Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky Time Person Of Year, Democracy Wins Again

I am so very pleased to learn this news tonight. TIME magazine released the Person of the Year edition, and it was not only the best decision that could be made for the cover but without argument the only decision for the person of the year.

In February 2022, I predicted that this would be the ultimate outcome this year. Every year since I was, much younger, I have made a prediction for the cover of this magazine as the year closes out. The world may not be united on many things given the array of conflicts and issues which divide and splinter nations and peoples. Still, the newsworthy and importance of this man, and the shaping of world events he impacted, means there is worldwide agreement tonight. Zelensky is the man parents everywhere wish their child to emulate for values, resolve, and character.

I wrote last winter the following, and it still very much applies tonight.

Democracy matters. It must be fought for. It can never be taken for granted.

When so many from Madison’s legislature to Moscow, from Trump Tower to Beijing either dismiss democracy or work feverishly to undermine it comes a refreshing– and, oh, so needed reminder–as to why we must never be lackadaisical about its continuance.

With steadfast resolve, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is leading not only his nation but being a teacher to the world.

And the world is watching.

There is no way not to feel his commitment to justice and sincere regard for democracy. There is no way not to fully grasp his correct desire for a heightened international repudiation of Russian thuggery.

When this year ends it will be near impossible to consider anyone more elevated and deserving to be Person of the Year than Volodymyr Zelenskyy. May God keep him and his family safe.

New Naturalized Citizens And The American Dream

It was reported this week that nearly a million immigrant adults were naturalized as American citizens in the fiscal year 2022, the third-highest annual tally recorded in U.S. history.  There is clearly an uplifting bounce to the news as there is never anything old or ‘what-ever’ when it comes to seeing the ideals of our nation put into practice.

When I heard this news, I thought of a woman who rented in our neighborhood and worked for a law firm that specialized in immigration law. I recall a conversation in which we agreed that many native-born Americans would have trouble passing a citizenship test, a required part of the naturalization process. She remarked she had never, not once, had a single client in her many years of practice fail that test. That underscores part of the reason why we have pride in the resolve and convictions of our new citizens.

This is more than just another news story.  The accounts of new arrivals to our shores started catching my attention as a kid when reading history. The black and white photos of immigrants looking at the New York skyline compelled me to learn more about what they might have been thinking as they saw Lady Liberty. That desire to learn the stories of people who arrive on our shores, and want to be a part of America, has had ample avenues from which to be explored after I moved to Madison.

Over the years James and I became friends with people in the restaurant world, some of them sharing their stories and feelings about making this nation their home. One evening after a meal the owners of the establishment who came from Veitnam brought to the table a photo album that showed the overloaded and rickety type boats that left their homeland. Since I do not swim their brave undertaking took on a much more harrowing perspective. Upon arriving in Wisconsin not knowing the English language, and certainly not accustomed to Wisconsin winters they stayed focused on their goal. In a few decades, the family were business owners and employers, hiring others, paying taxes, and becoming citizens.

A lovely Jamaican couple needed assistance with the process of citizenship, and we placed them into the hands of a woman who worked for Senator Russ Feingold. I will never, ever, forget the beaming smile of the woman as we entered her restaurant many months later, informing us she and her husband were American citizens. Those photos from the books of my youth had come alive with vivid color and meaning.

James, being able to speak several languages, has assisted others in ways with government offices and companies that they were not able to do easily on their own. We helped, first and foremost, due to the fact the folks were genuinely nice people, just needing a bit of a helping hand, and we had the skills and resources that made a difference. We did not look at skin color or place of origin, but simply asked how we could help as Americans by working to extend that title to someone else.

Under the laws of this nation, most naturalized citizens gain citizenship after living in the U.S. as permanent residents for three or five years. Those who serve in the military can qualify for a faster and unique process at naturalization. Unlike permanent residents, immigrants with U.S. citizenship can vote in federal elections, obtain American passports, and sponsor family members to come to the U.S. through an expedited process. The top five countries of birth of immigrants who became naturalized U.S. citizens in 2022 were Mexico, India, the Philippines, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic.

