Remember the Troops -- Thanks for informing readers that due to heightened security, our military is no longer allowing packages, letters or cards addressed to "Any Service member." Names and addresses are needed, just like when I went on active duty as a junior officer in the U.S. Army during the concluding years of the Vietnam War. As a 23-year-old, I was remembered by most for about as long as it took for me to catch a flight out of Spokane. It was pretty lonely and not at all gratifying for many of us frightened young single service members.
Please take a few moments to help someone who may perhaps be walking in those same shoes today. For those who may have missed last week's issue of the Inlander, e-mail messages to any service member in Iraq may go through "anyservicemember.navy.mil" or "www.OperationDearAbby.com."
Spokane's Civil War -- Your article "The Two Towers" (12/18/03) was interesting. It was obviously conciliatory, attempting to repair the damage done by the City Council when they excluded public participation in the decision-making about River Park Square.
I, however, believe the damage was good for the public. It taught us what we should have known all along, that individuals in power, whether it is political power (i.e., the politicians), or financial power (i.e., Cowles and Sandifur) are primarily concerned with their own financial well-being and will impose whatever agenda they can that will advance their financial and political well-being. You say that one of the goals is to build trust. I say that it must be remembered that politicians are not to be trusted, but that they must be watched.
You conceptualized the conflict in terms of status quo versus reformers. As a John Q. Citizen, relatively uniformed about the political landscape described in the article, this dichotomy has no meaning for me. The only element that had meaning was that I and the rest of the citizenry in Spokane were excluded intentionally and with malice from the decision-making process.
I suspect that the public, as was pointed out in the article, is relatively ignorant of the political playing field conceptualized by the dichotomy between status quo and reform movement. But I think we probably have a pretty intelligent citizenry that wants to focus, not on Cowles or Sandifur, Eugster, Powers or Talbot, but rather on the issues. Where does a politician stand on the condition of the streets, on mass transit, on whether it is appropriate for the city to become involved in the well-being of the poor and homeless, and on taxation? (Why in the world would we even want to vote new taxes for ourselves when we know that the politicians are going to use the money to their own advantage?) Even Jim West was vague in his campaign promises, saying only that we deserve something better. Well, Jim, just what is your position on the issues? Or are you just planning to rip us off for your own benefit and that of your friends and political supporters?
Obviously I'm angry and distrustful of city government. And I thank the River Park Square event for giving me a realistic understanding of what is to be expected from politicians.
Christmas Wish List -- Some very serious problems exist not only here, in the United States, but also abroad -- problems that cannot be resolved with emotion, stirring speeches, midnight vigils, or behind-closed-doors secret meetings and dealings. We have problems that can only be resolved with some real deep-down honesty, willingness, and meaningful leadership. We need leadership based on what has made this great nation of ours a light in a room full of darkness and despair: common sense. We need leadership that is driven with the sole purpose of the betterment of the human condition, not only here in America, but also abroad. We need leadership that is not only driven for the betterment of the human condition today, but also for the betterment of the human condition for the tomorrow. We need leadership that remembers its past, has learned from mistakes and is willing to forge ahead into the future with confidence. We need leadership that projects the dreams, hopes and desires of not just one group, but of all groups -- young and old, rich or poor.
What I want this Christmas is for us all to take the time, out of the rush, rush, rush, of everyday life, and to sit down with our children and ask them what they want for Christmas, besides the videos games and toys. What I want for Christmas is to implement the "We the people of these United States..." and demand a government that's run on the basis of common sense, if not for this generation, but for the next.
Is it too much to ask of elected public officials that they use common sense when dealing with issues that effect us all? Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year
Half-Baked Commentary -- In his recent commentary about the upcoming anti-affirmative action "bake sale" at EWU ("Half-Baked," 12/11/03), Bob Herold has not properly informed himself about the campus reaction. In fact, though few of us at Eastern are amused by this impending bake sale, no one is in the pietistic tizzy he refers to, and there are certainly no plans to shut it down. Our actual concern is that the bake sale's sponsors are deliberately misleading about the true nature and purpose of affirmative action. The well-funded lies that are embedded in these anti-affirmative action bake sales are directly opposed to EWU's mission to cultivate reflective, skeptical, and informed minds. As a result, the Board of Trustees, the administration, the students, and the faculty are discussing ways to turn this bake sale intrusion into a learning opportunity. I plan to suggest, in fact, that we invite Dr. Herold to visit his former employer to speak to students about the similarities between local farm subsidies and affirmative action.
EWU Faculty Organization President
STA Needs a Diet -- Regarding the so-called "bus dilemma," I agree with several writers to The Inlander. Why doesn't the STA trim some of the fat within its payroll instead of taking their problems out on the innocent public?
Hopefully this whole bus reduction plan is a scare tactic! Maybe the STA will come up with some kind of a financial grant, special funding, etc. to make July 2004 a pleasant surprise and not a nightmare. A lot of the public depends on good bus service. I hope that that there are good STA moves and that good bus service will be a reality.
On Leadership -- Thank you for a fascinating and relatively even-handed look at our troubles here in River City ("The Two Towers," 12/18/03). Let me say a few things about Spokane's future out of my 20 years as a leadership coach to executives and their organizations.
First, leadership is not a trait, nor a skill, nor any personal quality. Leadership is granted by others. The U.S. Constitution is based on the same principle: Leaders derive their power to govern from the consent of the governed. Our difficulty is not that we can't find good, capable leaders for our city--they're everywhere, in any Spokane domain you might examine: education, business, the religious and the nonprofit world. But we will never "have good leadership" here until a citizens' critical mass consents to allow someone -- anyone -- to act on our behalf. (Perhaps we can find a Frodo among us, someone with absolutely no self-serving agenda who cannot be seduced from his mission to save Middle-earth.)
The second principle is that "all continued behavior is functional," even if it doesn't appear on the surface to make any sense. The family members who allow the alcoholic to continue drinking are enabling the drinking, even as they complain about it. Having an alcoholic in the family somehow "works" for those involved. It may protect everyone else from having to examine too closely their own "stuff." Or it may function to keep the family from succeeding beyond what it believes is possible. In other words, by allowing this conflict in Spokane to continue to paralyze us, we are maintaining it. When the family says, "OK, that's enough; thus far and no further," change becomes possible.
Third, very few people or institutions give up power voluntarily. Only pain and possibility combined are capable of creating the kind of climate that can produce a breakthrough to a new way of sharing power, either through evolution or revolution. Those involved have to experience enough pain and embrace a new possibility that breaks the old pattern. Apparently, pain and possibility have not been present in sufficient quantities here in our city.
My hope is that we will come to our senses before it's too late. As an old U.S. Navy Officer of the Deck, I know that two ships can find themselves in extremis where both vessels must take immediate and correct action to avoid a collision. If only one ship does the right thing, there will still be a collision. I say we in Spokane are in extremis right now. Right away, all the parties contributing to our situation must do the right thing -- not the strictly legal thing, or the justifiable thing, or the self-preserving thing -- if we are to avoid a disaster at sea.
Publication date: 12/25/03