Monday, November 22, 2010

WHEN DO “THEY” BECOME “US?” - By Don Russell

Note: Don Russell is the editor and publisher of The Mountain Messenger, California’s oldest weekly newspaper, headquartered in Downieville, up on the Yuba. Recently, the folks in Sierra County rejected “Measure C,” a bond issue aimed at providing funds to repair the aging schools in that rural county. The Church of the Open Road has never reprinted, in total, words from another source, however, with Mr. Russell’s consent, the Church reprints this editorial commentary. The Church of the Open Road believes that Mr. Russell has touched upon elemental flaws in our collective thinking about the services demanded of government and how we pay for ‘em.


Letters and arguments during the late Measure C election prompted the question of citizens’ responsibility in a republican form of government. Opponents of the school bond measure pointed out that “they” had allowed the infrastructure of our schools to deteriorate. While this is indisputably true, it also vastly simplifies the issue and implies an unwarranted blame.

Those writers and expositors have never been at a school board meeting. Reasonably, they elected representatives to tend that business. Our friends propose, too late for any good, to second guess the actions of their agents.

“We” are still left with schools falling apart.

This is not an uncommon situation in a representative government. The duplicity that allowed the war in Vietnam was obvious well before the publication of the government’s recitation of its own lies. Likewise, anyone following the disinterested reports of Hans Blix knew the sham that brought the war in Iraq.

“They” betrayed “us” but we allowed, if not supported, the havoc and ran up a nearly unimaginable debt.

Merely cutting the scope of current government will not pay off decades and decades of debts; that we our parents, and grandparents incurred. As in home economics, bad decisions are made, but the bills don’t go away.

Eisenhower probably shouldn’t have stolen Social Security. But then, we got interstates.

Grenada didn’t need invading, but we did it.

California, alone, is full of bad ideas, but we enacted a bunch of them into law.

We, too, dislike government’ inclination to turn citizens into “clients,” but we don’t see ourselves refusing the services, the social security, Medicare, farm subsidies, welfare, tax breaks and investment incentives.

What’s done is done. If we buy into citizenship we also buy into the mortgage. We are wearied by those who claim to be “fiscal conservatives,” uttering drivel about concern for children and grandchildren, and sign “no new taxes” pledges. They are either silly or lying.

Hippies and conservatives share one common understanding: you leave the scene better than you found it.

There is no honest alternative to paying the bills, paying for what we inherited, what we’ve used, what we’re pouring down rat holes. That means paying taxes, before or after we die.

Until we accept “them” is “us,” we’ll never have an honest discussion about the bitter responsibility of paying the bills and throttling the national profligacy.

Until then, we’re spoiled children of the once credit-worthy.


The Mountain Messenger, P O Drawer A, Downieville, CA 95936
[Subscription Rates: One year outside of Sierra County: $30.00; Two years: $55.00]


Note: The Church of the Open Road welcomes your comments as would Mr. Russell at the above address. The Church suggests that the importance of this message warrants your willingness to pass Don’s editorial forward using any means (Face Book, e-mail) at your command. Thank you.  And thanks, Don Russell for allowing your work to appear in this space.


  1. Thanks for being a loyal and long term subscriber to the Mountain messenger Mr. B. Without your persistence this outstanding piece by Mr. Russell would not have made it to the Church of the Open Road and I would have missed it.

  2. "If we buy into citizenship we also buy into the mortgage." Why is this so difficult to understand? Perhaps because it is so inconvenient.

  3. Maybe that is the real "inconvenient truth."