Hamilton: Early lessons still apply

I just finished reading Alexander Hamilton, the 731-page opus that the current Broadway play is based on. Author Ron Chernow claims, with extensive research, that Hamilton was one of the nation’s most influential founders. He was George Washington’s right-hand man, among many other things.

I underlined various phrases, sentences and quotes throughout the book, published in 2004, that seem applicable even today. I haven’t seen the play, but if it’s anything like the book, it’s easy to relate to, as well as a wonderful history lesson.

I’ve divided the applicable parts of Hamilton into nearly a dozen themes, which should give me plenty of fodder for this post and several upcoming ones. Perhaps we as Americans can understand a little of who we are today based on how we began as a nation.

Here’s the first theme I’ll discuss:

The authority of central government

… (Hamilton’s) encounters with the two obdurate (American) generals (in 1877, at age 22) strengthened his preference for strict hierarchy and centralized command as the only way to accomplish things – a view that was to find its political equivalent in his preference for concentrated federal power instead of authority dispersed among the states. (p. 103)

hamilton book

Hamilton, as a top aide to General George Washington in battles against the invading British, ran into two American generals who didn’t respect Washington’s leadership. Washington supported his youthful aide’s admonishment of the “obdurate generals,” both of whom refused Washington’s requests to send some of their troops to help him in New Jersey.

The future of the nascent nation was in serious doubt at this point, and Washington hadn’t yet earned the respect that would eventually propel him to become our first president. The British – and the French – had strongholds on our soil, and Washington needed all the help he could get to establish the Union.

 

… the Constitution transcended state governments and directly expressed the will of the American people. Hence, the Constitution began “We the People of the United States” and was ratified by special conventions, not state legislatures. (p. 574)

 

The division between federal and states’ rights provided one of the first debates in our country. It wasn’t a simple discussion then, and it still isn’t today. Immigration, same-sex marriage, legalization of marijuana: Are these federal or state issues?

How about standards for public education? Road repairs? Police issues?

Who gets the final say?

In 2017 on illegal immigration, the federal government gets the final say. Here’s stories of two undocumented immigrants, one of whom in Willard, Ohio, was deported to Mexico this morning (July 18, 2017) and the other in Ann Arbor, Mich., who faces deportation, also to Mexico, on Aug. 2.

 

http://www.cleveland.com/metro/index.ssf/2017/07/willard_father_says_goodbye_to.html

http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2017/07/ann_arbor_council_takes_stand.html

 

Both have families in the United States, and have lived here for well over a decade. The stories are gut-wrenching, and that’s the media’s point. Policies affect specific people.

But officials of the federal government, in the form of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), see the bigger picture. In the Ohio case, as reported by Cleveland.com:

 

According to ICE, “Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly has made it clear that ICE will no longer exempt any class of individuals from removal proceedings if they are found to be in the country illegally.”

 

That’s two sides of the same coin: Living in the U.S. illegally while at the same time contributing to society here.

Which side should prevail?

Hamilton most likely would have sided with the Trump administration on this issue:

 

Hamilton probably had the gravest doubts about the wisdom of the masses and wanted elected leaders who would guide them. This was the great paradox of his career: his optimistic view of America’s potential coexisted with an essentially pessimistic view of human nature. His faith in Americans never quite matched his faith in America itself. (p. 232)

 

In the same vein is this quote later on in the book:

 

“… it is long since I have learnt to hold popular opinion of no value.” (p. 476)

 

Why did Hamilton have this paradox? He felt that he knew how best to run the new country, which angered his opponents. (Hamilton was a federalist and his opponents, led by Thomas Jefferson and others, were republicans, by the way.) He studied European models extensively, even though he never visited Europe, and read voraciously about numerous topics – finance, politics, government, military force, the judiciary and many others.

 

If politics is preeminently the art of compromise, then Hamilton was in some ways poorly suited for his job. He wanted to be a statesman who led courageously, not a politician who made compromises. Instead of proceeding with small, piecemeal measures, he had presented a gigantic package of fiscal measures that he wanted accepted all at once. (p. 324)

 

Hamilton had proposed an extensive, detailed system of banking, finance and public debt that intertwined with each other, that once established became impossible to overturn or replace. This might be Hamilton’s greatest legacy today. (More on that in a future post.) His economic system required federal oversight since its scope was so broad, and states’ rights advocates opposed it on those grounds.

