By Ralph Trenary
Driving on U.S. Highway 287, either to the north or south, presents multiple examples of gettin’ away with it. The basics start with speeders and those who roam around with expired license plates. The latter infraction has recently become a very costly choice. No argument from me; just gotta’ plan ahead, make paying for the plates a priority and git ‘er done. The former raises my concerns for the safety of drivers young and old.
Up at the county seat, traffic light cameras have become a controversy. Perhaps that’ll reduce the number of sneakers trying to get through on yellow, or fulfill their “Fast and Furious” fantasies at the red light. It’s not so much a problem in Berthoud as it is in the nearby towns.
”Children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” — James A. Baldwin
I discovered Baldwin’s quote the same day my last column, “Gettin’ Away With It, at School,” was published. How convenient and appropriate. The quote is a philosophical agreement with my dismay over why it seems hard to find an adult who will unquestionably stand for what is right, but all too easy to observe one skirting good judgment, ethical conduct and just wanting to get away with it.
This week a political agitator opened a new chapter in the twist-and-deceive anthology. A viral e-mail has appeared from a new spin-meister claiming that Lee Iacocca’s 2007 book “Where Have all the Leaders Gone?” is a repudiation of the new political powers in Washington, D.C.
You betcha; published the year before the election, two years before the inauguration and seating of the new Congress and certainly completed and turned-over to the publisher even farther back into history. I am anxiously awaiting Mr. Iacocca’s rebuttal that he is not a fortune-teller and was trying to be very focused in his criticism of the President George H.W. Bush’s fondness for “…stay the course.”
Is it possible that outrageous exaggeration has become the new “burden of truth?” With too many lacking the skills and dedication to accomplish confirmation of sources and content, I fear that it is possible. A consequence of the ease of sharing information by e-mail, text and tweets is the tendency to be passive and accept every message as absolute and unchallenged.
Special interests at the far fringe of American society and government are pushing the extremes of “gettin’ away with it,” and the rest of us are allowing it to happen. Members of the younger generation are watching, some are even participating in, the accelerating polarization and acrimony that is characterizing the American Democracy.
“We in American do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.” — Thomas Jefferson
A weighty part of “getting’ away with it” is not getting caught, or at least not being observed by anyone who can produce a consequence. That makes a big assumption that there’s a cloak of anonymity and apathy around every adult or child practicing “gettin’ away with it.” Just think of the likely-hood of that being true the next time you want to slide through that yellow light, click to “buy” that essay, or cast your vote based on the latest sensational email you read.
My understanding of history says that the new thinking between 1776 and 1789 was Democracy, and that the old nostalgia was for the British monarchy. We would all be the better to remember that there are undesirable alternatives to democracy.
“Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen” — Dwight D. Eisenhower