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Sunday, May 2, 2010

WHAT IF...?

"Many great ideas go unexecuted, and many great executioners are without ideas. One without the other is worthless."
- Tim Blixseth -

"God is not looking for alms. God is looking for action."
- Bono -

"Well done is better than well said."
- Benjamin Franklin -



We are often a nation of complacent and sometimes cowardly people. Many times we look the other way or say or do nothing as others around us engage in actions or practices harmful, or not beneficial to, the common good. We allow our elected officials to legislate, and our business community to forge ahead unchallenged against our best interests, and many times we simply take it, without so much as a whimper. Have you ever stopped to consider the cost of such complacency? Or thought about what would have happened had other courageous and visionary -people before us had been as complacent as we are today? Have you ever thought, for example...

What if Rosa Parks had meekly submitted to that irate Alabama bus driver's demand that she move to the rear of the bus to make room for white passengers up front? You know the answer: blacks and all other persons of color would still ne regarded and treated as second-class citizens, and would never be afforded the simple dignity every human being is entitled to.

What if Thomas Jefferson and our other Founding Fathers had complacently stayed on their plantations or in their shops and businesses instead of meeting to plan for independence by crafting its unprecedented declaration? The action they took was at great personal risk and could have cost them their lives. The United States would still be a colony, and the most democratic form of government ever devised, with its emphasis on individual freedoms, would never have come into being.

What if President Lyndon B. Johnson had not pushed for civil rights legislation or for expanded social programs like the War on Poverty or Medicare? He knew as he pressed for these things that doing so would cost his Democratic Party votes for years to come, especially in the South. To his credit, though, he rejected political expediency and fought for and got these passed anyway. The result? Institutionalized racism was overturned; millions of poor were lifted out of poverty; and millions of elderly were able to lead less worrisome and more comfortable lives.

What if Ralph Nader had simply graduated law school, kept quiet, and opted to become another play-it-safe corporate lawyer? From 1959, when he published "The Safe Car You Can't Get" in The Nation, through his well-known 1965 study called "Unsafe At Any Speed," to numerous other industry and environmental exposes over the decades, this man acted as a whistle-blower on negligent American industry for our safety and benefit. Alkong the way, he has become stigmatized by corporate America as a kook and opportunist, when in actuality, he has spotlighted negligent businesses and polluters and caused them to produce safer and cleaner products. Though I still blame him for George W. Bush becoming President, I nonetheless admire his guts and conscientiousness in looking out for consumers.

What if Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy had merely golfed their termns away instead of developing NASA and channeling our science and industry toward space exploration and a manned moon landing ahead of the Russians? Both gambled with possible failure and risked political criticism for making huge expenditures on untried projects without any guarantee of success. But the positive end results of their actions benefitted us in numerous ways: we eventually won the Cold War, there was rapid growth of computer technology, vast improvements in electronics and communications technologies, new discoveries in medicine and even agriculture were all spawned due to their efforts.

What if President Franklin D. Roosevelt had let polio defeat him? Or had become the benign, unadventurous President many in his upper class background had preferred he become? The answer to this is way too easy: there would be no time-and-a-half overtime pay, no unemployment compensation, no labor unions, perhaps no middle class (or a far more microscopic one), no Social Security for retirement, no protection for your bank (and therefore none for your deposits), and no regulation of the stock market.
The many good benefits FDR pushed for and attained for this nation are so vast and important to our quality of life that living without them would be incomprehensible!

What if the 1860 Republican Party and President Abraham Lincoln had just played it politically safe and had struck another in a series of meaningless compromises on slavery with southern politicians just as his predecessors had done? Yes, his life would have undoubtedly been spared, and yes, there would have been no Civil War, but slavery would still exist and the universal freedom and dignity of persons of color would never have been achieved in this country. The courage and justice practiced by Lincoln and his party helped make this nation truly legally become a "land of the free".

What if President Theodore Roosevelt had taken the easy way out and let the huge trusts and corporate bankers of his day have their way completely unchallenged as they had for many years? Simple: the concept of government taking a regulatory role over big business to protect small business and average people from the excesses of concentrated capital would never have come into being. Roosevelt instituted the federal government as a protective buffer between big business and everyone else. He also helped establish regulation over food and drug products to ensure public safety. Our National Parks and provisions against pollution were direct results of Roosevelt's influence, and the beneficial results of his activism remain to this day.
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In contrast to many of today's visionless, play-it-safe conservative Republicans and Blue Dog conservative Democrats, the persons featured above were not lazy defenders of the status quo. They refused to accept unjust or backward-looking conditions as they were and strode to change them by taking individual action. They did so at great risk politically, physically, and economically. They acted toward fulfilling a more just and improved society for all. The same cannot, and will not, ever be said of mediocre, corrupted, and self-centered politicians like Sarah Palin, Mitch McConnell, or Ben Nelson, or of egomanaical demagogues like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck.

We see the positive results of the actions of those pioneers pictured above all around us, every day. We know the "what if" of had they never acted. Ours would be a far bleaker and uncomfortable world had they not shown the courage to move as they did. This should serve as inspiration and impetus for all of us to leave our comfort zones once every so often to make a courageous stand for the benefit of others on occasion!

18 comments:

Tim said...

Very nice post, thoughtful and incisive.
And the best part..you would be correct;)

Max's Dad said...

