Saturday, May 28, 2016

When a Congressmen Assured Me Things Were Not As Bad As I Thought

By: Joel T. Mosman
May 5th, 2016

     Had a nice visit at the Oklahoma State Capitol yesterday. Played my music up, down and all over that place. Met a lot of great folks, saw some old friends and great art of all varieties, even sat in a Representative’s office and had a chat.  I was there to talk about the importance of art in education but that opened up a big can of worms over state budget, energy revenue and economic downturn. I was surprised to learn his opinion on those things. 
     Our political process is a complex beast. It doesn't always work the way it was intended. Our leaders spend a lot of time navigating the system and (in the best scenarios) serving their constituents. But that's not always the case.

     Sometimes our leaders can get so caught up in the government ‘grind’ and lose focus on how their constituents are being affected. Your representative might not realize how teacher shortages, high living expenses, a less than effective judicial system or a failing economy is affecting you or your family.

     This is what I learned when a certain congressman told me from behind his desk that essentially ‘things aren't as bad as people think, the media can sometimes blow things out of proportion’.

     This is when I reminded him that the problems I was expressing to him weren't just something I had seen on TV while I was scarfing down a big fat chicken leg. I said that, in fact, “struggling teachers, layoffs, furloughs, low pay and poor education funding are all issues that affect me, my family and my friends at a high degree.” I also informed him that we were too busy working overtime to pay our bills to be able to do fiscal research and conceive reform strategies. I told him “that's YOUR job and it's what we trust you to do.”

     Before I stood up to leave his office I asked him for suggestions on what small part I could play to help reverse our crumbling economy. He said to focus on my family, pursue something that pays better than teaching and don't let the decisions they make at the State Capital affect my attitude.

     This is my answer to him: I believe my family should benefit from a healthy economy in order to contribute to our communities. I believe that teaching our school kids to become contributing members of society is more important than individual financial success. Lastly, I believe that the inherent purpose of our government is to ensure the security and welfare of the people; I'm sure you agree that when the lawmakers instill poor security and welfare policies an adverse effect on individual attitudes is not only justified but involuntary.

     This is why I encourage everyone to write a short message to your representative or senator to let them know how this economic downturn is affecting you or your family. They have a lot going on and can't always get a clear picture of what is happening in their respective districts. So, if we want change we have to let them know why we need it because some of them don't even think there's a problem.

     If you live in Oklahoma visit this website, enter your information and it will tell you who your legislators are and how to contact them.

Joel T. Mosman

Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Problem with Oklahoma's Problems (And The Solution)

     The problem with problems is that there are too many problem presenters and not enough problem solvers. When I was 19 years old I was on an American Airlines 727 flight from Newark, NJ to Norfolk, VA and I got the best advice from a stranger that I have carried with me ever since. He told me “the best skill that you can develop is the ability to solve problems.”

     The older I get the more I realize how valuable that advice is. Everywhere I look are people talking about 'the problem' and few talking about 'the solution'.

     A few days ago I was at a town hall meeting at Guthrie High School where a few of us had gathered to discuss some changes we could make to cultivate the art and culture of our community. Pretty soon we were discussing the lack of problem solvers in our community.

     So, I have been thinking about ways to solve the problem of our problem solver shortage. There is an emerging culture that is built upon the philosophy of ‘each person for him/herself’ - the antithesis to the definition of ‘community.’ This philosophy is destroying our culture and communities.

     It seems as though people are feeling increasingly disconnected with their local and state leaders. The input of the consumer used to be a driving force to business management and now their opinions and concerns are just a drop in an ocean of bureaucracy. The citizens in the communities of Oklahoma feel powerless to make any measurable change in a behemoth economy controlled behind closed doors. But, nevertheless, that economy has significant control over much of the population. 

     So what happens when the individual is overwhelmed with powerlessness? They turn inward and began to worry only about themselves and their own families. This is a problem

     Now hang on, don't get me wrong. I'm on board with protecting and providing for our individual families. But when we focus only on our family unit and ‘to hell with everyone else’ we are not being good citizens. In fact, the ‘each person for him/herself’ philosophy is ruining our communities. 

     We have to pick someone up when they're down. We have to provide for those in need. We have to heal the emotionally afflicted. We have to be present to our neighbors and communities. We have to provide others with the intellectual resources they need to thrive socially. These are the things that strengthen our communities and secure our homes.

     When the people in your town are doing these things they're achieving greatness. Great communities foster great leaders. When we elect great leaders and send them to the State Capitol we have a greater chance of having accurate, authentic representation. Great neighbors=great communities=great states=great nation=great planet=great...well you get the picture.

     Conversely, when we neglect to take care of one another we have no community. Just acreages of people exploiting each other for personal gain. Selfish leaders in the State Capitol only worried about taking care of themselves. We all know what happens when our leaders are selfish- we are disconnected and left to fend for ourselves while the ones at the top exploit us.

     So, I have identified the problem now I should follow my own advice and propose a solution. My solution is this- WE HAVE TO GET UP!

     Get up and join a local group, church or other organization. Get up and introduce yourself to your legislators and let them know your concerns and how you think they should be addressed. Get up and get to know who is running for local, state and US office. Get up and elect the leaders who represent you the best. Get up and go to a town hall meeting, city council meeting or other community gathering. Get up and shop local and stimulate your local economy. Get up and sacrifice your time or money for someone else. Get up and make the changes that you want to see in our society. Get up and STOP COMPLAINING!

     Be a problem solver. It truly is one of the best skills you can have. Use your problem solving skills to work with others to tackle the problems in your community. When we only look out for ourselves and let everyone else do the same we are drawing boundaries that will ultimately weaken us as a neighbors, towns, states and a nation. 

     Be the change to want to see.

Joel T. Mosman