It was May of 2016. I was in a big room at the convention center for a luncheon sponsored by the Economic Club of Indiana. The feature of the day was a candid talk by two of Indiana’s great statesmen of all time, former Senator Richard Lugar and former Congressman Lee Hamilton. I have seen these two give presentations many times and they always leave me with a gem to take home.
It was Hamilton who answered a generic question about the negative state of politics and what we can do about it with this: “The best medicine for cynicism is involvement.”
With that statement given to a thousand people and not to me directly, comes HeartlandNow.com. It was a simple comment, but moving for me.
I started thinking about what I could do to encourage involvement. Which led me to spend some time thinking about what “involvement” really means. I think that means different things to different people.
For me, being involved is not easy. But it is easy to understand how to be. As an American, we learn about our “civic duty” in school and hopefully at home. Geographically, being “neighborly” has a scale within our country. Some places have a reputation for ranking high on these scales, and others low, but actually being civically minded or neighborly doesn’t just happen. Real people have to make it happen.
I have spent my entire adult life “involved” with government, its function, and with whom it is designed to serve. It has just always been my thing. So it is easy for me to be confused by otherwise intelligent and capable people who ignore their duty to it for whatever reason they may have.
What we are seeing now in our politics, from our leadership in Washington in particular, is decision making based on cynicism. The nationalist or “America first” movement defines it. For the nation that leads the free world to appear to believe that leadership starts with selfishness, is difficult for those of us who know better to take. It simply is not who we are.
Jim Shella, the now retired Indianapolis political reporter tweeted early on regarding the controversies facing the new Trump administration with this thoughtful quip: “Elections have consequences.”
Again, yes sir.
I would add to that my own caveat by saying that elections also don’t just happen. They are often the result of our problems more often than the cause.
Our primary goal at Heartland Now is to reenergize our connections with each other. We need to learn about those people and issues we have been happily ignoring for far too long. You know, the people and issues that are right down the street from us. It is easy to get our news from the coasts. It is easy to believe it without question or disregard it as fake.
It is also lazy.
Technology brings us convenient and abundant information. That convenience and abundance and the laziness it fosters, is making us less engaged with our own communities, our own cities, and worst of all, each other.
We are going to share stories with you told by people from here. Most of the stories are going to be about here. But some are going to be about every place else, except they will be told by someone like you.
This is going to be fun and entertaining. There will be plenty of art and creative displays of a large variety on our site. Again, all of it will be created by a neighbor, or someone familiar. If they aren’t familiar, they should be. If we are good at this, they will be.
We will share stories about faiths. These stories, like the rest of them, will be told so that we can understand each other better, not so we can disagree more.
Cynicism is like a weed. Getting rid of it means pulling it from the ground, root and all, not just carelessly clipping off the top of it. The root seems to have gotten strong and it is time to get together and wrap our collective hands around it and pull. And we don’t have to be angry about it.
Spend a little time reading, listening and viewing the things our unique group will bring to you. Give it some time. There will be things you disagree with here, but I am absolutely certain there will be things here that speak to you and maybe even for you.
I hope the inspiration for this project that started with Congressman Hamilton’s comment last year can give you some inspiration also. If it doesn’t, I would love to hear about what would.
Like I have been saying for the last several weeks leading to our launch this week, this is going to be good. I don’t want anyone around here to miss it.