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Letter: We'll be alright -- people are 'sensible and fair'

By Dennis Phelps, Westbrook

I recently read an editorial written by a soon-to-retire firefighter that was a rather illuminating piece relative to much of our current debate revolving around our economy and my place in the middle of it.

More than anything, I believe that this item cemented in me a long-held belief that much of what happens in our lives is due to uncontrollable circumstances dictated by our time and place of birth, our ancestry and any number of other items that seem to simply “happen” in our lives. I am certain that the benefits of a public school education and an upbringing that emphasized hard work, orderliness and some degree of responsibility to others had a good deal to do with how my life turned out.

As I completed college and began my teaching career, I was governed largely by history and what others had done in the past. The teachers’ union as well as the Public Employment Labor Relations Act had much to do with how my career would be spent and how I would be compensated. Both of these items stressed some degree of uniformity and fairness relative to teachers’ treatment, pay, and benefits. As I would learn later, both of the aforementioned institutions are constantly in a state of flux dependent upon legislation and decisions made by many who have little or nothing to do with education. Essentially, the business of governing public employees relative to their pay and benefits is left to the notion that people are decent, reasonable and fair, and that no elected official would ever make decisions that would be contrary to the public good. Today, that belief is being seriously challenged by an administration that seems intent on destroying many of the previous advancements relative to public employees and their working conditions, pay and benefits.

I have heard and listened carefully to all of the arguments regarding labor unions, socialism and government practices that will lead us down that dismal road to destruction. I must say that there will always be some degree of socialism among our daily lives. If your garbage gets picked up and your streets get plowed free of snow, if your children and grandchildren enjoy our swimming pool or parks, and if you agree to live by certain rules that are mutually beneficial, then you have participated in some of the positive aspects of socialism. I’m afraid that we are returning to that ultra-conservative element mentioned in the old Chad Mitchell Trio song “The John Birch Society,” in which they vowed to purge the nation of “commies.” Among the lyrics: “We’ll use our hands and hearts and if we must, we’ll use our heads” and “If mommie is a commie then you’ve got to turn her in.”  

As the debate continues over policies and practices, and as the current administration continually tells us that things are going well, the ultimate outcome will probably much less negative than some might believe, simply because people are sensible and fair. When they witness practices that are not, and when they are continually lied to about what goes on every day in Washington, I hope that they will react at the voting booth.