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Letter: It's time to get involved

Carpenter writes, "My attitude toward political involvement has changed, for a lot of reasons. One reason is that I have gotten to the age where I’m thinking more about the world that I am leaving to my children and grandchildren."

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In the family I grew up in, we almost never talked about anything political.

It wasn’t just the family that I grew up in that was apolitical; the culture I grew up in was mostly apolitical, too. We thought that political activity was something that only certain people did as a hobby. The rest of us were busy doing other things—working jobs, taking care of our families, going to church, and pursuing hobbies that we enjoyed. With most of our friends and extended family, at gatherings we would talk about what our kids were doing, we would talk about the weather, we—especially men--would talk about sports. But talking about politics? We didn’t, we don’t.

There are at least a couple of factors involved here. One, if we think that we are doing “OK,” we have no incentive to change things (Google search “white privilege”). There’s this sense that “other people” are running things and they’re doing a good enough job. Two, we develop a sense that we should spend our time either doing things we like to do or doing things that help us earn money to do what we like to do, and, for most of us, political activity fits neither of those categories.

My attitude toward political involvement has changed, for a lot of reasons. One reason is that I have gotten to the age where I’m thinking more about the world that I am leaving to my children and grandchildren.

In about 2015, I started forcing myself to interrupt my “free time” reading of books that were fun to read with books that would help me learn things I ought to know. I know there is a lot that I still don’t understand, but I am trying to learn.

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Here are just a couple of the things that I’ve learned that I think are appropriate for the Fourth of July:

One, the greed, and the narcissism, of the wealthiest people in the U.S. is really incredible. This is the same “class” of people who were OK with humans being enslaved, who were OK with children working in sweatshop factories [they’re still okay with it—read about workers in Haiti making US brand clothing].

They are so greedy that they spend a lot of money—it’s an investment for them, and they’ve had a great financial return on that investment—convincing other people that they should be greedy and narcissistic, too.

Consider public schools. Lots of wealthy people don’t want to spend money on public schools because they send their kids to private schools. So the wealthy convince people who send their kids to those public schools to vote against raising taxes to better fund public schools.

Two, the rich people who are reaping this country’s wealth—not only do they not want to pay a fair share for the infrastructure that creates that wealth for them; they don’t want to pay anything toward that infrastructure. (Read "Dark Money" by Jane Mayer.)

If you thought those rich people were working to solve problems like crime, poverty, homelessness, the climate crisis—they’re not. They only care about making money for themselves. And they want you to stay apolitical, to spend your time fishing or hunting or watching reality tv; they want you to have just enough money to feel you’re doing OK, and they want you to ignore the suffering of millions who are less fortunate than you.

Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” He was talking to me, he was talking to you.

Most people care very much about their neighbors and realize how interconnected we are. Most people care about a lot more than just accumulating wealth for themselves. But we need to learn to ignore the lies that greedy, rich people—in both major political parties—are telling us about what we should be doing, how we should be voting.

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We have the resources to solve all of the societal problems we are concerned about; but we don’t because the rich (I’m not talking about most millionaires; I’m talking about multi-billionaires) convince us that instead we should give most of the wealth we create to a handful of people who are already obscenely wealthy and who don’t give a damn about anyone else.

This Fourth of July, I urge you to consider that political involvement is not a hobby for other people. It’s part of your civic duty as someone who lives in this country. I don’t think voting alone is enough, but informed voting is a good start.

Carpenter graduated from Moorhead High School in 1972. He lives in St. Cloud. He may be reached at kevin@carplaw.com .

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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