Political will requires defining ‘public good’
For the past couple of weeks, some words have kept popping into my head during my too-seldom quiet times. “The worst thing you can do is nothing at all.”I did not know the context or who had said them. When I was in law enforcement, I had a plaque on my office wall quoting a famous Englishman: “All that is necessary for the forces of evil in the world to win is for enough good men to do nothing.”It’s very much the same thing, but not quite.I finally Googled it this week and found the results to be very interesting.
Teddy Roosevelt once said: “In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” That is about as close as I could get to what was rolling around in my brain.I need to put the whole thought in the context of being an elected official – a public servant.We are admonished to do things that promote the greatest public good. The problem is defining the greatest public good. Is it something that has a positive impact on the greatest number of people? Is it something that will help future generations at a cost to the current inhabitants of the planet?Is it something that will only help five-year-old children as they enter kindergarten?What a dilemma. I am not sure that there is a good answer.
As a progressive liberal I believe that we all need to be looking forward and considering the future. As a historian I look back at the past to learn the lessons about what has worked and what has not worked. But only as a reference and not as something that needs to be repeated.Again, Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Does not work, folks. That is why the conservative model is the most comfortable but the most unworkable.I think that public officials, whether elected or appointed, have a duty to look into the future. We are mandated to prepare a vision for the future because everything we do impacts what happens tomorrow and a hundred tomorrows past that.The future can be scary. Change can be frightening.There is not conflict without change, and there is no change without conflict.I have had friends and relatives who have lived most of their lives indoors, because they have a fear of going into the world. They have a fear of change. They live in their own self-constructed prisons because they do not know what would happen if they went outdoors. The diagnosis is agoraphobia: fear of the marketplace.
Imagine being like them. Imagine not having a life and suffering within one’s own mental prison.I have always believed that you need to confront your fears. If you do something, it is better than not doing anything at all. Even if you fail, you have at least tried. I remember reading about Thomas Edison and all of the failures he had in life. Imagine what this world would be like if he had not decided to be progressive and move forward.To be narrow-minded and inflexible causes the brain to atrophy. Hardening of the brain cells so that a new idea and a new thought can’t get in. Heaven forbid we would try something new that might help future generations.When the words pop into my head: “The worst thing you can do is nothing at all,” the fear of the future disappears. Any paranoia or anxiety goes away. All I can see is a very bright light showing me the way to facilitate progress for the people I serve.State Rep. Gary Lindstrom of Lakeview Meadows represents Summit, Eagle and Lake counties. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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