Dennett — Thank you for your heart felt response.
Gail Boenning

Gail, I find it impossible to discuss anything as large as the United States rail system, for example, without injecting politics. It’s federal money that maintains cross country transportation, and the politicians are the ones who control the money and decide how it is allocated. One cannot be discussed without the other.

It is hard to gather support for high-speed trains from a population that has never experienced or cannot even imagine them. When the government invested in the early telephone system, most people thought it was a ridiculous waste of money for a newfangled invention that few understood and many thought no one would use. When the first telephone lines were installed, most people had never seen a telephone, much less used one. Our legislators had the intelligence and forethought to know that a telephone system was imperative to growth and innovation, so they went ahead with it in spite of not having the approval of the general populace. How right they were!

The same approach would work for advanced train systems. As was said in Field of Dreams, “Build it and they will come.” Once the trains are operational people will learn how efficient they are, just as they did with telephones. One of the jobs of government is to be innovative and forward-thinking. Our government once was like that and is no longer.

The same case can be made for solar power and many other newfangled ideas that our politicians continually reject in spite of concrete evidence that shows solar power, for example, is superior to all other forms of power production. In a reverse way, the same is true with global warming. Our government refuses to accept the scientific proof that the earth is warming. We are going backwards, not forwards.

Unfortunately, our country has lost it’s pioneer spirit — the spirit that built the rail system from coast to coast, the spirit that could see into the future, the spirit that dreamed of bigger and better, instead of settling for not-quite-good-enough or it-is-good-enough-for-me-and I-don’t-care-about-you. These are not the attitudes of pioneers or great nations.

Politics should not be a dirty word. It should be a word that represents contrasting ideas coming together for the common good. The common good is a concept in which we no longer believe. Instead, it’s what can I get for me? 
We have become a nation of individuals so individualistic that we can no longer function as a group or as a nation.

The USA has become a country of me’s rather than a country of us.

To say that the mid-west has plenty of space so trains are not important there or not understood by the people who live there, is the same as saying screw you to the rest of the nation. If New England needs trains, that’s their problem, it has nothing to do with the mid-westerners. Puerto Rico needs to be rebuilt because of a massive hurricane, not the problem of Jane and Joe living in Minnesota. The subways in NYC need renovations, tough luck, it has nothing to do with the cowboys in Texas or the surfers in California. A “me” and “mine” nation will accomplish nothing. It will languish in mediocrity.

It cannot, and must not, be a regional decision about what is best of our nation as a whole.

If we go to war together, it is only reasonable and humane that we support what is necessary and good for all sections of our country. Just because you can hop in an SUV to drive to the grocery store and have never been on a subway, does not mean you are not capable of understanding the necessity for subways in NYC.

The way we are headed it would be better to dissolve the United States because it is no longer united. Let’s make 50 individual countries and each can do whatever the hell it wants. That seems to be where we are going.

If we refuse to discuss politics or even to consider political influences on our lives, we have relinquished our power to those who will use politics to manipulate and exploit us.

I believe politics should be discussed at the dinner table, in the classroom, at the office, at Starbucks, while waiting for a bus or walking down the street or standing in line at the grocery store. We should not be afraid to have big, bold conversations about the very ideas that govern our lives. We fear what is hidden and politics is the monster in the basement. Let that monster out!

Politics is the basis for all the freedoms we enjoy. How can we not talk about politics and call ourselves good Americans and good stewards of the privileged lives we have?

Gail, I’ve obviously turned this into a political discussion, something you wished to avoid. But, truly, how can we avoid politics?

How can we have big, bold conversations without discussing politics?

Erik Smith and I have had several conversations about politics here in America and about our current state of dysfunction. I have lamented that I did the protest thing in the 60’s and 70’s, I wrote my letters, carried my signs, called my legislators, and I now resent having to fight for the same damn issues all over again. I want to hide in a cave rather than witness my country being flushed down the toilet. Erik Smith encourages me over and over again not to give up — to talk, talk,and keep talking. He is Dutch, for heaven’s sake, and he is more involved in American politics than most Americans!

I may not be able or willing to protest in DC or to participate in the events that attract those younger than me, I may be too disillusioned or busy to constantly barrage my legislators with letters and phone calls, but Erik is right, I can talk, and I will talk. And write. Because politics is what allows me to have light when I flip a switch, gas when I pull into a station, a connection with a friend when I use a phone, the internet to research and learn, roads on which I drive, weather forecasts that allow me to plan my week, the education I had and my grandchildren now have, even the television that I sometimes watch. If not for politics and the decisions of politicians, I, nor you, would be enjoying these comforts of life.

If politics is a dirty or uncomfortable word, it is our duty to clean it up!

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