Wisconsin Vs. Common Sense
While reading the Wisconsin State Journal on Thursday I again thought about where we are as a state. I know every generation comes to a point where they look backwards and wonder what happened to the ‘way things once were’. While I am very proud of our social progress, and leaps forward due to science and technology I am also profoundly aware that some fundamental values in Wisconsin seems to have changed.
I recall being told over and over as a boy by teachers that this state was special. We had a clean government, took pride in our environment, had remarkable state parks to explore, and had a Midwestern perspective that valued hard work and also helping those in need. I do not think that pride in our state was over-blown or less than an apt description of a snapshot of our past.
But between those memories from childhood to the news articles in the paper today something clearly has happened that can not be applauded.
Our judicial system seems to now require a petition from 54 former judges to implore our State Supreme Court to adopt rules requiring justices to recuse themselves from cases involving campaign donors. It would seem that just based on principle and fairness such procedures would already be in place to prevent justice from being called into question for favoritism.
The deep abiding love that this state has demonstrated for the great outdoors is a real legacy we can be proud of. So it comes as a real head-shaker when listening to the partisan voices in the state legislature who wish to split up the Department of Natural Resources so to mute enforcement and research concerning our environment. The 300-member Wisconsin Association of Retired Conservationists along with five former DNR secretaries have all registered deep misgivings about the proposed split.
The UW-System of Wisconsin has proven countless times to be a mighty engine of research and economic development. There is nothing but profound pride we should have for our campuses and a most justified feeling knowing the flagship campus has an enviable reputation. Therefore the continuous baffling question is why the need for some in the statehouse to almost go out of their way to undermine the UW? Tinkering with tuition and trying to craft ways for certain political messages to be conveyed seems to be taking the foundation of what a place of higher learning should be and tipping it upside down.
Those stories came from just one edition of the paper. Think about the number of similar articles that readers ponder in a week or month and it is clear why many are wondering what happened to the state we once knew. How is it that common sense has come to be replaced by the most outlandish policy ideas and politicians who seem downright gleeful to charge forward in promoting them?
The reasons are many as to why we are now in this sorry state of affairs. From downplaying the need to instruct young minds with civics, allowing political boundaries to be drawn by the most partisan means possible, failing to contain the amount of money spent in campaigns, having the most extreme partisans from both sides holding too much sway in the process, and having social media downsize the way we get information places us here in the middle of a mess.
When I was a boy growing up in Hancock, about 30 miles south of Stevens Point, teachers gave lessons in why pride in the state was easily justified. While I still deeply love my state it is clear that the foundations which existed decades ago are giving way to a most base form of politics which are very troubling and sad. If more of my fellow citizens do not take a determined attitude about the policies at play in this state then we are bound to wind up where the barber pole from the Main Street of my hometown landed.