Jefferson was one of Hamilton’s primary antagonists throughout his political career.

 

“I own I am not a friend to a very energetic government,” (Jefferson) told (James) Madison. “It is always oppressive.” (p. 311)

 

One of those oppressive acts was enacted during John Adams’ presidency at the end of the 18th century. Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts that did four things:

  • They lengthened from five to 14 years the period necessary to become a naturalized citizen with full voting rights.
  • The president was given the power to deport, without a hearing or even a reasonable explanation, any foreign-born residents deemed dangerous to the peace.
  • The president was given the power to label as enemy aliens any residents who were citizens of a country at war with America, prompting an outflow of French emigres.
  • It became a crime to speak or publish “any false, scandalous or malicious” writings against the U.S. government or Congress “with intent to defame … or to bring them … into contempt or disrepute,” with the guilty facing a stiff fine and a prison sentence. (p. 570)

Sound familiar?

Less than a month ago, the U.S. Supreme Court enacted a temporary travel ban for certain people from six primarily Muslim countries, which President Donald Trump has declared as terrorism hot-spots. The court is to take up the issue again in October.

In 1798, Hamilton supported the Alien and Sedition Acts – even though he himself was an immigrant, born in the British West Indies. He was upset with the writings of certain foreign-born journalists, to the point that he was willing to support radical measures to silence them.

Jefferson took the high road.

 

Jefferson professed a serene faith that the common sense of the people would rectify such errors. (p. 572)

 

Eventually, Jefferson’s faith prevailed.

Whether Hamilton’s harsh view of public opinion or “the common sense of the people,” in Jefferson’s words, will prevail in today’s political climate remains to be seen.

Faith and America: Judge others carefully

Is President Trump a Christian, or should he be? Is he attacking Muslims as a religion with his travel ban on people from certain countries? Can Christians and Muslims co-exist peacefully?

Many Americans say church and state should remain separate, and they offer some good reasons. As a Christian, my faith is a lifestyle, a major part of who I am. My faith affects the way I think and the way I live. In that vein, “church” and “state” cannot be separated, unless I don’t participate in our democracy in any way, including voting.

So, where to draw the line?

Co-exist: Yes and no

Can Christians and Muslims co-exist? Let’s start there.

The answer depends on what you mean by co-exist.

If we mean that we can respect each other’s views and beliefs even if we disagree, then yes, we can co-exist peacefully. Our co-workers, parents we meet at our children’s schools, people we meet at athletic contests, people we volunteer with, the waitress at the restaurant … we meet people outside of our religious boundaries all the time. Can we get along?

We certainly should.

But if co-exist means Christians and Muslims (and people of other faiths) worship the same God, then no – we do not and cannot co-exist. The sacred writings of both faiths prove this.

More on that in a minute.

Church and state

But first, let’s discuss whether “church” and “state” should co-exist.

 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …

Amendment I, The Constitution of the United States of America

 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted …

Declaration of Independence

 

I had a lengthy Facebook discussion with a former co-worker awhile ago about this. We did not agree, because he and I do not have the same “supreme authority” in our lives. His primary focus is on the United States. Mine is on God. They are not the same.

Congress – and by extension, in my opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court also – are not allowed to restrict any religion in any way. So, if President Trump is trying to restrict Muslims as a faith-based people from entering this country, the First Amendment does not allow him to do that.

The Declaration of Independence does assume a Creator. But different faiths worship different Creators, so we need to keep this discussion general, politically speaking.

Faith and violence

Trump says he is targeting terrorists, not an entire religion. Terrorists around the world and in the United States have claimed allegiance to the Islamic God during their terrorist acts. Is Trump’s response a knee-jerk reaction that goes too far?

 

Therefore, when you meet the Unbelievers (in fight), strike at their necks; at length, when you have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them); thereafter (is the time for) either generosity or ransom; until the war lays down its burdens.

Qur’an, 47:4a

 

I imagine not all Muslims read the Qur’an literally, just as not all Christians read the Bible literally. And yet, these words are in the Qur’an. Fighting words against any who oppose “God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.”

Are there such fighting words in the Christian Bible? Yes, there are. Here’s an example:

 

As soon as (Joshua) stretched out his hand, the troops in ambush rose quickly out of their place and rushed forward. They entered the city, took it, and at once set the city on fire. So when the men of Ai looked back, the smoke of the city was rising to the sky … When Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that the smoke of the city was rising, then they turned back and struck down the men of Ai … until no one was left who survived or escaped.

