Common Sense: It’s needed more today than ever!
In 1776, Thomas Paine published a pamphlet entitled, “Common Sense.” He enumerated many of the problems with the monarchy, operating America as a British satellite, and made the case for independence. It was one of the things that became a catalyst for the percolating revolution. Indeed, Paine communicated his ideas in a way in which people related: it made common sense.
As in the 18th Century, we need a common sense approach to governing. We seem to be at a crossroads in the history of our nation with ineffective government. In this case, the crossroads are jammed with political gridlock that has led to inaction and forward progression.
Many legislative actions, or in many cases, inactions, along with the accompanying cacophony of circuitous arguments, scream out for common sense. I am not naïve enough to believe that Democrats have not had a hand in this. However, in my view, Republicans are responsible for the lion’s share of activity that seems to defy common sense.
Earlier this year, in the Utah Legislature, Representative Brian Greene (R-Pleasant Grove) actually questioned whether sex with an unconscious person would be considered rape in every instance. In other words, he felt that there may be times when it would not be considered rape. Really? Once again, this brought some national attention to Utah and led people to question the common sense of leaders in the Utah legislature.
Nationally, the issue of climate change has seemed to stimulate discussion that defies common sense. This single issue has been at the forefront of the school of thought where denial is preferable to the acceptance of scientific evidence and the recognition of responsibility for our actions. In Florida, the administration of Republican Governor Rick Scott has instructed state employees to refrain from discussing the issue. CNN reports: “We were told not to use the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming’ or ‘sustainability,’” said Christopher Byrd, an attorney for the Department of Environmental Protection from 2008-2013. (Retrieved 5/24/15 from http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/09/politics/florida-officials-climate-change-banned/) Two for the price of one here, as not only is science denied, but free speech is suspended, as well.
In addition, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) attempted to prove to the world that climate change was a farce when he brought a snowball from outside the Capitol into the Senate chambers. “’We keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record,’ Inhofe said. ‘So I ask the chair, Do you know what this is? It’s a snowball, from just outside here. So it’s very, very cold out…very unseasonable.’ He then lobbed said snowball to a page and lapsed into deep silence, a smile across his face.” (Retrieved 5/24/15 from http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/03/03/1367947/-Senator-Inhofe-demolishes-climate-change-with-snowball) It’s rather frightening when the current chair of the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has no clue about the environment or how it works.
Just this past week, the Republican dominated legislature of Wisconsin decided the need to delineate items that could and could not be purchased with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. On the surface, perhaps there are some reasonable limitations to be considered, such as filet mignon and lobster. However, when looking through the list, one needs to question, once again, the lack of common sense used to create this list. (Good reference included at http://www.addictinginfo.org/2015/05/15/wisconsin-gop-passes-bill-banning-poor-people-from-buying-shellfish-potatoes-and-ketchup/) A few of the items include ketchup, potatoes, spaghetti sauce, sharp cheese (yes, in Wisconsin!), bagels, and the list goes on…
Several major cities, controlled by Democrats and Republicans alike, have enacted laws restricting the ability to aid and feed the homeless. The list includes the following major cities, alphabetically: Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, New York City, Philadelphia, and Orlando. In some way or another, each of these cities is restricting the ability to provide assistance to those who need it most. Where is the common sense in this? Why?
Each of us is familiar with King Benjamin’s exhortations in the Book of Mormon. “For behold, are we not all beggars?” (Mosiah 4:19) We each have a responsibility to help one another. Are some beggars “better” or “more worthy of our help” than others? The Book of Mormon clearly states the consequences when the “more part” of the people choose wickedness over righteousness. Immediately, some Latter-day Saints read that and conveniently point to their political stance on a particular issue.
Politically, it is common to consider a single issue candidate with a critical eye. It is likewise concerning to see members of the Church who focus their attempts at righteousness through a single lens. This tunnel vision, whether political or religious in nature, myopically allows for the possibility that common sense is abandoned, that one issue dictates political or religious thought, while many other factors that contribute to the “bigger picture” are ignored.
Focusing on a single issue may distract us, in an insidious way, from reaching out for all good that is in the world around us. Certainly, there are issues that need our direct consideration. In Alma’s admonition to his son, Helaman, he says, “I would that ye would be diligent and temperate in ALL things.” (Alma 38:10) It is easy to become an a la carte member of the Church, focusing on that one aspect we deem most important. Rather, we must focus on “ALL things” to some degree.
Sometimes, we get involved in one or two “hot button” items and we ignore using the common sense the Lord has given us to direct our lives, both in practice and belief. As we analyze our support of political parties and positions, we need to step back from tunnel vision, view the bigger picture, and use common sense. This must be done of our own free will and choice, without fear of judgment or ridicule.
Just this week, articles flooded the Internet about the government of France dictating that stores give their surplus groceries and food to charities, rather than discarding them. Hmmm….Common sense! Rather than being forced to comply, wouldn’t it be marvelous for one of the major grocery chains in the US to choose to make the moral choice on their own?
The list could go on. We don’t have to look far to see the lack of common sense filling the avenues of news today. Common sense is frequently synonymous with balance and moderation. We can all grow by choosing the course of common sense.