Another thing I love about Missouri is the fact that we once sent a man named Sempronius H. Boyd (1828-1894) to represent us in the U.S. Congress. Look at those dates. Sempronius H. was alive and active when Missouri was aflame with rancor that divided towns, families, and friends. Like now.
In 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, the War Between the States, he was elected from a party called the "Unconditional Unionists," a loose alliance cobbled together from pro-union Republicans, pro-union southern Democrats, and a few Whigs.
The perspective of a man like Sempronius H. Boyd was shaped by the range of his life experience. He had seen something of the world. He was a teacher, a gold prospector, a court clerk, a lawyer, an infantry colonel, a railroad builder, and a wagon-factory owner. He served as mayor (of Springfield), as a U.S. Congressman, and as ambassador to the nation then called Siam (now Thailand). Boyd was able to represent multiple perspectives because he occupied multiple roles. Teacher, adventurer, capitalist, soldier.
Bearing Sempronius in mind, and with 50-something days left until we get to weigh in, I ask: Who's representing whom here?
Let's not pretend that the vaguely expressed ideas suggested by Romney, Ryan, and Akin are in the best interest of the teacher in Taney County or the grandma in north city here in St. Louis. Not when the voices of reason, including a Nobel-Prize winning economist, have been writing for years about the failure of the Republicans' fiscal and monetary policies to improve the lives of most Americans.
Emphasis on most.
Obviously, policies which render private equity phenomenally lucrative while simultaenously gutting or strangling the public resources most families rely on -- public schools, police, firefighters, libraries, roads, bridges, social services for people who are young, old, ill, or disabled -- benefit the wealthiest among us. Or else they would not be as wealthy as they are right now!
People who work in the public sector know that between 2000 and 2008, the public sector was gutted. People who depend on the public sector to meet basic needs -- health clinics, schools, housing, Medicare and Medicaid -- know that between 2000 and 2008 the public sector was gutted.
People in-the-know expected the depression of 2008 to require a decade to turn around. It's been four years, and slowly, slowly, things are beginning to change. As I write, the federal government is working to pump even more money into the economy in order to revive employment in the public sector.
Being in the minority when you live in a democracy is not easy. I remember my daughter being very unhappy after pre-school one day when, alone among her classmates, she wanted to make that week's Play-Dough purple. But her class voted for blue, and so blue it was. She was outnumbered. She lived with it. Maybe next time she could convince the others to vote for purple.
Here's the thing: the people whose decisions make life worse for the majority are in the minority. Here in Missouri and elsewhere. But they want their purple Play-Dough. And so they do what they can to get the majority to give them purple Play-Dough. With the help of talk radio and broadcast journalists, they have masked what they want behind more visceral fronts: They play on religious convictions. They play on racial bias. They play on fear. In less apparently visceral circles (kind of like in pre-school, now that I think about it) they play on a shared sense of "civil discourse."
Divisions and differences mark us as Missourians. T'was ever thus. Non-violent conflict is nothing to be afraid of. Not when parents in the small towns around Poplar Bluff can't afford milk for breakfast. Embracing the divisions, being an unconditional unionist, means voting in fifty shades of blue -- Claire and Obama/Biden -- on November 6.