Jane Hepting

A couple months ago, some friends and I decided to stop bemoaning the current state of political affairs and start focusing on this question: “What would the ideal community look like?” We thought about communities that are as small as a village and as big as a nation.

After some brainstorming, we decided that the most important aspect of the ideal community is that it be safe. Everyone should feel comfortable in his or her own home and feel comfortable moving around the community.

Children and adults should be in no danger of physical harm, bullying or harassment wherever they are. We should be protected from terrorists, pollutants, epidemics and financial ruin from forces beyond our control.

Next, we agreed that the ideal community should be fair. Fairness means that everyone has a voice, has input into the decisions affecting our lives and has an equal vote. In a fair community, everyone is equal under the law, and diversity is welcome. Politicians are not controlled by special interest groups, but work to improve the lives of everyone. In a fair community, people earn a living wage, receive equal pay for equal work and pay taxes based upon their means. In a fair community, living a good life is affordable for everyone.
We also concluded that the ideal community, besides being safe and fair, should be thriving. A thriving community has excellent public services, including top-quality public schools, a variety of recreational activities, mass transportation, affordable housing and affordable health care.

Everyone takes pride in the achievements of the community and assumes a stewardship role in making the community a good place for everyone.

What role should government play in creating and sustaining the ideal community? It should play a huge role. In fact, my friends and I believe that the very purpose of government is to promote communities that are safe, fair and thriving.

This vision of government is not new. Our nation’s founding fathers declared, in our Declaration of Independence, that “governments are instituted” to secure “certain unalienable rights” such as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The larger our nation, the more good government we need.

Sadly, the Republican Party does not embrace this vision. It sees government as existing to enrich a small portion of our citizenry. So, it fights for big, permanent tax cuts for the super-rich, while trying to appease the middle class with tiny, temporary tax cuts. Republican politicians move public education dollars into the hands of for-profit schools and their stockholders. They cut health care for millions of Americans and scheme to cut Social Security. To increase corporate profits, they slash governmental regulations that help ensure safe nursing homes and clean air and water.

To weaken the voice of the people, they gerrymander voting districts and pass laws limiting the power of local governments. Moving more money and power into the hands of a few people destroys, rather than builds, communities that are safe, fair and thriving.

How can we make our government build better communities? The task is not easy, especially with Russian propaganda pushing hatred and fear, but we must try.

First, we must demand that Congress end the corrupting influence of big money and foreign meddling in politics.

Second, we must teach voters to seek out the facts, untainted by propaganda. When some of the population gets all of its “facts” from conservative Fox News, some from liberal MSNBC, and some from Facebook friends, we have a recipe for disaster.

Third, we must encourage civil discourse on the best way to solve problems. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

Finally, we must urge every citizen to participate in government by paying attention, speaking out, advocating for change and voting for candidates who believe in communities that are safe, fair and thriving for everyone.

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