Community Commentary

Election Day lament

At last the “great” Election Day is here. I’ve been fretting like Linus and Lucy over their annual wait for the great pumpkin. Now my shoulders are a bit lower and I’m starting to exhale, but wait. I just noticed my neighbor has a sign up supporting the other candidate. OMG what am I ever to do?

Clearly I can no longer be friends with this person. Clearly the years of pleasantries and mutual aid must end immediately.   I’m now certain the times he has rescued my escape artist dog and loaned me tools were a ploy to get me to drop my guard and not notice his true evil nature.

But wait a second. I just recalled a life lesson. Perhaps it’s one you’ve experienced too. You know, the guy or gal that gets all dressed up and looks so pious in church every Sunday, but is a totally different and difficult person every other day of the week. Hum, so just maybe, rather than focusing on my neighbor’s action relating to one day of the year, I should look at the sum of how he has treated me the other 364 days?   And at the risk of sounding unfaithful to my political party of choice, perhaps I should consider all we have in common and the obstacles we have overcome by working together?

But where could I possibly find a precedent for such unselfish behavior? A time when the good of the country came first?   In the last 20 years, can I find inspiration in this regard from Congress and our two major political parties? Wow, big disappointment there. But wait. During those same two decades, I’ve been hanging with a group of WWII veterans. These men made up the air and ground crews that were part of the 95th Bomb Group.  My dad, Bob Cozens, was a pilot of one of the hundreds of B-17’s that the 95th launched from England as part of the critical air war over Europe. My dad and his “band of brothers” came from all parts of the US, from different religious and ethnic back grounds, from rich and poor families, yet they put aside any differences and banded together to achieve a common goal. Were there challenges and differences of opinion on courses of action. Of course. But, as my dad taught me, they always kept their focus on what is best for the greater good. This unselfish approach and devotion to duty earned these men and their fellow Americans the designation The Greatest Generation. This selfless approach fueled a post war growth and optimism that made this country the envy of the world and a beacon of hope.

So, fast forward from those boom years to the reality of today’s world. Do we have an easily identified enemy fighting a conventional war? No. Do we have seemingly endless natural resources and reason to believe that the earth can absorb the impact of a world population fast approaching 8 billion? No.   Do we have an economy that is relatively independent from the rest of the world? No. Do we have a narrowing gap between rich and poor? No. Do we have an expanding middle class? No. Can we count on social security being there for all American workers? No. Does our infrastructure meet the needs of our citizens and businesses and is it well maintained? No. Will these problems be addressed by demonizing those who vote differently from you? No. Can the problems our country faces be effectively solved without our two major parties working cooperatively for the good of the entire nation? No.

As bleak as the picture I painted of our country might be, I still believe I live in the greatest country on earth. I still believe that we have a vast reserve of untapped potential. And, having worked with younger generations, I believe that our future is bright. I do not live in fear that a foreign nation or terrorist group will take us down.   However, my optimism does have its Achilles heel.   If we fail as a nation it will be because we continue to allow our two parties to put themselves first.

I’m certainly not alone in this concern. A few years ago, I got to hear former congressman Mickey Edwards speak about civility. Soon after I read his 2011 article “How to turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans.” Congress has not worked for years because of the “party before country” attitude of the Republicans and Democrats.

As a parent and now grandparent, the action of our two parties remind me of the politics of the elementary school playground. If you don’t get your way, then throw a tantrum. As a last resort, refuse to play. Don’t know about you, but my butt ended up red when I acted like that. A few weeks ago, I was talking with my oldest grandson about his middle school classes. He was getting a poor grade in one class and I asked him why. He said it was because there was a group assignment and he didn’t know the other kids in the group. I told him I understood it can be hard to work with people you don’t know, but this was an opportunity for him to learn about business. And that it is common in the workplace to be assigned to a group and that your boss doesn’t care if you like the people or not. This was an opportunity for him to learn how to make the best of a situation and to learn about team work. I also reminded him that his great-grandfather did not get to pick his B-17 crew, but the success and survival of him and his crew was dependent on all of them setting aside their differences and learning to work as a team.

A common complaint of our national government is that it needs to work more like a business. Setting aside that as a democracy we demand far more transparency than any business could ever live with, just how can we make our federal government more like a business? It is pretty simple to me. You fire those who are either unwilling or incapable of doing their job.

The president/executive branch is the CEO. Congress/legislative branch is the board of directors. The Supreme Court/judicial branch is the legal department. And we the people/voters are the shareholders.  Although I did not like some of our CEO’s, I believe they all worked really hard at the job of being president. I can say the same about the members of the legal department (Supreme Court Justices). Don’t know about you, but the actions of most of the board of directors (Congress) reminds me more of school yard crybabies then hard working employees. It is abundantly clear that their number one priority is to make sure that a CEO (president) who is not a member of their party fails. And rather than cross the aisle and collaborate with the other party on solving the serious problems that impact all of us, they would rather stomp their feet, pout, and refuse to play. Time for a trip to the woodshed.

So inspired by the recent Chris Pine, “If Congress was your co-worker” video, I intend to demand that my board of directors (Congress) actually does the job they were hired (voted in) to do.  I hope you will join me in saying that no matter who is president, I demand that both Republican and Democrat members of Congress work as a team to collaboratively pass legislation to address the huge problems that face our great nation.

So like me you have a choice of how to respond to your neighbor who voted for the other candidate. Will you put your party first? Or, like the Greatest Generation, will you set aside your ego and self-interest to come together as a team?

“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” John F. Kennedy
Tom Cozens is a real estate agent at Sea Coast Exclusive Properties.