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Norm Blackburn
America at the Crossroads
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        America has faced many a turning point in our short history. Wars, depressions, natural disasters, have all challenged our people and our leaders. Somehow we have overcome these trials. We have found ways to come together and rise above vested interests and political differences.
        Today we face a situation that we haven't experienced before. We are looking at national, state and local debts that threaten to change the way we live. Police are being laid off, firehouses are being closed, and furlough days are shuttering government offices. The unemployment rate is stubbornly hanging around 10%, higher in many areas. In Washington DC the politicians are moving to the extremes making compromise harder than ever.
        Internationally we find ourselves no longer the economic power we once were. We borrow money from Asian countries and send jobs overseas at an alarming rate. While we may still lead in technological innovation, China, India, Singapore and others are taking their America trained innovators home and creating their own Silicone Valleys. Our debt, if ever called, would destroy our financial stability.
        We continue to send aid to countries sometimes in an attempt to buy their friendship or allow our armed forces to use their territory. In return we watch our flag being burned and our way of life being criticized. We ask nations we support to acknowledge human rights, sometimes to no avail but the money keeps flowing.
        Two wars continue to tap our resources and young people. While we want democracy to replace despotism, little headway is being made. We must continually have our guard up against terrorists who want to destroy our cities and kill our people.
        At home we are politically a divided country. The Tea Party has succeeded in capturing many voters fed up with the bickering and waste in Washington. The debate is whether to raise taxes or cut spending. Apparently the American public is not willing to cutback entitlements like Medicare or Social Security, or so our politicians tell us. We rail about earmarks but want our representatives to "bring home the bacon". We want tax cuts, not tax increases. We struggle with social issues like gay marriage and illegal immigration.
        In California, 50% of the students in grade school say they are Latino and English is their second language. Arizona is getting sued by the U. S. Government for enacting a controversial immigration law. Build a fence? Send the Army to protect the border? What to do? Welcoming foreign born to our shores was the American Way. But they came legally, not through tunnels or in trunks of cars.
        It this wasn't enough, our infrastructure is crumbling. Bridges and roads and water pipes need replacement at a cost of billions.
        So which way will we turn? Can we figure out the way ahead without a GPS on our dashboard? Do we have leaders in our cities and states and in Washington DC who can cease being politicians and become statesmen? Will they put aside polls and lobbyists and special interest groups and decide what is best for us as a city, a state and a nation?
        I believe the answer can be "yes". I believe the message the voters sent will make an impression on our President down to our local officials. They have been challenged to figure out what is important and what is not. They must decide how to pay for those things without increasing the deficit at all levels. They must decide if the taxes we pay are being spent efficiently and where waste can be eliminated. I think the people who we elected can do this. I think they all have the best interests of us at heart. They just need the will to do it.
        And that's where we come in. We need to watch them closely and we need to communicate with them. We need to get up from our couches and sit down at our computers and tell them that we want action to save our country. We may have differences from each other but if we express our point of view and enough people do the same they will listen and hopefully take action. If they don't they will find another job next election. We also need to get real. We no longer can demand programs we canít pay for. We must be willing to do our part by supporting what is best for the majority and not for our own narrow interests. And yes, we may have to pay more to dig ourselves out of the mess we are in.
        This won't happen quickly. It will take time, maybe several years. These problems are too big to solve overnight. But we can't give up. We must keep the pressure on. We must stay engaged. If we don't, the same old partisan politics will continue.
        Take the first step. Get the email and postal address of the elected officials from your city councilman or woman and your mayor and your representative and senator and even the White House. Send them a message that you want them to rise above petty politics and honestly tackle the issues you support. And tell them you will be watching their votes and bills and how they spend your money. If enough of is do this they will listen. In the end, it is up to us.
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