“Too busy,” he repeats. But I hear the tiniest break between the two words. He is listening to me.
“Never mind,” I say. I take one step back from the table.
“Hold on,” he says. “I happen to want something from the outside. I’ll take it as payment if you can get it.”
from All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook
written by Leslie Connor
Kathrine Tegen Books/HarperCollins, 2016
Maybe the first person in the new United States to compromise his values was Thomas Jefferson. If taken at face value, his five small words in the Declaration of Independence, “All men are created equal,” would have abolished the slave trade in the Thirteen Colonies. That he allowed an exclusionary interpretation forever changed the course of the new republic.
In 1820, the Missouri Compromise set the stage for the Civil War, a war some people are still fighting. And sadly, racism is still prevalent and spreading.
According to some, citizenship privileges should not have been granted to people brought here against their will.
And now, they say, citizenship should not be granted to those coming to this great land fleeing persecution in their own homelands, wherever that may be.
In his poem “Mending Wall,” Robert Frost tells us:
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
He is saying that each spring, at mending time, we’ll discover Nature destroys our attempts to confine “apple orchards and pine groves.”
. . .The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
Congress still has not passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act or the For the People Act, but for now, our members of the House of Representatives finally compromised on something else.
Last Friday (11/5/21) in a 228-206 vote (thirteen Republicans supported it, six Democrats voted against it) the members of the House passed the infrastructure bill which will provide $550 billion in new funding for transportation, broadband, and utilities. A more comprehensive version of the bill had passed the Senate last August.
And President Biden is ready to sign.
That’s progress, but still not enough. Lots of work still needs to be done. Lots of needs still must be met. Another, just as urgent, bill is still on the table. It addresses less tangible facets of our economy including child care, advanced manufacturing, climate change, and home health care.
Our economy has changed. Our Congressional leaders, no matter whether their political stripes are red, blue, or purple, have sworn to work for the people they represent. That’s us. All of us.
After all, “[t]he legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves in their separate, and individual capacities.” Abraham Lincoln
Just as Congress must work hard to meet our needs, it’s also up to us to communicate those needs. Make a phone call, write a letter, talk to your friends and neighbors about what is important.
Infrastructure in all its many forms, yes. But let's not forget about voting rights. Every eligible voter must be allowed and encouraged to cast a ballot.
-—stay curious! (and move forward, one step at a time)