The Outstater

July 5, 2024

‘Nobody Is Coming to Help’

I’VE BEEN FIGHTING modal verbs for some time now. A modal verb, as only you grammar nerds know, is an auxiliary verb used to express ability, permission or necessity, e.g., someone “must,” “should,” “ought” do something. 

In today’s political context, modal verbs are a “tell,” that is, they signal that the user is in the habit of depending on someone else to solve problems. Opinion pages, Republican or Democrat, are full of modal verbs. They are always saying that somebody should come and help but “Nobody Is Coming to Help” is on the T-shirt I wear to political events.  I have a second one that I will get to in a minute.

Before that, here is where in my screed I relate the example of an unnamed San Francisco policeman. CNN showed him walking through the devastation of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. He was yelling to those trapped in the ruble that nobody was coming to help; that they would have to care for their injured and get water themselves. A true hero, he must have saved hundreds of lives.

We are not heroes but we do our best, and that is just this: Donald Trump is not coming to help, nor is the Republican Party, and certainly not your city, state or local government. If you think our constitutional republic is worth saving, it will be you that does something about it. And I have a suggestion.

Do not underestimate the power of small groups focused on specific policy questions. I can assure you that there is not an officeholder in the state who will ignore a group of two dozen or so informed voters gathering in their district to intelligently discuss the details of a bill or law.

That is because insecurity drives politics these days. Your average officeholder, disconnected from his constituency by party-controlled campaign financing, spends a lot of time guessing what you are thinking. That’s why they are always commissioning polls and scheduling “listening” sessions with us commoners. Let’s help them out by getting together and handing over a list of concerns.

This foundation is committed to organizing town meetings throughout the state using the 2024 Indiana Mandate as a discussion guide. The Mandate’s theme, “Returning to Founding Principles,” covers monographs on 75 issues facing the Indiana Legislature in one way or another, some of which nobody in officialdom wants discussed. 

Also, contributors to the Mandate, including cartoonist Gary Varvel and editor Andrea Neal, can be available to walk through the topics. Call or write and we will help with the details.

Which brings us to that second T-shirt logo: “Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There,”  a witticism credited to everyone from Adlai Stevenson to the White Rabbit. In this argument it is to say don’t waste time trying to find the perfect politician, make certain the imperfect ones know where you stand and the consequences of ignoring you. 

It is a matter of defining principles rather than chasing impossible political goals in what has become a corrupt, identity-driven democratic process. And no modal verbs will be needed. — tcl


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