The Bible, Joshua 8:19-22

 

Why would the Christian God order Joshua and his troops to obliterate an entire city – men, women and children? Because they worshiped pagan gods, and the God of Israel did not want his people to get distracted by teachings of false gods.

This is what the book of Joshua is all about. Israel did not follow directions, and the book of Judges describes the consequences in detail.

Incompatible faiths

According to the Qur’an and the Bible, then, these religions cannot co-exist. Both worship a jealous God.

 

In blasphemy indeed are those that say that God is Christ the son of Mary …

Qur’an, 5:17

 

They say: “(God) Most Gracious has begotten a son!”

Indeed you have put forth a thing most monstrous! …

That they should invoke a son for (God) Most Gracious.

For it is not consonant with the majesty of (God) Most Gracious that He should beget a son.

Qur’an, 19:88-89, 91-92

 

 

Jesus said to (Thomas), “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

The Bible, John 14:6-7

 

Muslims and Christians cannot worship together, obviously.

Can they live together peacefully?

That depends on how passionate we are about our faiths – and also how passionate we are as Americans. Do we serve the U.S. Constitution, which allows for free expression of all faiths, or do we serve our God, who is a jealous God and who ultimately will judge everyone – everyone – outside the faith?

This is why the current debate is so hot, with no resolution in sight.

Cultures and faith clash. Do our faiths allow us to get along with each other?

Faith and America

This is why many Americans reject Christianity (and Islam as well, I imagine). God forces us to take sides.

Both faiths have a peaceful side as well. After all, no one can “convert” dead people. Both faiths have to give others a reason to follow their God.

The U.S. Constitution is a wonderful document. One of the reasons the Pilgrims reached our shores was to worship freely the way they wanted to.

Are we at a crossroads now? Are we truly willing to accept “Congress shall make no law …” or has that been eroding over time, and Trump has brought the debate front and center?

Should God provide justice, or should we do it for Him?

I saw a guy wearing a T-shirt the other day that said, “No one is my judge.” Again, it depends. I cannot judge your faith. That’s God’s job. But if you molest a child or run a red light, we have laws in this country about those things, and the U.S. court system very much can judge you for them.

I wish we could leave it at that.

 

A couple of other perspectives:

The Qur’an and U.S. Constitution cannot co-exist:

http://louderwithcrowder.com/5-reasons-the-quran-can-never-coexist-with-the-constitution-ever/

Christians and Muslims can get along:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2014/nov/18/christians-muslims-co-existed-general-synod-religions-allies

 

We get what we deserve

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

 

This quote, attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, graced the entrance of a high school I entered recently. It’s a good reminder for all of us in these days of political firestorms.

President Trump is an easy target for finger-pointers these days. He’s making dramatic policy changes, including The Wall and an immigration ban, two related decisions in an attempt to keep potential terrorists out of the United States.

There’s collateral damage. Innocent people are affected. That’s all the rage these days.

Explaining Trump

The questions for me are: Why does Trump feel these decisions are even necessary? And if his policies are so bad, why did we elect him president in the first place?

The second question has a deeper answer than most of us are willing to admit. All of us are responsible for Trump, whether we voted for him or not. All of us created the atmosphere that has allowed him to take charge. Even those among us who oppose him.

The role of the media

One of Trump’s first actions as president was to attack the media, saying he would control the information that comes out of certain government agencies. His tweets bypass traditional media outlets. These are two separate but connected issues. He’s our oldest president, but also the most social media-savvy. He’s changing the rules.

As a (former) journalist, this worries me. The media are a necessary watchdog on government. But the media are among the groups that have created the atmosphere that allows Trump to thrive.

Television newscasts are little more than political commentary and reports on extreme weather, with an occasional feel-good story thrown in for good measure. Newspapers have – and continue to – gut their staffs to the point where they aren’t able to attend local city council or township board meetings, or ask the tough questions even when they do. The last newspaper I worked for is more concerned with winning peer-driven plaques and trophies than it is in writing and editing news that matters to its readers.

Beyond the fatal crash

On Jan. 24, a Cleveland police officer was killed while directing traffic around two previous accidents on Interstate 90 on the city’s west side. Once the officer died, emotions took over and that’s all the media – and everyone else – has talked about.

