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And That's the Way It Is

by Liz Flaherty

My husband Duane and I watched CBSs tribute to the late Walter Cronkite, one of the networks most famous and revered alumni. I was as glued to this broadcast as I was when Cronkite went on the air in his shirtsleeves and reported the death of a president. I read his autobiographical book, A Reporters Life, years ago, but Id forgotten his enthusiasm for the space program, and I found myself grinning along with him 40 years later.

We grew up with Cronkite telling us the news. Even when he showed emotion, as he did at JFKs death and the first lunar landing, he didnt tell us what to think about world events, just Who, What, When, Where and Why they had occurred.

We remember the Vietnam war that he reported on and his courage in how he reported. Duane was there; I was just a soldiers girlfriend who was afraid to watch the news for fourteen months.

Watching the tribute program made us remember something else. No, maybe thats the wrong word. It made us realize something else.

Theres no getting around the facts of the Vietnam War. Arguably, we shouldnt have been there. Indisputably, we didnt win it. Veterans who returned home from that war were treated abominably, one of the greatest shames in my memory. It was a war that began and was perpetuated under the leadership auspices of both major political parties. It ended sadly after 58,000 Americans had died.

It was sad then and its sad now, but what Duane and I realized is that though some people undoubtedly and often justifiably assign responsibility to certain people and circumstances, the history of the conflict itself has not been relegated to a blame game. The mistakes have not been reduced to finger-pointing.

At our house, we are politically divergent; we cancel out each others vote as often as not, but we want the same things in life and we want the same things from our political leaders. We want them to be honest with us, to work hard, to do the right thing, and we want them to be responsible. It is not, no matter which side of the political aisle youre on, always the other guys fault.

There is an old adage that says if youre not part of the solution, youre part of the problem. When political columnists take up their allotment of space blaming the ones who came before them or the ones who vote against them, what good does it do anyone? I am much more interested in how our representatives want to fix problems than I am in who they think caused them.

How often have you heard, Somebody needs to do something about ? Fill in the blank with whatever your current frustration is. Taxes? Somebody needs to make them fair to everyone. Health care? Somebody needs to do something about it. Schools? Somebody needs to make them better, safer, bigger, or smaller.

So whos Somebody?

Well, guess what, folks. Its you and me and the guy down the road whose dog barks half the night and drives you crazy. Its the family with an annual income in seven figures and the other family whose yearly earnings barely make it into five. Its the doctor, the insurance agent, the medical facility administrator and the patient. Its the student, teacher, parent and school superintendent. If we want things to be different, it has to start with us.

Id like nothing better than to give a definitive answer as to exactly where we should start, but the truth is Im not informed enough. All most of us can do is the best we can. We can be proactive instead of reactive, positive instead of negative. Instead of telling the other guy everything hes doing wrong, we can do what we know is right and see if we can find a way to work with those whose viewpoints differ from ours.

We can do it without editorializing, without pointing fingers. We can deal with facts instead of opinions. We can do it the way Walter Cronkite reported the news.

And thats the way it is.

©2009 Liz Flaherty for

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