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Art Callaham: If you need to know, here's who I really am

September 01, 2013

Several weeks ago in this space appeared a column titled “We’re leavin’ this (city, county, state).” By the end of that week, I received responses by the score. Most, not all, were very positive, recognizing that my aim in the column was to point out how much negativity and how many baseless threats about leaving are spread through our community. Oftentimes, these threats and negative comments are based on someone’s perception with little regard to fact.

I generally refer to these comments as “the grass is always greener on the other side” syndrome. To coin a comment by one of my good friends (a Republican and a very conservative guy): “Ninety-five percent of the things done in Annapolis are very positive and good for Washington County. I have to look at the 5 percent and determine if it is really hurtful to my constituents before I vote against the whole thing.” (This comment was referring to the state budget). 

I usually do not answer responses to my columns — positive or negative — because answering often leads to new arguments generally surrounding whose fact is truer than the other’s. In recent times, the lines between fact and fiction, truth and lies, perception and reality — even between fact, truth and reality — have become very blurred. “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” is the only reasonable answer to most arguments. (Heck, I don’t even like to “agree to disagree.”)

Yet, one social media posting from someone I don’t believe I have ever met caused me pause. I’ll paraphrase. The gist of the posting was this: Well, Art, I’ve read your drivel and I believe you’re a liberal lover. So, tell us who you really are; quit kidding us about being a conservative. 

Ho hum. Some of my fellow conservative Republicans feel much the same way, but earlier used the terminology “liberal elitist” to describe me.

Well, here’s who I really am. It is your right to believe this or not. I served to protect your rights; maybe you did also. My mother was a “Roosevelt Democrat” and, yes, I did love her. If that makes me a “liberal lover,” then you may consider yourself correct. My father was a “Goldwater Republican,” and I loved him also. My only desire in bringing this up is that I hope my critics love their mothers and fathers as I loved mine. But that familial love doesn’t mean a thing to me about political persuasion.

I have some good friends who are Democrats and many who are Republicans. I’ll not mention their names in this column because I didn’t and wouldn’t ask them to publically agree with me. Take it to the bank that the list is exhaustive on both sides of the “aisle.” Many of my friends have helped me and others to do good things for this community, this state and even this nation. I’m not a powerful person by any means, but I’ve proved to be a listener and not a complainer. You gain a lot by listening.

I oppose tax increases for the sake of increasing taxes, yet I understand the economic model of government which, like business, has two sides to the financial equation — revenue and expenses. Prudent business people cannot address one side of the equation without looking at the other side. This is true with prudent elected officials, regardless of the level of government. 

I did not favor the recent gas tax increase, yet I’m willing to note that it was those same “loathesome Democrats” controlling the “out of touch Maryland General Assembly” who hadn’t raised the gas tax since 1992.

If you’re going to “eat the whole apple,” you better be ready to eat the left and right sides. I could go on and on with cliché after cliché, but the bottom line is simple (as was the bottom line to my column several weeks ago): Maryland is really no worse than any other place. Everyone, everywhere has a gripe.

I would suggest only five places in the United States to live — Hagerstown; Roanoke, Va.; Huntsville, Ala.; La Crosse, Wis., and Lufkin, Texas. Yes, Virginia has higher taxes, Alabama has mosquitoes, Wisconsin is cold and Texas is hot (though two of my grandchildren live there). Hagerstown is OK for my wife and me at this time — having nothing to do with liberal versus conservative or Democrats versus Republicans. When we tire of Maryland, we’ll just move. But we probably won’t gripe to anyone about it. 

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







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