There’s nothing wrong with memorializing a fallen officer, of course. He was killed by a hit-skip driver who was arrested several hours later in a city west of Cleveland. If this driver faces trial and is found guilty, I hope they throw the book at him. Officer Fahey died a tragic, untimely death.

But no one talks about the beginning of his end.

There was a single-vehicle crash on westbound I-90 near Hilliard Road reported at 5:04 a.m. Jan. 24. Police responding to that accident requested medical assistance, so a Rocky River fire truck was dispatched to the scene.

At 5:33 a.m., a Chevrolet van crashed into the fire truck, killing the driver and sending a passenger to a nearby hospital.

Officer Fahey was setting up traffic flares around the fire truck at 6 a.m. when a white Toyota Camry hit him and fled west on I-90.

I saw one brief newspaper article naming the Chevy van driver who died. I never saw anything on the original crash, the single-vehicle wreck that started the whole thing.

And that’s my point. Details, people. No one cares about details any more. Including the media.

Once Officer Fahey died, that became not only the main story, as it should have been, but it became the only story, which it wasn’t. There were two other crashes that preceded it.

If either did not happen, Officer Fahey most likely would still be serving among us.

Because (presumably) no one died in that first wreck, no one cared about it. Even though it started an escalating sequence that culminated in the death of a police officer.

Small things often lead to big things.

Distorting facts

Not only does the media miss details, sometimes it misrepresents them. Sports Illustrated in its current issue wrote an article about “The Super Bowl sex-trafficking myth.” The magazine presents evidence that sex-trafficking statistics have been skewed to showcase a problem that isn’t nearly as severe as the manipulators want it to be.

Sex trafficking is a major issue in this country, but it’s year-round in numerous cities and places, Sports Illustrated argues. It’s not a one-time problem that goes away once the Super Bowl hoopla ends. By misrepresenting the issue, proponents are actually undermining efforts to stem sex trafficking across the nation.

Why does President Trump attack the media so hard? Because the media, in general, is no longer doing well the job it’s supposed to be doing.

Instead of getting all emotional about Trump’s actions, how about a focus on details and accuracy?

Terrorism was a major issue in 2016. There were a number of attacks around the world, including on U.S. soil. Trump campaigned against this. We elected him. Here we go.

How do terrorists get into the United States? Is Trump targeting the wrong countries? Would a different strategy work better?

Instead of soundbites and one-liners, how about a little research to make your point?

Since the media aren’t doing much of that research now, and since the Internet has opened up the world of information to all of us, we each do our own research. Nearly all of it is slanted. We pick the sources that make the points we want to make. The other side picks the points it wants to make. Trying to sort it all out is a difficult game.

Rise above the firestorm

In this information overload and fact vacuum, enter Trump. He’s the result, not the cause, of what this nation has become.

Instead of firing off hateful one-sided diatribes, perhaps we should take the advice those high school students offer. Be the change.

I saw this LinkedIn post the other day:

 

Apart from the ballot box, philanthropy presents the one opportunity the individual has to express her or his meaningful choice over the direction in which any society will progress. (author unknown)

 

My comment on that post:

 

Philanthropy is throwing money at the problem, which is good. A better word is volunteerism, which is actually doing something.

 

We’re good at pointing fingers. Those of us who have money are good at spending it.

Let’s get off our rear ends, myself included, and get back in the game. Whether it’s through traditional media or other means, we need to discover the truths about life, why things happen as well as how. Let’s dig a little deeper. Let’s be more objective. More open-minded. More sensitive.

If Trump is a bull in a china shop, it’s because we are, too.

Too much destruction going on. Time to build up.

And I don’t mean a wall.

A day in the life of …

Driving in the middle of three lanes on the Ohio Turnpike the other day, I was coming up on the exit before the one I wanted. Semi-trucks filled the right and middle lanes as we approached the exit. The trucks in the right-hand lane left the turnpike, then one of the semis in the middle lane slowed down, crossed two lanes and also exited. I braked to 35 mph on a 70 mph highway.

I’ve seen cars do that a number of times, always because they were driving too fast before cutting in front of me to exit. I hadn’t seen a semi do that before. He probably just couldn’t move to the right lane because of the traffic already there.

Last night I avoided the highway because it snowed during the day and the roads were bad. I heard reports of numerous wrecks. Some roads I traversed were clear; others were snow-covered. Keeping alert, I reached my destinations without a hitch.

