Good At Heart – Guest Essay

Reading time – 2:46  .  .  .

I promised some help and some hope in the last article and this is it.

Joel Altschul (no relation) is a bona fide smart person, a good writer and a pal. He recently sent the essay that follows as his contribution to how we can move forward and protect our democracy. See what you think.

                                               Good at Heart—This I Believe

For the last month I have been hiding from a bully who threatens me, my family, my countrymen, my values, and our collective future. I want to come out of hiding, stand up, have my voice heard in a way that restores my belief in America.

Every year at the Passover Seder we read from the “Diary of a Young Girl.” Anne Frank wrote the following while she and her family were hiding from the ultimate bullies of the twentieth century. “In spite of everything I still believe that people are good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death .  .  . I think that it will all come right, and that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”

I used to believe in civil discourse—that if people express themselves honestly and listen to others carefully, they will ultimately make decisions that have their own best interests at heart. It will not erase individual behavior that exudes hatred and intolerance, but I do think that the vast majority of American citizens will ultimately elect and follow leaders who guide us in a positive direction. I am not sure about the rest of the world and have grave doubts about saving our planet and protecting our environment in terms of misusing scarce resources.

I think many others feel the way I do. They express frustration and amazement at the direction outlined by our incoming administration. And no one—neither Democrat nor Republican—has emerged as a voice of reason to help us find our way out of the darkness.

My suggestion is that we establish a Shadow Cabinet during the next four years, made up of tribal elders who have no ax to grind and who have the backbone to stand up to our Bully President and his henchmen.

My nominee to lead the way is Colin Powell, who has the experience and enough bipartisan support to make this work. Just imagine a group of ten that meets regularly in person and/or electronically for the purpose of adding a voice of reason and pushing back whenever necessary. They would model how we can foster civil discourse, disagree in the spirit of our founding fathers, and successfully restore order as a team of rivals did under Lincoln.

i have enough faith in General Powell to pick his own cabinet, but I suggest three former Presidents (Obama, Bush, Clinton), three senators (Sanders, McCain, and Warren), and several  former secretaries of state (Kerry, Rice, Allbright). It is not as critical to me who the actual people are as is their ability to call out a bully, call a thug “a thug,” state a point of view, listen to opinions different from their own, and change their perspective when necessary. I admire Fareed Zacharia, who recently pointed out that in retrospect it was Romney in 2012, not Obama or Zacharia, who more accurately called attention to Putin’s tendencies toward land grabbing.

The topics needing attention will be obvious. For example, the call for strong military readiness coupled with active diplomacy, health care reform, environmental safeguards, immigration reform, and how to stimulate the economy without undue benefit to the wealthy.

Other topics will emerge with time, beginning with ethical definitions regarding conflicts of interest, justice for all, tolerance for immigrants, foreigners, people of all religions, races, creeds, disabilities, and gender preferences. Within my lifetime acceptance of the rights of women and African-Americans, for example, have made some progress, but without high visibility, I am afraid we will regress much farther than anyone can imagine.

What I hope for is the beginning of a non-partisan dialogue that focuses on issues facing our nation. It may begin with the simplest outline of what is being analyzed (such as the Affordable Care Act) and options being considered. If successful on a national basis, I could see similar groups being formed on a state, regional, or metropolitan basis to look at issues like shared water resources, transportation, border concerns, or funding and support for public education.

Full disclosure. I am much more interested in solving our problems than in promoting any one political party or politician. I was surprised at the outcome of the Presidential Election, but no matter who won, it was clear that we have done a poor job of fostering civil discourse. I do not think I am alone. I want people to have a chance to prove that in the end most of us are good at heart.

Joel Altschul
Santa Barbara, CA
December 20, 2016

Joel has set the bar high and offered his notion of how to clear the bar. What say you?


Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2024 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

What do you think?

Your name and e-mail address are required, but your e-mail will not be disclosed.

Keep the conversation going by both adding your comments and by passing this along to three friends.
That´s how things get better.

2 Responses to Good At Heart – Guest Essay
  1. Frank Levy Reply

    The idea of a shadow cabinet that is willing to aggressively and fiercely speak up for the vast majority of Americans who did not vote for the in-coming regime is, in my opinion, very much needed. The suggested Shadow Cabinet is a good start. I would add some younger voices, and some voice that represent the voiceless. I would also suggest that a second People’s Shadow Cabinet be established that would work side by side with the more visible Shadow Cabinet to ensure that all of America’s voices are heard and represented. I only have one question, how do we meet with Colin Powell to get this started?

  2. dominickpalella Reply

    Joel believes “that the vast majority of American citizens will ultimately elect and follow leaders who guide us in a positive direction”. Unfortunately, the vast majority of our citizens rarely votes in all elections, and has no clue about how our political system works. They continue to seek and elect leaders that make promises they like to hear. Then they complain and protest when they don’t like the results, because someone they voted for didn’t follow through, or someone else was elected.

    The truth is, we the people are the leaders of our government, not the representative employees we elect to represent us through corporate controlled private political parties that decide who we can or can’t vote for. If we want people to collect our taxes and spend them as they please, keep voting in elections and complain as much as you want afterward. If you want to be a responsible citizen in a democracy you need to vet and elect representatives who will listen and respond to you, instead of their political party leaders or corporate lobbyists.