It’s winter and instead of fearing the slip and slide of the roads, I’m in a place where the sun shines, the sky is mostly blue, and the palms are unfailingly graceful. The pelicans have razor sharp accuracy in stalking their fish; the sandpipers scurry along the shoreline in daily ritual.

Believe me I can adjust to a Noreaster- free winter. Life is good here. I’ve met warm, friendly people. The days are carefree, spent working on my new novel, enjoying the easy time together with my husband.

But there are a few things on my mind that smudge my idyllic life.

The Republican primary is on Tuesday.  It’s the first time I’ve been in a state part of presidential primary season. The vitriolic ads are unavoidable and constant.  I believe new lows have been set in a time that I didn’t think the bar could get any lower. Candidates deride each other’s motives, character, and record. To my mind, the worse one has Obama and Romney as bobbleheads.  Can you imagine?

Instead of a conversation that has candidates rising to the occasion of offering plans to fix our troubled economy, they snipe at one another. Say anything. Whether it’s truthful or not doesn’t seem to matter. Lying means they can always say Oops, did I say that? What I meant was…   They should follow the lead of my grandson, Sammy. When he is made to apologize for something he clearly feels no remorse for he says it through gritted teeth. At least then, you know where you stand. No mealy-mouthed apology.

I read in the paper last week that newspapers are starting to employ fact checkers so that sidebars of truth can be run along with a candidate’s claims. Incredible.

For me, it’s a travesty that they spend so much time spewing the unimportant. The job they are interviewing for is multi-dimensional, exhausting, and all encompassing.  We want to know if they are smart enough, brave enough, and strong enough to manage our world.

The other troubling matter to me is the injection of religion into the public dialogue. Does a presidential candidate not know that there is a definite line separating church and state in our constitution. It’s a founding principle.  If they don’t know that, what else don’t they know?

Of course, pray. But pray out of the public arena.  Anyone who wants to take on the problems of our country probably should look for help from a higher power but it has no place in political discourse.

I admit I am biased. I chose a career in public service because I believe we should help those who need it. In my case, I worked to ensure medically indigent women (aka poor) had access to mammography because they were dying prematurely from late stage breast cancer.

And I am all about story.  The faces and the voices behind the statistics. There are homeless children who go to bed hungry living on the streets with their unemployed parents. There are seniors who have to choose between heat and food.  Some of the sick can’t afford to buy their medicine. A good educational system guarantees our future. Why do we have so many unemployed teachers?

That is what I want to hear the candidates addressing.  I know there are strong opposing arguments about free market. So tell us how you plan to use the free market to improve people’s lives. We’ve seen in the past that trickle down economics is a fairy tale for the rich but if you believe it, tell us how it will work. Specifically.

Soapbox over.

I just read Hull House, serving the poor for 120 years, has closed its doors after running out of funds.  The story of Jane Addams and the founding of this first settlement house has been part of the high school American history curriculum for decades.  Now, we can add a footnote that in 2012, it had to close its doors during a blustery, Chicago winter.

My mother always tsk-tsked me because I was always a bleeding heart.  According to her, to my detriment.  It’s true, Mom, and I’m still not sorry.

What I am is very, very lucky. Sitting here among the palm trees with no worries about food, shelter, or medicine.

By the grace of God.


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