Over the years, I have discovered through personal conversations that becoming an American citizen was one of the proudest accomplishments that these men and women had felt in their lives.  What we take for granted, others strive for. Yearn for. Relish when achieved. Love of nation may sound hokey, but I know it is real for many who were born far away and now call this nation home.  That is why I found the news about our new citizens so upbeat and refreshing.  

Welcome home.

Compromising Principles Ugly To See When Pols Cannot Condemn Termination Of The Constitution

If we had a five-dollar bill for every time an elected Republican dismissively told a reporter, upon being questioned about a stunning statement from Donald Trump, that ‘he says lots of things’ we would be surprised at our pile of cash.  Over the years Trump has poured forth angry tweets about the way women look or how he should be reinstated to office, despite his being rejected by millions of voters in the 2020 election.  But this weekend Trump made a statement, that even by his ‘standards’, was supremely troubling.

Saturday, Trump made clear his desire for the termination of the Constitution’s election provisions so to mesh with his unfounded claims of mass electoral fraud in 2020. The words and tone of his comment were a prime example of what must never be allowed to gain a fraction of an inch in our democracy, especially since we already have suffered serious attacks on the foundations of the country. Such recent history only underscores why this treasonous comment merited quick and overwhelming repudiation. But only a few Republicans found their love of country and self-respect moved them to a microphone. Congressman Mike Turner from Ohio and newly elected congressman Mike Lawler from New York are to be applauded for knowing their high school civics still resonates.

But while watching ABC’s This Week Sunday morning I was truly taken aback by the guarded hesitation of the chair of the Republican Governance Group, Congressman Dave Joyce.  The exchange with George Stephanopoulos was one of those moments when the viewer is not sure whether it is best to cringe and keep going forward or look away and hope it ends soon.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I have to ask you a question about Donald Trump’s statement yesterday talking about suspending the Constitution. Your reaction?

JOYCE: Well, you know, when President Trump was in office, I didn’t make a habit of speaking out on his tweet du jour. I don’t know what came out on is – whatever his new social platform is. But, you know, people were not interested in looking backwards. The people who gave us the majority — and, again, we – we – we barely won it. We barely eked it out. So, let’s be straight about where we’re at. They gave us an opportunity, and we need to perform. And we need to care about the issues that they care about, which is, how do they lower the cost at the pump?

STEPHANOPOULOS: But Donald Trump was your nominee in 2016 and 2020. You voted for him in 2016 and 2020.

JOYCE: Uh-huh.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now he’s talking about suspending the Constitution. Can you support a candidate in 2024 who’s for suspending the Constitution?

JOYCE: Well, again, it’s early. I think there’s going to be a lot of people in the primary. I think, at the end of the day, you will — whoever the Republicans end up pick, I’ll fall in behind because that’s –

STEPHANOPOULOS: Even if it’s Donald Trump and he’s called for suspending the Constitution?

JOYCE: Well, again, I think it’s going to be a big field. I don’t think Donald Trump’s going to clear out the field like he did in ’16.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s not what I’m asking. I’m asking you, if he’s the nominee, will you support him?

JOYCE: I will support whoever the Republican nominee is. And just don’t think that, at this point, he will be able to get there because I think there’s a lot of other good quality candidate out there.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s a remarkable statement. You just – you’d support a candidate who’s come out for suspending the Constitution?

There is a lot to unpack from that dispiriting display by a member of the GOP who knows better than he allowed the nation to witness. The wish-washy pablum is a weak and dangerous response to the party base that requires some tough and honest conversations so to move the needle away from the lies and utter fabrications designed to smear the electoral process of 2020. Joyce makes the case for what is wrong with a huge portion of the Republican Party.

It is clear that Joyce does not subscribe to the lies about voter irregularities or massive fraud as purported by Trump and yet is willing to support a potential presidential candidate in spite of blatant and provable lies. A democracy can not abide this type of unreasonableness. Such tactics by Trump and his supporters are a direct assault on the foundations of the county and its political institutions.  So, yes, it is more than galling to hear the casual dismissal of Trump’s rant on the Constitution which then allows for his base to continue to claim ‘that’s just Trump being Trump’.