As I’m typing this, I’m thinking I need to make my picks for this weekend’s NFL wild-card playoff games. I’m in a family football pool; during the season, I finished in the middle of the pack. I got some picks right, and missed badly on many others. If I was a fanatic, maybe I would have done better. No biggie. It was fun.

A Monday vacation

I had Monday off this week for the New Year’s holiday. My wife did not, so I got a day to myself. I went for a jog in the morning. I don’t have an exercise plan; I just go when I feel like it. I like the fresh air, and it energizes me when the blood starts pumping.

On Wednesday morning, I was tired and had a headache. I get time off midday, so I went for another jog. It felt good. I still was tired afterward, so I downed some aspirin and an extra cup of coffee. Something worked, because I felt better that afternoon and evening.

Oh yeah, back to Monday. After the jog and a shower, I headed to Crocker Park in nearby Westlake to spend a gift card I got for Christmas. Bad move. It was a holiday. I couldn’t find a parking spot anywhere, even in a four-floor garage – with dozens of other drivers looking for a spot in there too. I never did spend the gift card. I’ll go back another day.

In the (not) bleak mid-winter

I saw a Facebook post that nothing good happens in January. It’s cold and snowy in the upper Midwest. I like the cold and snow, although 10 degrees is a little much to be outside for long.

But January is not all bad. I started my last two jobs, including my current one, in January. We moved to Elyria three years ago – in January. During a polar vortex, by the way.

A couple of days ago, I took a package to the post office. There were seven or eight of us in line, and only one clerk. She buzzed the back for help, but none came. The line kept growing. The clerk worked quickly, but professionally and efficiently. When it was my turn, I told her she was doing a great job. I worked in a call center for 2.5 years; compliments are one in 1,000, literally. A little encouragement goes a very long way.

I hope the clerk was encouraged.

A typical day

I start my mornings in a La-Z-Boy with a cup of coffee and my Bible, often with one cat on my lap and the other cat on the headrest. What a great way to begin the day. It’s quiet and warm. Definitely worth setting the alarm a few minutes early for.

At work, I drive a wheelchair-accessible van to pick up several individuals with special needs and bring them to our “socialization center” for the day, then drive them home late afternoon. I have a wide-ranging route that takes me into the next county. Most of my folks are non-verbal, so I talk to them and they don’t talk back.

The first guy I pick up likes to empty the storage bin above where he sits. There’s an umbrella, ice scraper, two rolled-up blankets and couple of other things up there. He likes to play with them while I’m driving. Whatever. Except that sometimes he’s slow getting out of the van when we arrive because he won’t let go of what he’s playing with at that moment.

The next guy I pick up most days is verbal, so we’ll talk about his family, the Browns or Cavaliers, or whatever is on his mind that day.

I also regularly pick up two non-verbal ladies, one of whom likes to unzip her coat and take off her shoes in the van even though there’s snow outside.

These folks are my second family, and I enjoy being with them. My co-workers at the center are wonderful to work with, too.

Picking (a very few) battles

Why am I rambling on like this? To prove a point, actually. My life does not revolve around Donald Trump or Barack Obama. I suspect this is true for most Americans.

We can argue politics all day long and may not ever agree on the major issues. Or the minor ones. Or which issues are major and which ones are minor.

I value your friendship, and I’d rather not ruin it by getting dogmatic about things I can’t control. I can vote and write letters if I’m passionate enough; if that’s your thing, go for it. We each do have our issues.

I have a life to live. I pick my battles. My battles may or may not coincide with yours. If they do, I may or may not agree with you.

Ultimately, each of us will have to stand before our Maker and defend who we are, what we’ve done and what we’ve stood for. I’m not your judge. You are not my judge. Let’s not play that game.

Speaking of games, time to make those NFL playoff picks, then get some lunch. Then relax for an hour or two before returning to work.

Have a nice day. Let’s keep in touch.

A day in the life of …

Driving in the middle of three lanes on the Ohio Turnpike the other day, I was coming up on the exit before the one I wanted. Semi-trucks filled the right and middle lanes as we approached the exit. The trucks in the right-hand lane left the turnpike, then one of the semis in the middle lane slowed down, crossed two lanes and also exited. I braked to 35 mph on a 70 mph highway.

