10 February 2010: Days of business as usual a re past

Days of business as usual are past

It’s Thursday, and the Friday morning deadline looms. The writer’s block is certainly not about a dearth of topics — my list of pressing and timely issues, now at 11, grows daily, it seems: the financial bind of our school district; the dire state of the state; a rejuvenated, if that is the right word, President Obama on the offensive; the continuing historic role of the Supreme Court as the sustainer of corporate hegemony; the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy finally in its death throes; legalization of marijuana; and the latest version of “As the (George) Town Turns.” The list goes on.

As a columnist, my goal is not to convince but to encourage critical thinking, and something is itching in that regard. My fingers are scratching the itch through my keyboard, but thoughts, hopping, skipping, and jumping, careen from one side to other.

FDR and JFK, true profiles in courage, come to mind. Over a lifetime of transition, growth and discovery, I have come to admire men and women willing to hang it all out in terms of their thoughts and actions, men like Pat Tillman and women like former Texas governor Ann Richards.

Three recent articles, two in the Courant and one in the Denver Post, particularly caught my eye. The one in the Post dealt with the closing of a family-owned hardware store on East Colfax Avenue in Denver. The news also caught the attention of Post columnist Ed Quillen, who wrote his musings in a thoughtful piece. If you missed it, go to the Post’s website to read it.

The other two dealt with local topics. The first was the lead story about the potential demise of the Clear Creek High School ski team. After three decades, the reality of a dwindling budget is cutting close to the quick. By the time you read this, I will have had the opportunity to discuss that potential with Superintendent Bill Patterson and school board president Peter Monson on KYGT on Feb. 6. If you missed the show, you can listen to it on the station’s website, www.kygt.org.

The second was by Doug Bell, group editor of Evergreen Newspapers, about how community newspapers, despite the demise of large-city ones including the Rocky Mountain News, are soldiering on. Doug explains the size of the paper is correlated to the number of ads. Noting that edition was 12 pages, I felt a touch of guilt given my column ran 854 words, nearly filling the page. With space limited and precious, I have resolved to be more economical with words, which leads back to the economy and the reason all three are timely and say a lot more than the particular issues they discuss.

Anna Quindlen in Newsweek notes we are in a “transformative moment” in which the United States “is poised for one future or another.” David Broder of the Washington Post cerebrally assesses that it will be at least a decade before we recover from this massive downturn. While not Aldous Huxley’s brave new world, it’s becoming obvious this is not our grandparents’ America anymore, which suggests everything political, social, cultural and economical needs to be looked at through a new lens.

Technological wizardries, the desire of people in once underdeveloped nations to realize the American standard of living, and rising or declining birth rates are among the causes of the sea change in this reality. The days of business-as-usual are of the past, so there is no more business-as-usual and, thus, the conversations we need to have as a community, local to global, must be in the context of the evolving model. We can either sing mournfully and with pathos “Those were the days” with Mary Hopkin, or we can come to grips with the new reality.

At the time of our nation’s first crisis, Thomas Paine exhorted, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” When faced with making tough calls, those are words to remember in this day of “finger-to-the-wind politics,” as Quindlen calls it. Did I mention Senate Democrats worried about re-election? Or Senate Republicans who “filibustered” more this past year than all the times their predecessors did from 1950 to 1970? Alumni, perhaps, of Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” class.

In the old paradigm, 2 + 1 = 3. In the new, 2 – 1 = 1, unless you’re on Wall Street, where 2 – 1 = 2.

743 words, a 13 percent reduction. My editor will be pleased … perhaps.

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