Skip Pollard: Living in challenging times | TheUnion.com

Skip Pollard: Living in challenging times

Skip Pollard
Other Voices

We are living in challenging times. Political wildfires and actual wildfires are impelling people to run away, or at least consider it.

Google searches for “how to move out of America” have spiked to levels not seen since November 2016; hate crimes and white supremacy movements are on the rise (as documented by federal law enforcement), and Democrats and Republicans are at each other’s proverbial throats over pretty much everything.

Meanwhile, climate change is accelerating; extreme weather events becoming more commonplace (regardless of what one believes to be the causes — human impact, natural cycles, or some combination thereof), and California newspapers are filled with tales of insurance premiums tripling or even quadrupling, stoking fears of diminishing home values.

We are living in challenging times — and challenging times call for cool heads. We need to take a step back; take a deep breath and assess our situations objectively.

We need to take a step back; take a deep breath and assess our situations objectively.

First, as to the growing threat of wildfires here in California, we need to accept the probability that this is the new normal, rather than get bogged down in hysteria wrought by headlines of an “insurance crisis” that will doom our communities. Poppycock. Prior to moving to California, I lived 15 years in South Florida, including the 2004-2005 hurricane seasons during which no less than eight major storms caused extensive damage and resulted in insurance companies pulling out of the market or tripling or even quadrupling premiums. Sound familiar?

At the time, local media was awash with stories about how the situation would destroy home values and drive people away — neither of which happened. To the contrary, populations continued to grow and home values rose while higher insurance rates simply became part of the cost of “living in paradise.” Were some people permanently displaced by unaffordable, rising premiums? Sadly yes, but the greater community survived and adapted. And the same will happen here in California, regardless of the unfortunate displacement of those unable to afford the increased cost of living in our own version of Paradise.

Second, as for the current political climate, we need to recognize politicians who are spewing divisive rhetoric aren’t doing it for the good of America, they’re doing it for their own good — to gin up their bases and keep us distracted from the real issues at hand; to keep us rabidly supporting their personal positions and objectives while rejecting any others, regardless of whether or not they’re realistic or in the best interest of America. This goes for both the left and right — regardless of whether you support a massive border wall or Medicare for All. But I believe most people at heart are relatively realistic; pragmatic and open to considering the concerns of others. I believe most people just want to get along with their neighbors; just want to lead their lives in peace and harmony. Yet many get sucked into a vortex of outrage, egged-on by the rantings of politicians, fringe fanatics and the media — on both sides.

It’s time we (the American citizenry and elected officials alike) stop taking the bait; stop reacting to hyperbole and instead start having honest, respectful conversations. It’s time we stopped yelling and started listening with open hearts. It’s time we acknowledged the fact that most issues aren’t black or white, but myriad shades of gray. It’s time we placed facts above ideology. It’s time we started formulating constructive, collaborative solutions to today’s problems rather than vilifying those with whom we disagree.

And most importantly, come 2020, it’s time “We the People” reject any politician who stokes the flames of discord rather than working to bring us together as a nation to solve our problems and resolve our differences.

In challenging times, we need leaders who exemplify the highest standards of civic duty — of public service. We need wise leaders — men and women — who will challenge us, and themselves, to be better citizens; better members of our great American society. Confucius wrote:

“A wise man pays special attention to nine areas:

he sees with clarity;

he hears distinctly;

he speaks sincerely;

his countenance is gracious;

his manner is courteous;

at work he strives for respect;

when in doubt he seeks information;

when angry he thinks of the negative consequences of his anger;

when he sees possible gain and profit he reflects on ethics and integrity.”

To me, this seems a good yardstick by which to measure our leaders.

Skip Pollard lives in Grass Valley.


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