I’ve seen cars do that a number of times, always because they were driving too fast before cutting in front of me to exit. I hadn’t seen a semi do that before. He probably just couldn’t move to the right lane because of the traffic already there.

Last night I avoided the highway because it snowed during the day and the roads were bad. I heard reports of numerous wrecks. Some roads I traversed were clear; others were snow-covered. Keeping alert, I reached my destinations without a hitch.

As I’m typing this, I’m thinking I need to make my picks for this weekend’s NFL wild-card playoff games. I’m in a family football pool; during the season, I finished in the middle of the pack. I got some picks right, and missed badly on many others. If I was a fanatic, maybe I would have done better. No biggie. It was fun.

A Monday vacation

I had Monday off this week for the New Year’s holiday. My wife did not, so I got a day to myself. I went for a jog in the morning. I don’t have an exercise plan; I just go when I feel like it. I like the fresh air, and it energizes me when the blood starts pumping.

On Wednesday morning, I was tired and had a headache. I get time off midday, so I went for another jog. It felt good. I still was tired afterward, so I downed some aspirin and an extra cup of coffee. Something worked, because I felt better that afternoon and evening.

Oh yeah, back to Monday. After the jog and a shower, I headed to Crocker Park in nearby Westlake to spend a gift card I got for Christmas. Bad move. It was a holiday. I couldn’t find a parking spot anywhere, even in a four-floor garage – with dozens of other drivers looking for a spot in there too. I never did spend the gift card. I’ll go back another day.

In the (not) bleak mid-winter

I saw a Facebook post that nothing good happens in January. It’s cold and snowy in the upper Midwest. I like the cold and snow, although 10 degrees is a little much to be outside for long.

But January is not all bad. I started my last two jobs, including my current one, in January. We moved to Elyria three years ago – in January. During a polar vortex, by the way.

A couple of days ago, I took a package to the post office. There were seven or eight of us in line, and only one clerk. She buzzed the back for help, but none came. The line kept growing. The clerk worked quickly, but professionally and efficiently. When it was my turn, I told her she was doing a great job. I worked in a call center for 2.5 years; compliments are one in 1,000, literally. A little encouragement goes a very long way.

I hope the clerk was encouraged.

A typical day

I start my mornings in a La-Z-Boy with a cup of coffee and my Bible, often with one cat on my lap and the other cat on the headrest. What a great way to begin the day. It’s quiet and warm. Definitely worth setting the alarm a few minutes early for.

At work, I drive a wheelchair-accessible van to pick up several individuals with special needs and bring them to our “socialization center” for the day, then drive them home late afternoon. I have a wide-ranging route that takes me into the next county. Most of my folks are non-verbal, so I talk to them and they don’t talk back.

The first guy I pick up likes to empty the storage bin above where he sits. There’s an umbrella, ice scraper, two rolled-up blankets and couple of other things up there. He likes to play with them while I’m driving. Whatever. Except that sometimes he’s slow getting out of the van when we arrive because he won’t let go of what he’s playing with at that moment.

The next guy I pick up most days is verbal, so we’ll talk about his family, the Browns or Cavaliers, or whatever is on his mind that day.

I also regularly pick up two non-verbal ladies, one of whom likes to unzip her coat and take off her shoes in the van even though there’s snow outside.

These folks are my second family, and I enjoy being with them. My co-workers at the center are wonderful to work with, too.

Picking (a very few) battles

Why am I rambling on like this? To prove a point, actually. My life does not revolve around Donald Trump or Barack Obama. I suspect this is true for most Americans.

We can argue politics all day long and may not ever agree on the major issues. Or the minor ones. Or which issues are major and which ones are minor.

I value your friendship, and I’d rather not ruin it by getting dogmatic about things I can’t control. I can vote and write letters if I’m passionate enough; if that’s your thing, go for it. We each do have our issues.

I have a life to live. I pick my battles. My battles may or may not coincide with yours. If they do, I may or may not agree with you.

Ultimately, each of us will have to stand before our Maker and defend who we are, what we’ve done and what we’ve stood for. I’m not your judge. You are not my judge. Let’s not play that game.

Speaking of games, time to make those NFL playoff picks, then get some lunch. Then relax for an hour or two before returning to work.

Have a nice day. Let’s keep in touch.

Beyond Donald and Hillary: The votes that truly matter

While the presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump gets by far the lion’s share of political headlines, there are many other races and issues on the ballot in November.

