Bob Sweigert

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April 23, 2013
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Grasshopper Soup: Help carry the burden of democracy

The existence of diverse opinions and perspectives is as obvious as air. They are all around us. It should come as no surprise to anyone that people like to describe what they see in different ways. No perspective is obsolete, dangerous or wrong just because it is different. Being free to express our views is so basic and elementary to American life it is, in my opinion, downright mystifying and tragic that some people just don’t get it.

Democracy suffers a fatal blow when you share your perspective, or tell a story about an event, only to be accused of having nothing important to say.

So, we have to spell it out for every new generation that comes along, and remind ourselves every day that everyone is allowed to put their thoughts into words.

Democracy is so easy to understand. Most people appreciate honest opinion, and the free and fair expression of opinions as they relate to actual events. The events themselves usually initiate the controversy. A sense of humor is a sign of political maturity.

My column last week was pure luck, a stroke of political genius and satire that just fell into my lap via e-mail from some friends of mine who live a block from the Gettys. My speculation about Obama not helping Getty with his taxes may be the only thing I said that wasn’t true. For all we know the president did promise Getty a tax break.

My column was tame compared to some of the mud our leaders have been known to sling. I did not make one personal attack on the president as a human being, unless you call referring to the “Bush lied” bumper sticker — and suggesting Obama deserves one too — an attack. But even that was true. He promised he would close GITMO in a year. He did not. He accused Republicans of wanting dirty air and water. They do not.

Politicians are inclined to tell people what they want to hear. When lies result, they are easy to see. If we see politicians as super-human our perception is off.

Obama is a big boy. He should be able to take criticism by now.

Different perspectives are natural. It is healthier to laugh about them than to get angry about them, unless they result in crime or the complete cowardice inflicted on Boston.

Maybe nothing like the Boston Marathon bombings will ever happen again. Maybe our enemies will all have a change of heart if we stop using drones. Unfortunately, hope alone will not stop the killing as long as there are people in the world whose opinion is that people who have a different perspective should be killed.

Hating people just because they are different is the most serious issue of our time, more serious than nukes, poverty, terrorism, immigration, health care, political polarization, the national debt and energy combined. Because our chances of mutually surviving the worst are better if we are liberal with kindness and compassion, and a sense of humor about our differences; because we will have to manage them in every predicament we share.

Democracy is alive and well in Tahoe City. Saturday, a local man, whose name I am withholding for his own safety, carried a large sign back and forth all day at the Wye. On top of the sign was a pole flying an American flag about 20 feet above the ground.

I met him and told him that what he was doing was great, and that I support him 100 percent.

In big letters, one side of his sign said, “What about Benghazi, Obama/Clinton lied, 4 Americans died.” The other side said, “Demand answers, End cover ups, What if it was your family, God Bless America.” Quite a few drivers waived and honked in applause.

I offered to carry the sign if he needed a break and he said sure! I had second thoughts but returned later and carried the sign awhile, and was glad I did. When more cars honked he laughed and said, “Hey, how come you got more honks than me!”

I told him it was because I’m better looking.

Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, former college instructor and ski instructor. He has a B.A. and an M.A.T. from Gonzaga University. He has lived at Lake Tahoe for 30 years.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Apr 23, 2013 05:14PM Published Apr 23, 2013 01:26PM Copyright 2013 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.