The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.

MAY  2006

                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.







How do you speak to the soul
of the community?

by JC Bowman

How do you speak to the soul of the community?' My suggestion is to simply listen at first, before speaking in a language the community understands. Too often we are all guilty of being ''a blind man in a room full of deaf people.''

It is as if I have spent the last decade on a listening tour across America trying to grapple through complex issues with a simple mind. The former Lt. Governor of Florida Frank Brogan once told me, I had "a gift for taking complex issues and making them simple." Bragging on this to my mom, she said "Yes, son but you also have a gift of taking simple issues and making them complex."

In my two favorite subjects, Politics and Religion, I think we are all guilty of the latest charge we have made the issue too complex. That is perhaps why Jesus taught in parables. Despite soaring record gas prices, many in our country do not know the pain of poverty, but we can listen to those who do. To me faith is a child-like belief and a lifetime of exploration. Faith heals the heart and the spirit, but it does not solve itself. I believe therefore the problem is solved. We are too analytical for that. Politics are no different. If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. So, among the civilized it is clear we must limit government

We elect people to represent us in various political offices that look nothing like us and cannot possibly relate. Two of my least favorite politicians are Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine and former Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota. However, they did something I thought very smart: they would go back to their community and just mingle in with everyday folks. They would eat lunch at a local restaurant or diner and just talk to people and listen. When politicians stop eating at the Cracker Barrel or Shoney's or the Little Old Fort or the Gondolier they are losing touch with the common man or woman. It says a little about that person's character, personality and priorities.

I call it Wal-Mart Republicanism; my friend Greg Cain calls it Dollar General Republicanism. Whatever it is, you better believe the struggle is on to find the soul of the nation, and it is a process that unfolds on many levels. I suggest you begin in your own community. Prior to Ronald Reagan the

J C Bowman

-J. C. Bowman, a native of Cleveland, is a well informed and outspoken conservative educator. Is a freelance public policy analyst who resides in Tallahassee, Florida. Prior to this, he was Director for the Center for Education Innovation at Florida State University.  He served as the Director for the Florida Department of Education Choice Office and as the Chief Policy Analyst of the Education Policy Unit for Florida Governor Jeb Bush.



political elites at the time basically viewed local neighborhood and community institutions with scorn. Then in 1975 Reagan gave a little known speech to the Executive Club of Chicago called "Let the People Rule." The speech was mocked by both political parties at the time. Less than 4 years later, the Republican Party was beating their chests in pride in what they discovered. The Democratic Party was still searching for a real platform by linking every conceivable special interest group together. Bill Clinton borrowed from the Republicans and was as effective as any Republican. In fact, two politicians dominated the 1990's in America President Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, but the script was pure Ronald Reagan.

Reagan clearly saw that liberalism's lack of a limiting principle would be its own undoing, and he argued that big government was destructive. Not only because it dampened individual initiative, but that it also weakened the local, voluntary institutions within which citizens had traditionally managed their own affairs, according to their own moral and spiritual principles. And so he called for:

An end to giantism, for a return to the human scale - the scale that human beings can understand and cope with; the scale of the local fraternal lodge, the church congregation, the block club, the farm bureau.... It is activity on a small, human scale that creates the fabric of community.... The human scale nurtures standards of right behavior, a prevailing ethic of what is right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable

Reagan would famously say during his political career that "I was a Democrat most of my adult life. I didn't leave my party and we're not suggesting you leave yours. I am telling you that what I felt was that the leadership of the Democratic Party had left me and millions of patriotic Democrats in this country who believed in freedom." If he was too easy on the Democratic Party, he was very clear that conservatism today has inherited the best of the liberal tradition, which is why he felt none of the sectarian's hesitation about quoting Thomas Paine (or admiring Franklin Roosevelt):

The classic liberal used to be the man who believed the individual was, and should be forever, the master of his destiny. That is now the conservative position. The liberal used to believe in freedom under law. He now takes the ancient feudal position that power is everything. He believes in a stronger and stronger central government, in the philosophy that control is better than freedom. The conservative now quotes Thomas Paine, a long-time refuge of the liberals: "Government is a necessary evil; let us have as little of it as possible."

President Bush has not limited government as many had hoped. But in a recent speech he said something eerily reminiscent of President Reagan. He said, "For all Americans, these years in our history will always stand apart,'' he said. ''You know, there are quiet times in the life of a nation when little is expected of its leaders. This isn't one of those times. This is a time that needs -- when we need firm resolve and clear vision and a deep faith in the values that make us a great nation."

Men can be beasts to one another, but human nature has also produced "better angels." We are fortunate to live with some of the very people who are making a difference in the lives of people within their neighborhoods and the nation. These are the people who understand the soul of the community and in the end will turn the very wheel of history. Whereas faith leads to deeper reflection, politicians need to understand their constituency and reflect the values of the community. You want to speak? Listen quietly at first.

--J. C. Bowman is a public policy analyst who resides in Tallahassee, Florida.
He can be reached by email at:

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