It’s easy to forget that.

The local and state votes are as meaningful – I would argue, more so – than who becomes our next president.

What condition are our roads in? Is the local school district seeking a renewal or an increase for technology, new buildings or general expenses? What about House and Senate seats, both statewide and national?

I see some judgeships on my ballot, too. If you’re like me, you don’t know much about those candidates. Time to do a little research.

Here in Ohio, there’s a U.S. Senate seat up for election that’s almost as contentious as the presidential race. The incumbent, Republican Rob Portman, and the challenger, Democrat Ted Strickland (a former governor), are waging high-profile, often mud-slinging campaigns, and have been for months. (Actually, many of the most vicious ads are paid for by PACs and not by the candidates themselves. That’s worth noting.)

I’ll be glad when the election is over for more than one reason.

The smartest candidates, especially in their radio ads (since I’m on the road a lot, I listen to the radio several hours a day), don’t even say what party they represent. They tout their stance on an issue or two important to them, often in a positive way.

I wish TV ads were modeled after radio ads. They’d be much more productive.

Local candidates

Our local newspaper recently published its election guide. That’s a great place to begin your research of the candidates and issues in your area. Ours was done in a Q-and-A format, allowing each candidate to answer specific questions in his or her own words. I can judge for myself how well each candidate responds.

We also can see which candidates did not take the time to respond.

That actually is more of an issue in the local League of Women Voters guide, available at local libraries, social service agencies and senior centers.

I was surprised. You’d think the League of Women Voters would be as impartial as anyone. Why not accept the free publicity?

You also could visit www.vote411.org and enter your street address to get a “one-stop shop” for election related information. This works in any jurisdiction across the country.

In Lorain County, Ohio, you also can visit the Board of Elections site, http://www.loraincountyelections.com/, for lists of candidates and issues. In Saginaw County, Mich., where my family lived for 27 years, check the county clerk’s elections page, http://www.saginawcounty.com/clerk/elections.aspx.

The League asked challenging questions, such as: “What should the federal government’s top three priorities be in setting a sound energy policy?”

Or, for a state House of Representatives race, how about this one: “When the Ohio legislature takes up the state biennial budget next year, what if any changes should be made to how funding is allocated between traditional public schools, charter schools, online schools, and state funds to nonpublic schools (including vouchers)? What accountability standards should be required of such schools that receive state funds?”

Answers to those types of questions offer good insight into the minds of our candidates.

Local issues

There are several dozen issues in our voters’ guide. Obviously, many of them are specific to certain communities, so I won’t get to weigh in on a lot of them, but countywide issues and local requests in my jurisdiction are topics I need to know about.

For example, my county is seeking a small sales tax increase to be split between the transit authority and the county general fund. Worth supporting? I need to decide.

I’ve seen numerous yard signs for Issue 35, an addiction services levy. Heroin and opioid (pain-killer) addictions are severe problems around here, and, in the words of our election guide, “The county is asking for help in funding local drug addiction recovery centers as the need is outpacing the support available.”

That issue impacts more lives in this county than who our next U.S. president will be.

At least two neighboring jurisdictions are seeking levies to stabilize funding for firefighters. Worth the cost?

There are a half-dozen or so school levies on ballots across our county. One is a countywide renewal for a career technical training school. I’ll also get to vote on a local school bond issue (Issue 23), in which our district is seeking money to build new elementary and middle schools. The district plans to reduce the number of buildings and replace aging, outdated structures with state-of-the-art schools in strategic locations around the city. If we approve, the state will pay the lion’s share of the costs (those are tax dollars too – we can’t forget that), but the local share will be significant.

The school district has made its case. Am I buying it?

As voters, we need to do our homework on behalf of the schools.

Making a difference

Who will we elect as our next president? That winner will dominate the headlines on Nov. 9, no doubt. But addiction services and local schools will have a more immediate impact on our lives.

And a longer-term impact, too.

Hillary and Donald, neither of you is as important as you think you are. You’ll be around for four years, maybe eight, and that’s all (unless your spouse gets elected too). Local issues preceded you, and they will outlast you.

Get out of our way, actually. Let us live our lives. And tell the U.S. Supreme Court to lighten up, too.

We have more important issues to worry about.

Like how our children are going to be educated. And which roads will get repaired next.

Happy voting. See you at the polls.