Art Callaham: We're Americans first

September 16, 2012|By ART CALLAHAM

A couple of weeks ago I was visiting the morning Rotary Club in Martinsburg, W.Va., shilling for a fundraiser for my home club in Williamsport. No luck on ticket sales, but that’s not the point. Near the end of the meeting, in walks U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. What Manchin had to say resonates with me, and I hope with you, today and maybe for all time.

I’ll paraphrase, although I believe I am stating his point accurately: Manchin said he is tired of all the Democrat/Republican rhetoric when “in fact we are all Americans.” He wasn’t at the Democratic National Convention and he wasn’t at the Republican event listening to party rhetoric. Rather he said he was in West Virginia to listen to Americans.

Manchin related a doomsday story about a worldwide financial meltdown if Congress does not do something about the “sequestered” cuts and the tax adjustments scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2013.


He believes that the U.S., European and Asian financial markets will react negatively — with detrimental effect on personal and commercial assets — if these actions are allowed to occur.

Manchin further suggested that he was working with a group of 40 U.S. senators, 20 from each side of the aisle, on a plan that would begin to fix our nation’s fiscal and economic problems. Regardless of the outcome of the election, Manchin indicated that Congress, in a bipartisan approach, must take positive action to circumvent a worldwide financial and economic problem.

Although I understood all that Manchin said, as a failed economist, I’m not able or willing to affirm that all he said was accurate or inaccurate. In fact, I’m not even willing to comment. The real truth in what Senator Manchin said was simply “in fact we are all Americans” — or at least that’s what we should be.

In an election year “the real truth” is usually in short supply. Much of what Repubs and Dems say is spun at best, and often times pure conjecture and sometimes just plain lies at its worst. Both major parties and even the minor ones are good at speaking their version of the truth when and if it supports their agenda or purpose. Notice that I didn’t say “the real truth.”

For example, the national unemployment rate this month is 8.1 percent or 14.7 percent based upon figures lying or liars figuring. Or maybe both are true based upon whether you have a job, just lost one, can’t find one, got tired of looking, or “Bush caused it,” or “Obama made it worse.”

At least that’s what Democrats or Republicans are told, or tell as the latest version of the truth. I’m still looking for the real truth.

However, for an American the real truth would be simply to say we have too many people out of work and let’s roll up our sleeves and fix the problem.

That is what I believe Sen. Joe Manchin is talking about. To solve our national problems, whatever they are, we must act as Americans first, last and always, with little if any party partisanship.

Republicans didn’t storm Omaha and Utah Beaches at Normandy; Americans did. Republicans didn’t free the slaves; Americans did. Democrats didn’t win the Cold War; Americans did. And on and on — you get the point.

The America we live in today is a polarized America, not the United States our Founding Fathers gave us, or the unified America that Americans fought and died for during the American Civil War. Manchin says it shouldn’t be that way: “In fact, we are all Americans.” Just like atheists in combat, there are few pure party partisans at crunch time.

What Joe Manchin said still resonates with me today.

First, Americans vote, so let’s turn out on election day and insure that the candidate that receives less than 10 percent of the registered voters finishes last and not first. Hagerstown city voters, take note of this first — our city elections are now on the same day as the presidential election, so let’s see a turnout greater than the 15 percent we saw in the last independent city election).

Second, look at candidates for whatever office with a view toward which candidate will unite us and not continue to polarize our nation, state or locality. Finally, be Americans and research your votes — although better than not voting at all, an uninformed vote may likely just continue the way things are.

Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.

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