Here in Ohio, I wish far left U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and very far right U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan had lost in Tuesday’s election (I voted that way so I can say that, right?).
That would have sent a clear message across the United States: We’ve had enough with partisan politics. Let’s learn to get along with each other again.
It didn’t happen, of course.
Brown, first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006, received 53.2 percent of ballots cast. Jordan, serving since 2007 and founding member of the Freedom Caucus, received support from 65.4 percent of voters who cast a ballot in his U.S. House district.
Nationwide, Democrats regained control of the U.S. House and Republicans kept their dominance in the U.S. Senate. We’ll see how that plays out in the next two years.
National politics gets an awful lot of attention, far more than local politicians and tax issues do, which is too bad, really.
Locally, there weren’t any surprises in the political races.
Opioid issue defeated
Voters across the county decided quite a few tax requests, some renewals and some new millages. Results were mixed. A tax to fund a local opioid recovery program, for example, was defeated, 52 to 48 percent. That surprised me. Opioids affect all of us in some way, either with people we know who are affected by it or by the crimes addicts commit to finance their habit.
Is drug addiction an illness or a disease? Are individuals responsible for their habits? I think this played into the issue’s defeat. Rather than trying to help those who suffer, no matter how it began, we choose to blame them for getting addicted in the first place.
Prevention is the ideal, yes. But how to do that?
Volunteering at school
On another issue, the local school district renewal passed; I was glad to see that. I’m passionate about supporting our local public schools.
Not everyone is. I talked with a good friend who sent his now-grown children through Christian schools, and said he rejected all tax requests – including for schools – because he wishes the state offered vouchers so he wouldn’t have to pay for public education. Instead, his education dollars could be re-directed to a private school of his choice.
I don’t agree with him on this issue. Jesus wouldn’t either, in my opinion.
Jesus met the needs of people right where they were. He spent time with children, drug addicts, outcasts, immigrants, church leaders, politicians – all types of people. He didn’t create a separate church or school where he taught or expected children to attend. He preached on hillsides, yes, but then he sent everyone home. Be a Christian right where you live, he told them.
Public education in this country is available to all. If parents choose to send their children to a private school, that’s their choice. They should pay for their choice.
And private schools, including Christian-based schools, face the same social issues – bullying, teen pregnancy, drugs – that public schools do.
The vast majority of our nation’s residents can’t afford a private education or the transportation to get there, even if they wanted to send their children to one. Instead, we need to support our students and teachers – all of them. We need to give them the resources they need to do their jobs well, then hold them accountable for that.
Since my children also are long beyond the 12th grade, it’s easy for me to sit back and point fingers at those directly involved in public education. No. I need to get involved, and I do. I’ve been mentoring elementary school students for about a decade, even though we’ve lived in three states during that time. A couple of mentoring programs I’ve participated in have disbanded. I keep searching for another one.
I began doing this at Stone Elementary School in Saginaw, Mich., across the street from the church we attended. That was a low-pressure lunchtime program where mentors played a game or two and ate lunch one-on-one with a student.
When we moved to Rockford, Ill., I found a mentoring program within two months. In that program, I read with second-grade students for an hour in 15-minute segments, in the classroom. The teacher sent me students who needed the most help with reading. As a journalist, that was right up my alley, a win-win for everyone.
Here in northeast Ohio, I’ve served through several programs. One at Midview schools in Grafton disappeared after a year. The next one in Cleveland schools disbanded this summer. I recently found an elementary in Lorain, the next town over, and am just getting to know a fifth-grader there. And through our church, several of us are mentoring high school students in Lorain as well. That’s something new for me, but I’m excited about that too.
Instead of complaining about how our public schools are failing, let’s get involved. Locally, we can make a difference.
Reducing the influence of politicians
If your passion is visiting the sick in a hospital or spending time with drug addicts or pregnant teens or another issue, there are ways to offer support and encouragement. Such programs need money, yes, but they also need our involvement.
The one irrevocable asset we possess is time. Once it’s gone, we can never get it back. Let’s make it count.
Money? We can earn more. Politics? We get another chance every two or four years.
Giving money and voting for people and causes we believe in are important, of course.
But they aren’t enough. Let’s do something with our lives. Choose an issue or two you’re passionate about and make a difference.
We talk about taking back our country from the politicians. This is how we do it. We as citizens must take control of our own lives, and of public life as well.
One student at a time. One opioid addict at a time. One struggling marriage at a time. One pregnant teen at a time. One cancer victim at a time. One veteran at a time. One hungry child at a time. One lonely neighbor at a time.
Et cetera, et cetera.
Open your eyes. Opportunities are everywhere, literally.
Enough with the conservative-liberal hatred. Let’s change lives instead.
One person at a time.