FALMOUTH – We are a go-go society, living for today, with little concern for the future and virtually no interest in our history.

More people are concerned about who was voted off the island, or dumped from “Dancing With the Stars,” than the political decisions that have caused the unhappy economic climate that we currently are experiencing.

Our reaction to the problems of our society is to blame the politicians, the corporations, anyone but ourselves.

Who elects these politicians anyhow?

I have lived through 75 years of some of the most dramatic historical events, from World War II to 9/11 and beyond.

Recently, I had the opportunity to read “A Fierce Discontent” by Michael McGerr.

This book covered the rise and fall of the progressive movement from 1870 to 1920.

I followed that with “Rise to Globalism” by Stephen Ambrose and Douglas Brinkley, which covered American foreign policy since 1938.

There are three dominant policy thrusts that come out in these narratives that seem to be in the American DNA and are consistently played on by demagogic politicians.

These are fear of change and foreign people, as illustrated by the Communist scares of the 1920s and 1950s; isolation from the rest of the world, as followed World War l and was strongly promoted after World War ll; and reducing governmental spending in the name of a balanced budget.

These policies prevailed after World War I and resulted in setting the stage for World War II and the worst depression in U.S. history.

The same policies were strongly fought for after World War ll, but did not prevail, in large part, due to the bi-partisan support of Sen. Arthur Vandenberg.

He voted in favor of the Marshall Plan, a key element of the huge North Atlantic economic boom of the last half of the 20th century, in face of strong opposition from his party.

Why does this matter? I hesitate to use the cliche that “those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it.”

But isn’t this exactly what we are doing today?

We are being led by politicians who say we do not have the money to expand our economy. If we do not expand it, it must contract by definition.

These same politicians who promote fiscal restraint do not want you to remember that much of  the means of today’s good life, including our interstate roadway systems, our airline industry and the Internet, just to name three, were sponsored by government officials and paid for with government funds.

Yes, the deficit must be managed. But it is demagogic politics at its worst to argue that any and all tax increases are off the table.

The most flagrant example of this extreme approach is calling elimination of the ethanol subsidy a tax increase.

The bottom line is that we still have a democracy. It is up to all of to determine that we want a just society.

That will mean voting our consciences and not our fears. I would argue that most of what is bad in our politics and our society results from voting our fears, rather than our principles. I believe we have a society of people who want to live and let live.

We see acts of kindness in the news each day. It is up to each of us to take our franchise seriously.

Determine what is important to you, ignoring the fear-mongering that leads us down divisive paths.
Do not be apathetic and give up on the political system. It is the structure that undergirds all that we have in this country. It is the fundamental reason we support our troops.

Get out and vote for candidates who believe in government and have constructive ideas to improve the things it does.

That includes our educational system, our infrastructure and those things that will make our country strong.

– Special to the Press Herald