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Reflecting on 2018

Whether you are Republican, Democrat, or independent, 2018 was, in many ways, a melancholy year.

There are easy arguments why we should be happy and comfortable with the year. We are not engaged in any major warfare. Our economy is growing at a good rate.

Unemployment is low, and wages are rising. These are important goals we always seek and rarely successfully align together.

But, for so many of us, something important is missing. It is a nagging concern about the direction of the nation, and the definition of what values now represent us and bind us together as a people. And more, on a pragmatic level, an awareness that we are not  solving the problems we own, the issues we have identified.

In a school in Indianapolis, where the building, the desks, the computers, are all new and shiny, they are out of paper to make copies. The paper makes copies of student workbooks, rather than purchasing those workbooks (copyright issues aside) to save money. But the budget will not allow the purchase of a new skid of paper until late February 2019. So, there are no workbooks.

In states across the nation our highways and bridges are old and damaged and dangerous, but we have no plans to fix them because the richest nation in history cannot afford to maintain the roads, the airports, the bridges and the ports.

Health care is more expensive here than any other nation, but fewer people have affordable health care than most developed nations. Our Congress seems wholly enable to rein in these costs or change the delivery system to something that gets better results at fairer prices.

Too many working Americans, largely in rural areas and poorer urban communities, have been left behind, their factories closed, their jobs gone and not replaced. People in these areas long for the return of the past; they wish for the small town drugstore, the 10 cent store, the local butcher shop. Instead, they drive 40 miles to the Walmart store and park in the 20-acre parking lot.

But there is no promise that can be kept to restore what has been lost. The only promise is that everything will change, that, someday, Walmart may take the path of Sears, or GE the path of Kodak.

A great American philosopher, pragmatist Richard Rorty, made the profound political assessment that, “we ought to do what works.” He was right, we should identify our problems, debate solutions, then simply act to do what works.

In Indianapolis they should order paper when it is needed and fix the budget glitch that caused the problem.

In states that need infrastructure the federal and state and local governments should identify the most crucial improvements needed, prioritize funding, and get to work addressing the potholes and the rusted bridges. For, as Mayor Richard Daily of Chicago once said, “If you can’t fix the potholes, you can’t run a city.”

Our health care simply does not work. You don’t need research or data to know this…we all know it, from physicians, to administrators, to patients, we know what we are doing is deeply flawed. It is time to stop the political posturing and do what works.

Finally, beyond the pragmatics we need a national vision, and we need it now. The current president is wholly unable to think in broad social terms to understand that making America great is more about our compassion, our tolerance, and our values, than it is about any zero sum “deal.”

We need to once again be the “City Upon the Hill,” the “Thousand Points of Light,” the best we can be as a people, together.


Jim Crawford is a retired educator, political enthusiast and award-winning columnist living here in the Tri-State.