It was July of 2011.  I had a job making decent money, but I was starting to feel the pinch from several years of little or no pay increases to keep up with the cost of living.  We could feel our way of life slipping backwards.

I had taken some time off from work to make a trip up to Missoula, Montana, where my mother underwent heart surgery.  I was making a long drive back from there to my home in Utah and had pulled over at a rest stop about 25 miles north of Idaho Falls before getting on I-15 to head south.  My car had been running fine, but when I went to start it again after a quick break, it wouldn’t fire up.  The fuel pump went bad.

broke downI managed to get a niece and her boyfriend nearby to come pull the car to a shop at my brother-in-law’s auto dealership.  I wouldn’t be going back to work in the coming days like I’d planned.  Instead, I’d be staying at a home where my parents-in-law were at in Idaho Falls while their home farther south was being threatened with flooding from the Snake River, waiting for a fuel pump to come in and my car to be fixed.  It turned into a stay of close to a week.

I had plenty of time on my hands during that stay.  My father-in-law is deeply into political science.  He used to call himself a Republican, and then once he started getting deeper into studying politics he turned Democrat.  He has all kinds of books on politics, economics, foreign affairs, etc., from a variety of perspectives — both conservative and liberal.  Since I had plenty of time on my hands, I found a book in my father-in-law’s collection that looked particularly interesting.  I started reading it and didn’t stop until I’d made it all the way through.

the speechThe book was titled “The Speech.”  What grabbed my attention the most was the subtitle: “A Historic Filibuster On Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class.”  It was a published record of a speech given by independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders from December 10, 2010.

Sanders’ words hit home with me.  What he was saying was what my family was living.  America’s middle class was moving backwards.  My family was moving backwards.  My broken down car with well over 200,000 miles on it was an example of that.  I had a decent job, but what I had to show for it was dwindling.  There were fears then that the venture capital company that owned the business where I worked would be selling it off, costing people their jobs.  That fear was genuine, there was good reason for it.

Some job cuts had already begun to take place at that time.  Jump ahead to the following October, and the big job cuts really started hitting.  I was among those hit.  We were among those hit … hard.

Before sitting down to read Sanders’ book that July four years ago, I’d seen some videos of Sanders speaking on YouTube.  He didn’t mince words, he didn’t back down from anyone, he spoke with a genuine sense of caring for the common person and a direction that he felt the country was going in, and he didn’t like what that direction at all.  He was like David going against Goliath.  Instead of rocks and a sling against the giants, he used words and hard facts.

I saw the same thing in “The Speech.”  As I was reading that book, I got a feeling that I’d experienced before.  The prior experience came when I watched a young senator from Illinois speak at the 2004 Democratic convention.  His name was Barack Obama.  I thought then that if that guy ever ran for President, I’d vote for him.

Obama hasn’t been perfect.  He started out trying too hard to please Republicans who had no desire whatsoever to be pleased.  But he’s come around, recognized his opponents’ games for what they are, and despite what naysayers would have you believe he’s taken what once seemed like an impossible situation and started turning it around against incredible fights.

There’s still a long way to go before we can honestly say that America as a whole is the greatest nation that it can possibly be, there are still too many issues that threaten our stability as a whole.  The greatest threat is to the middle class.  Income inequality is very real, and if something isn’t done to turn that around we stand to crumble.

Caricature by DonkeyHotey
Caricature by DonkeyHotey

Bernie Sanders recognizes that.  He’s been talking about that for years.  While I was reading “The Speech,” I thought if he’d run for President, I’d vote for him.  He is, and I still would.

There are still way too many people out there who don’t know him or have mistaken impressions because he’s a “democratic socialist,” with the socialist part striking fear in their hearts, like we’re becoming another USSR instead of the USA.  If you look at the things Sanders has to say, it’s plain to see that it’s returning America back to the days when things were more equal, tax rates better reflected how we needed to stay afloat before trickle down economics threatened to sink the ship.

It’s a return to the days before the term “greed is good” became a way of life.

But we’re not hearing enough of what Bernie Sanders has to say, and there’s something very wrong with that.  We’re fascinated by celebrities and oddball characters, like the current leader in the Republican presidential polling and his GOP opponents.  News channels break away from coverage of more important things to give live looks at speeches which say nothing, all because of that love of celebrity.

Donald Trump might get 40 minutes’ worth of discussion on Meet The Press, while Bernie Sanders might be lucky to get a quarter of that.

Bernie Sanders flatly rejects negative campaigning.  He talks issues and solutions.  These days, that’s old-hat.

The guy impressed me even more this week when he made the modern equivalent of a “Daniel in the lions’ den” appearance at Jerry Falwell’s conservative Liberty University.  He spoke words that are too much unheard these days, the biggest being “civil discourse” between people who don’t agree on many issues.

Liberty University is to be applauded for inviting him in.  And Sanders was received warmly.  He left an impression that was unique.  He got evangelicals to take a hard look at themselves and the message they’re sending out in the current political environment.  One pastoral counselor there in particular was very moved, as you’ll find in the following link:

An Evangelical responds to Sanders’ speech at Liberty U

Why are so many people so turned on by “freak shows” in politics these days?  Whatever happened to that “civil discourse” we used to see more of, back in the days when America seemed more … united?

This is why people like Bernie Sanders deserve more attention.

Feel the Bern.

 

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