Monday, April 27, 2015

American Aspiration

I realize I've been dormant for a long time on this front.  Since last I wrote, Representative Scott Garrett is still representing the Fifth District, Gov. Chris Christie is still the governor, but Papa Joe was convicted on racketeering.  

I'm writing not because I've moved back into the Fifth district, but because I've published a small book on politics.  I missed writing about politics, and decided instead of a new blog I'd release my thoughts in book form.  American Aspiration: Where We Are and Ways to Get Where We Want to Be is now available in the Kindle Store, with additional formats coming soon.  A little sample of topics and the introduction is below.  Enjoy!

Here's the table of contents:

Introduction. 2

Part One:  Where We Stand. 4
  • Facts to Keep in Mind
  • Government Deficit & Spending
  • Household Wealth and Debt
  • Our Lack of Information

Part Two:  Why We Can’t Have Nice Things. 12
  • Political Industrial Establishment
  • Privatization of Essential Services & No Bid Contracts
  • Congress & Our Lack of Participation

Part Three:  How We Begin to Make Things Better. 19
  • Vote in the Next Election, and the Next, and the Next
  • Get Informed in 10 minutes a Week
  • Buy American like Your Job Depends on It
  • Take a Breath and Think
  • Start Talking To Each Other

Part Four:  Nice Things We Could Have. 30
  • Infrastructure
  • Vocational Training & Higher Education
  • Honoring Those That Serve
  • Stuff Others Already Have
  • Where Do We Go Now?

Notes. 37

And the Introduction:

This began innocently enough as my latest blog creation, and became this collection of short essays.  Like many, I see the direction the country has been moving as troublesome.  Politics has always been a bit of a love/hate relationship for me, I have always believed better things are possible when our system works the way it should, and have rarely seen that happen.  I was a Boys State Senator, ran my county’s Republican office, went to the New Hampshire primaries, ran for Congress as an Independent, wrote a blog visited by the press, as well as staffers in Congress and the White House, and attended President Obama’s Inauguration.  As one of my former Political Science professors noted, I like to get my hands dirty.  
Probably where I felt I had the most impact during my run for office was during my classroom chats.  You got the sense there was optimism and energy in students, despite the cynicism of some of the adults in the room.  Years later, through conversations around the lunch table at work, I realized optimism or even a basic understanding of government is lacking.  It’s not just the millennials, many of my peers and elders have been so overwhelmed by the 24/7 political sniping and institutional ineptitude that they’ve thrown up their hands. 
So, I sat down with the hope/intention of writing something that would make it easy to find the information to make decisions and (hopefully) have readers feel more comfortable participating in the system.  It honestly isn’t that hard if you know where to look, but as I wrote I realized some background and context would probably be helpful.  The idea of telling people to go to such and such a website blind didn’t feel right, so here we are.  The collection is broken into four parts:
  • Where We Stand covers some interesting facts like how we’re spending money, the United States ranking 25th in median income, and how little we know.
  • Why We Can’t Have Nice Things reviews special interests, privatization and our lack of participation as it relates to our “leaders” in Washington, our states and school boards.
  • How We Begin to Make Things Better dives into voting and becoming informed with an e-mail a week, as well as buying Made in the USA, digesting information and talking politics with others.
  • Nice Things We Could Have goes over items many nations ranking higher already have, and asks about the things we could have that we don’t.
 My hope is that you’ll read this, talk about it, and gift it to friends and family on your way to a more involved citizenship.  If you’re already involved, I hope you will recommend or gift it to someone you know is not involved but would be receptive.  While I could have put it up as “just another” blog, the grand experiment is that the insights in this book are enough that it is gifted and paid forward to others. 
While I tried to make it approachable, some of it may seem technical.  I’ve been told by some it’s a quick read, and by others it’s very heavy, so I believe it’s probably just about right.  It’s not intended to be an overly scholarly piece, more of a conversation starter, but I do have lots of end notes for those who may wish to dig deeper.  If nothing else, my hope is that you benefit in some way from reading this.