line?


Or is it to take care of our every need? Obviously we need help storing our trash until someone comes and gets it. Should we get free medicine, housing, education, clothes, living expenses, too? Is government supposed to be about entitlements?


A lot of people are shouting, “Keep the change. We want our country back!”


What does that mean? Is it bread lines, slavery, lynching, stealing land from native peoples, dead coal miners placed on front porches, wives left to take in laundry and send little boys to the coal yards?


Is it, rather, to protect the rights of people brave enough to start over in a strange land in order to have freedom of religion and freedom from oppression? Do these people have to be invited?


Is government about letting the few and the elite make decisions about what’s good for the rest of us, in secret, throwing us a bone, like a tax incentive to make us feel they’re looking out for us?


Is the government about turning the world into a big, happy democracy, whether it wants it or not? Does that mean war is okay to achieve our goals?


Is it about supporting dictators and despots to provide security for the oil deposits that interest us?


Is government about creating a safe space for its citizens to pursue their own objectives as long as they don’t impose on others?


Now that money is short, we’re going to have to make some decisions about all this. Locally, very worthy charities are receiving less money in hard times than they did in good ones. School design may become more spartan. We’ve lost our favorite tradition, bulk trash night, when we all traded our junk.


It seems that, when programs are cut, people are outraged, as if it were the job of government to take care of all our needs. If we took our country back, we would find that not so at all.


In a rich country, and we still are that, even if we are in huge debt, there should be some kind of a social safety net for the helpless, a net that supplements the work of churches and community volunteers, who are really in a better position to help others without institutionalized waste.


Medicare was begun in response to insurance companies’ reluctance to insure the elderly. That could be addressed if medical insurance became insurance instead of a limitless, pre-paid program wherein the healthy pay for the ill.


We could keep the bad people in line and make enough laws to protect the innocent, self sufficient members of society. One violent crime should put you away for a long time no matter how mean your daddy was. I shouldn’t have to worry about you hurting me.


We should unify basic services, such as utilities and public education, in the interest of efficiency and fairness.


We should consider restoring common sense to the judiciary.


We should not borrow more money than we could pay. Perhaps we should catch up with temporary extreme austerity; or, maybe, a one time tax, and then keep the budget balanced unless there’s a true emergency.


And, if the trash man doesn’t show up on Good Friday, we should just put the damn trash back in the basement until Monday. Really! That would be governing ourselves.


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