I agree,Jack. I wish our current President would read this post. He has the opportunity to be one of those guys, too.

Lisa G. said...

Jack-
Excellent post. Thanks for reminding us that there were heroic presidents who risk life, death and limb to make this country better than when they found it. Obama has this potential, but he needs to be more forceful in using it.

Jack Jodell said...

Thank you, Tim, and thanks for stopping by! :-)
---------------
Great point, Max.'s Dad. But I think the impact of what he's accomplished so far will take some time to be totally felt, but at least he's not vacationing all the time like Bush did!
---------------
Lisa G,
Thanks, and I agree with you on Obama. But let us also remember it is not only Presidents who can influence events and lead humanity to better things---look at Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ralph Nader. Every one of us has this potential, if we only rise to the call when our opportunity occurs!

Holte Ender said...

What if - Jack Jodell didn't point these things out to us.

JUDGE TRUTH 101 said...

There's a lesson for all of us Jack. Not just presidents and famous people.



For all the times I, or perhaps everyone, told a bigot to shut up when he was spouting hate. Or poking fun at the handicapped, think of the countless more times we just stayed quiet.


Think how much better the world would be if we were courageous enough every time an idiot spouted ignorance and hate we all told him/her to shut the hell up.



Excellent post Jack. You always get us to think.

amadmike1 said...

What a magnificent and refreshing read Jack. Thanks.

mud_rake said...

Very well done post with excellent inferences for a wise society. Thanks for taking the time to help us distinguish between effective leaders and noise-makers.

Beach Bum said...

This should serve as inspiration and impetus for all of us to leave our comfort zones once every so often to make a courageous stand for the benefit of others on occasion!



I have to say this one phrase hit the mark for me. It’s one thing to have a brave leader from either party willing to face hard issues that mere politicians would allow to go unopposed since it might cost them their jobs. But it usually takes a real national spirit among the people to allow actual change and progress. Right now, I simply don’t see much of a national spirit in this country. What I do see is a bunch of spoiled people scared they might be asked to sacrifice something or groups so fanatically attached to their pet causes that they are willing to derail anything and everything until they are appeased. For any great leader trying to get stuff done such a situation is damn near impossible.

Great post Jack, sorry for being such a bummer.

Jack Jodell said...

Holte Ender,
Hard to answer that one...:-)
---------------
Judge Truth 101,
That was my point. All of us, great and small, can make a difference. But to do so, we just have to act when the situation calls for it. Thanks for those outstanding practical examples of how each of us can do our thing!
---------------
madmike1,
Thank YOU and I'm glad you found it uplifting and inspirational!
---------------
mud_rake,
I think we know the difference between effwective leaders (who actually contribute something meaningful and of value for the benefit of others), and noisemakers (who are only out for their own self-interest or notoriety). At least I HOPE we know the difference! :-)
---------------
Beach Bum,
You've not been a "bummer." In fact, I think you make a very real point here, which kind of underscores what I was trying to get across here. Those who think only of themselves never accomplish much for anybody else. They ride the gravy train and fail to improve the world, and seldom achieve much influence or meaningful accomplishment. They are today's flash in the pan but are gone tomorrow. But those who take great personal risk to improve the lot of others not only accomplish much of great value, but are remembered and emulated by a great many for years and years afterward. One FDR, for example, easily trumps a Sarah Palin, Mitch McConnell, and Ben Nelson combined, many times over!

Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

I read this at just the right moment, yesterday was pretty awful day personally and then the news~! To be so let down by the fella you worked so hard to elect... it sux big time! I don't think Obama is coming close to these sentiments, right now. Being the first black President doesn't qualify him for it.

Jack its a wonderful, inspiring and rejuvenating piece~! TY.

Jack Jodell said...

Thanks, Gwen. Let's not be TOO hard on Obama yet. After years and years of inaction or wrongful action by other Presidents, we all hoped Obama would be a blazing fireball who would quickly make up for lost time. He is indeed lagging in areas he made promises in, but let us remember that at a similar period in FDR's first term, there were a number of voices calling for him to do more. Huey Long was even threatening to run against him for the Democratic nomination in 1936. Keep in mind that FDR had vigorous congressional support, so let us not forget that, in the face of tremendous lethargy in his own party and hostile opposition, and with virtually NO cooperation from the Republican Party at all, Obama has managed to pass a stimulus package which is starting to work, successfully appoinyed a Supreme Court justice, and has gotten passed a notable health care reform bill which is admittedly flawed and nowhere near far-reaching enough, but is a starting point for further advance. We must still keep pushing him, but he hasn't been slacking by any means. Let's get out and elect more progressive congressional candidates this fall, and then we'll see more positive action. All is not lost: at least W and Dick Cheney aren't calling the shots anymore!

TomCat said...

Excellent, Jack. Consider this...

What if GHW Bush had used a rubber.

tnlib said...

What if Sarah Palin would quit lying, Boehner fell out of his golf cart and an owl swooped down on McConnell and bit his tongue so he couldn't talk anymore?

Bravo.

Jack Jodell said...

TomCat,
HAAAAAAA!!!! Though I personally hate abortion, W's existence makes a very strong case for it! :-)
---------------
tvlib,
Thanks for stopping by. You've certainly listed some great ideals here---there are no worse or more irritating public personalities than Palin, Boehner, or McConnell, except maybe Limbaugh, Coulter, and Beck!

TomCat said...

Jack, I fully agree.

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