Working together to help solve America's problems

Meeting brought out residents who wanted to get involved in political process

January 20, 2011|By TRISH RUDDER |

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. — A town meeting Wednesday night brought out about 50 people to talk about ways to get involved in the political process — or at least start talking about it again.

Local activist Russell Mokhiber invited the public to join the discussion at the Earth Dog Cafe on South Washington Street.

Mokhiber asked the audience if Americans avoid politics and is there is a cost?

"The purpose is to discuss this issue to learn why and how we can confront it," he said.

People avoid politics, but the nation is $14 trillion in debt and it spends $750 million a day on two wars, he said.

Mokhiber said he invited U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, but was told she was had a conflict on Wednesdays and was not able to attend. Mokhiber said he would continue to work with her office to find a date that she could participate in future meetings.

Both U.S. Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin did not respond to his request, he said.

He said a reason to start talking together is the fact that $700 million a day is spent on two wars that 65 percent of Americans oppose, but a Morgan County woman with cancer and no health insurance delayed treatment until she reached Medicare age.

"She risked her life because of no health insurance," he said.

He said he and his family were in Tucson, Az., over Christmas, and Mokhiber actually jogged by the Safeway Supermarket where six people were killed and 12 others were wounded in a shooting, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Tucson.

He said when he brought up his desire to discuss the issues, he was told "it was too depressing" to talk about or "there's nothing you can do about it, so why talk about it."

"I will not say that we cannot do anything about this," Mokhiber said.

"I want to start a regular conversation," Mokhiber said.

And it is not about Republicans or Democrats, he said.

"This is about engagement — getting involved and staying involved. I want to bring back representative democracy, so it has meaning."

Resident Joe Mogus said the country began around the idea of freedom, but it has it degenerated into "scam and hustle."

"Corruption is the reason. Any corporation can fund the elections," he said.

"We have become too complacent," resident Jennifer Carpenter-Peak said. Husband Bob Peak added the Tea Party people seem to confront issues and not run away from them.

"The Democrats run from issues — run with their tails between their legs," Peak said.

People don't know what to do, Carpenter-Peak said.

"Most people are asleep at the wheel and are apathetic," she said.

Chenaya Devine-Milbourne, a Berkeley High School graduate who is now in college in upstate New York, said educating  students about how the government works should begin in elementary school with civics courses.

Gareth Foulds said corporate money influences the election process, especially at the U.S. Department of Defense. Foulds said he believed it all began with former Vice President Dick Cheney when he was secretary of defense.

Resident Robert Raynor said he was a Republican and "meetings like this should be done in every community and should be bipartisan."

Raynor suggested that elected congressional officials have term limits. He said another solution is that all school children should recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

"Patriotism is the first step of participation," Raynor said.

The third solution is everyone should be required to participate in public service for 18 months to two years.

"You gotta put some skin in the game," he said.

Mokhiber agreed.

"You got to get involved; you got to have 'skin in the game.' We will be a better society if we all become engaged," he said.

Mokhiber said he will schedule future meetings and asked that each person who attended the meeting bring a new person with them.

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