CEMETERY THINKING


We could learn from Floyd, one of my cats.  Every night, when I fall asleep, Floyd lies against me, but not so hard that I am uncomfortable or have to move.  Four hours later, I awaken, shoved over to one side of the bed.  Floyd is an incrementalist.  He pushes slowly, consolidates his gains, and pushes a little more slowly.  I move.

Mr. Obama’s decision to act on immigration has angered people on both sides of the issue.  That to me is the hallmark of a good decision.   One may look at it as “we didn’t get what we wanted, so it is no good” or “we got some of what we wanted, and we will strive to get more.”  The first is perfectionist thinking, which brought us George W. Bush.  The second was incremental thinking, and it brought us Medicare, which didn’t fix medical care costs, but got us a lot closer to that goal.  Bear with me:  I won’t forget cemetery thinking.

The idea that a president can act unilaterally is not new.  Herbert Hoover blocked immigration, lasting 5 years until FDR started taking in Jews’ fleeing Nazi Germany.

On Facebook, I know people on both sides of immigration, and they are angry.  To both sides, I have two words:  GROW UP.  Two more words:  NO WAY in a country of 310 million will each of us get what we want, when and how we want it.  The President is trying to ADDRESS the issue, not make it perfect. NOBODY CAN.  Indeed, the Senate passed an immigration bill upon which the House of Representatives refused to act, because Mr. Boehner, a Republican, not some liberal like me, chose not to act on the bill.  Minority leaders: Tea Party—didn’t want it.

Mr. Boehner wants to run out the clock on Obama.  Indeed, if you are winning, and there is not a lot of time left, you want to use as much of as you can when you are in control.  Conventional wisdom called Mr. Obama a lame duck.  Instead, he acted the way I did when I was a “short timer” in the Navy.  I wasn’t going to be there much longer; when my happiness quotient (time served/time left to serve) was 3, similar to Mr. Obama’s, I started doing what I thought I should, not worrying what somebody would do to me.  Mind you, I wasn’t a jerk, but I spoke up when I thought people were wrong, and they were stuck.  I accomplished a lot; I asked for what I really wanted, another cat ploy, realizing the worst thing that could happen was somebody would say “No.”

You see, back then, the worst thing for a doctor was to be was in the military, on a ship, and deployed.  I was all three.  What could they do to me?  Take away my birthday?  And what is the House going to do to Mr. Obama?  He transformed himself from being a lame duck to a pterodactyl.  He acted, and the Republicans must respond.  Given the complexity of immigration, the suddenness and timeliness of the action (although it was predictable), before the annual 6 week shutdown of America called the “holidays,” a big lump of carbon landed in a lot of stockings.

Get real, folks.  Immigration reform won’t please everybody.  We have to have some sort of secure border, we can’t take in the world, we shouldn’t split up families, and we shouldn’t be hiring workers who are here illegally.  That is only part of the problem.  I want something DONE, see what happens, and then modify it.  The status quo isn’t working.  If both sides get something, wouldn’t that be better?  Most rational adults would say yes. Mr. Obama is governing, and this isn’t fun.  But avoiding the issue is even worse, sort of like climate change, but that is for another time.

Mr. Obama apparently decided it was time to quit playing safe, trying to please everybody, and run the country as best as he saw fit, since nobody else was willing to, and he had the power.  He issued an Executive Order, one of about 190 so far, and Washington howled.  How dare he?  Well, Mr. Reagan issued nearly 400, and the previous president, who brought divisiveness and two unnecessary wars not paid for with a war tax, the doughnut hole costing $135 billion more than predicted, and wanted to privatize Social Security, which given the recession that followed, would have been disastrous, issued 291.

Here at home, Sen. Ron Wyden’s bill to deal with increasing timber harvest, yet putting controls on it and adding wilderness areas has been hammered from both sides.  I’m a life member of the Sierra Club, but I try to be a life member of the reality club. Given my druthers, I’d ban logging, stop poisoning the land after clear cuts, since the poison is getting into the water and into the bodies of people in this state, and have a lot more wilderness.  Well, I’m not going to get my wish.  Period.  We aren’t going to stop logging in Oregon.  We can, however, add some wilderness to a state which has one of the lowest percentages in the west. Eugene has no wilderness within 40 miles.

When you have two disparate groups arguing, you have four choices: one, keep arguing and doing nothing; two, give it to one side, which creates a lot of enmity; three, compromise that gives both sides something; four, find an out of the box, creative solution that never occurred to anybody.  I’ve pretty much given up on the last, although there are a lot of creative thinkers in this country, but we need to listen to them, not ask for their money, or recycle yet another governor, senator, or general, who really ought to retire and volunteer somewhere.  America can fix problems.  When both sides dig in, both lose.  Being angrily dug in to a position usually ends up burying a lot of good ideas.  And I call that cemetery thinking.

I don’t have a problem with the Sierra Club’s wanting more.  That’s fine.  But take what you can get, people, because at some point…..hmmmm, right now for example, the next few years are not going to be very good for wilderness, politically.   Having sensible actions, even imperfect ones, to make more wilderness, even at the cost of other areas, might work.  Then you work for more.

Health care reform?  I’m an incrementalist.  Ideally, I’d expand Medicare to the whole society.  That isn’t going to happen.  Realistically, expanding it to 55 and older is one option; another is expanding it to pregnancy, labor, delivery, and the first 10 years of life.  Put in measures that would serve to show what does and does not happen, good and bad.  I believe it would cover many poor women and children, and at the same time force abortion foes to make good on what pro-life really means. I ask, how can one be against a program that helps women and children?  Easy.

By being a cemetery thinker.

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