The former president of the United States said portions of the Constitution should be terminated, an open attack on American democracy.  Trump’s behavior over the past 6 years has allowed the GOP to become a cesspool of anti-democratic beliefs.  That was bad enough when he was the one fanning the flames. But when there is an allowance made for his dangerous rhetoric without an absolute and resounding rebuke to Trump’s rhetoric about the Constitution further alerts the majority in the nation that we have even more cause to be worried about our democracy.

Small Town Wisconsin Needs To Know We Have Been This Way Before

We have been this way before.  That is the message we need elected officials and politicians to impart to citizens from coast to coast.

After reading the excellent reporting from Tim Sullivan of the Associated Press, featured above the fold on the front page of Thursday’s Wisconsin State Journal, it goes without saying there is a lot to unpack.  Since 2016, I have been trying to better understand what very conservative, Trump-type people, are thinking and more to the point, why they view government and society as they do. The AP news story was insightful.

This is not the first time that citizens in our nation yearned for Washington to rise to the challenges of the time. If we put aside the notion that some on the far-right fear government and disdain it at every turn, it is safe to say that the majority of people, including Republicans want their government to function at a higher level than what we have witnessed for several years. Voters want pols to be reasoned and wish the buffoonish ones would give way to effective representatives in office. We have long had political and legal scandals, though the Jan 6th insurrection was an event without parallel in our nation.  There is nothing new in racial reckonings or having splintered and highly politicized and partisan news media. The idea that elites rule or are too well connected or wealthy as opposed to the masses of workers striving to just get along is as old to our national dialogue as anti-immigrant rants. What I just wrote in a few sentences sums up the tensions of the time which followed the Civil War.

We have been this way before.

Failed reconstruction, economic turmoil, pols not rising to the demands of the time and a sagging enthusiasm about our role on the international stage was part of the decades that followed President Lincoln’s assassination. Over the years, just to press down on the latter point, I have read several books where it was stressed no real foreign policy success came to the U.S. between William Sewards’ famed Alaska deal and the construction of the Panama Canal. Our current mood as Americans is not new. 

We have been this way before.

What we never reflect upon in these rancorous and often highly bombastic times is that we succeeded as a nation after a long period of upheaval, and triumphantly so. Railroads and oil and stronger governmental institutions and stronger financial systems added layers of credibility. 

We must be reminded of having been this way before with rebounds and great national success.

While economics as a science confounds me, economic history is rather compelling.  By looking backward as the national story of our advancements, be they canals or trains or the industrial revolution, is examined comes a bottom line of truth.  One that is playing out today with the information revolution. We know how fast and seemingly abrupt certain new innovations have landed in our workplace or home, from how x-rays are now read from afar, or how technical assistance via phone places our call to Southeast Asia. Changes come fast as do the implications and side effects from jobs, wages, or cultural impacts, while the political institutions make slow and stodgy adaptions. This leads back to one of the complaints from the Civil War generation who also yearned for pols who would more readily address the needs of their time.  

I can understand how the people in the AP story think they have lost faith in technocrats.  I would argue that if a litany of ‘internet news’ from podcasts and those who push conspiracy theories is how one gains a view of the nation and world the issue may not be with skilled and educated bureaucrats or elected pols but rather by not accessing credible news sources. The world might look less dim if the lights were turned on with sound journalism. Without a foundation of facts and data from which to start a dialogue with the rest of the nation, we are witnessing populism running amok.  

So, what hope can we give to the voices from the front page of the WSJ? History says there is always a need for new thinking and modern political designs and solutions, whether in banking, diplomacy, or law. Consider that if the WSJ had printed a front page after the Civil War about farmers, and the numbers needed to feed the nation, they would have been frothing at the mouth to know their numbers in the nation would be narrowed to the single digits, percentage-wise, their land sold for urban sprawl, and the industry transformed beyond their recognition.  Change is always tumultuous, and we are in such a time now.

We need to be reminded we have been this way before.