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I’ve been sadly reminded twice this week of political refrains that echo extremes of reaction during the Vietnam era.

Conservative political leaders have reacted negatively to the “Occupy” movement, and what I’d characterize as the excessive “police state’ enforcement in ways that remind me of the “hippie bashing” that became widespread regarding those who openly organized to oppose the Vietnam War. Of course back then, it wasn’t just the Republicans who went too far in restricting First Amendment rights of protestors — Mayor Daly’s over-reaction to demonstrators during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago was one such disgusting example.

The other conservative comment I found so evocative was in the national security Republican debate last night, when one candidate criticized the idea that the U.S. should withdraw from the Afghanistan War, after 10 years, as a “cut and run” strategy. We heard that from the politicians in the late 60s, and the Vietnam war went on until 1975, with 55 thousand American deaths.

Is there no sense of history in our leadership? Is there any sense at all?

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As a lifelong student of public relationships, it is increasingly clear, perception-wise, that the U.S. Federal government is incompetent. The apparent looming failure of the bi-partisan Super Committee to reach agreement is just the latest example. The question: is it the institution itself that has become irrelevant and incapable of adapting to the needs of our times, or is it the people “occupying”, to use a current phrase in a different context, government offices who are incompetent? Or is is both, to varying degrees?

Representatives are elected and sent to Washington to work out issues that pertain to the masses. Their greatest recent achievement along that line were to declare pizza a vegetable in public schools!  For a long time, I’ve thought we need a new Constitutional Convention to update our scheme of governing. The Senate is dysfunctional. Campaign contributions and lobbying have gone amuck. The Electoral College subverts our democracy in electing Presidents. Endless terms in office undercut the representative philosophy of governing. The military and their corporate surrogates have too much power inside our government. Government has repeatedly demonstrated their inability to understand and control the economy. On and on.

Of course, the problem with having a Constitutional Convention is who will participate? Will it be the same goons who populate Federal government now? Probably, for the most part. Then, what do we do? Have another revolution or civil war? I hope not. I think direct public demonstrations, like the “Occupy” and “Tea Party” movements, are one way to send messages to our current leaders. The ballot box is another. If your legislator is not actively negotiating on your behalf with their counterparts, and representing your views, vote them out and someone better prepared in.  And, demand honest, balanced and probing truth from the news media, which so often let us down in that regard.

The bottom line: we must struggle through this, enact reforms large and small, keep trying to elect better people, get as much of the money and clout out of politics as possible, reform our failed institutions of government decision-making and regulation,  and tweak our economy wherever needed, and get on with it, now.

Perception eventually becomes tantamount to reality. If we want perceptions of the trajectory of our society to be positive, we must take action, quickly, before perceptions of incompetence become accepted as the new reality.

May 2019
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