One of the qualities of sheriff Walt Longmire, the creation of Craig Johnson (2005) and then a Netflix series, is that he faced difficulty straight on. Whether it be having a hard conversation with his best friend Henry Standing Bear, or firing a deputy he liked, or even crossing onto the neighboring reservation to look for the truth, Walt just forged ahead. One of the reasons I, and I am sure his audience, watched this man was because he represented strength of character in times when we don’t see that as often as we could like from our leaders.
For Walt, right and wrong might sometimes be gray, and difficult to discern given available evidence, but discovering it was always his goal. Acting on behalf of right and opposing wrong was always his goal, even when it put him at personal risk. And not putting off the hard decisions to do that, his modus operandi.
Those are the qualities of character that my Grandpa Milton exemplified. I think about him often in these troubling times. “What would Grandpa do?” The answer is usually easy, the execution of it harder. People these days, like me, it seems are not made so often of the “sterner stuff” that the folks who went before us were.
I also keep a copy in my office of a phrase my great grandpa, Grandpa Kroth, said, “Do now what you would do later.”
What that means, my dad once told me, is that people should do the hard thing now, and not put it off until another time. It means having the hard conversation with your employee or spouse or neighbor now. “Do now what you would do later” means not waiting until the problem has blown out of any control. It means being honest with yourself and others.
How often do we see this approach from our national elected officials these days? Self-preservation, rather, seems to be the abiding value. The United States Senate, once considered the most deliberative body in the world, seems to have lost its way. It deliberates little, punts problems down the road, and makes short-term, politically useful decisions instead. No one party is to blame. No one Senate Majority Leader is to blame. This has been a while in coming and those of us who vote, or don’t, are ultimately the ones to be held accountable.
Do now what you would do later. Don’t punt hard problems down the field. Take the hits now. Then you can still get up and carry the ball again. Wait too long and you won’t get up.
There are many implications for that. At a national policy level, I think that means not kicking the ball down the road on putting Social Security, Medicare, and other safety net programs on solid financial ground. I think it means caring for the poorest of us, the homeless, refugees, and any person who is treated as less than a fully human child of God. I think it means balancing our national budget and reducing debt. I think it means investing in our nation’s infrastructure, immediately. It means making sacrificial – as in sacrificing power and positionality – decisions about re-establishing public education at all levels in the United States as the best in the world.
And I think it means doing everything in our power, from government investment to incentivizing startups to free market solutions, to combat human-caused climate change.
Do now what you would do later.
It also means, like Sheriff Longmire crossing barriers to look for evidence of the truth, crossing party and ideological and self-serving fences to find the best solutions, the right-est solutions we can for our country. “Do now what you would do later.”
Johnson, C. (2005). The cold dish. New York: Viking.
What’s The Matter With Congress? – http://bit.ly/35Q45NH
“Members’ contempt for their own institution is bipartisan. When Democratic Party leaders pleaded with Joe Manchin (D-WV) to run for reelection, he told them simply, ‘This place sucks.’ (He’s running anyway.)”
The World’s Most Deliberative Body – https://washex.am/34yusYc
“Former President James Buchanan called the Senate “the greatest deliberative body in the world,” a moniker that has stuck for 150 years. But as he left Washington for the Senate’s two-week Easter recess, Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., reflecting on his inability to get a vote on even one legislative amendment in his first 15 months on the job, said something quite different: ‘I think it sucks.’
In that “emperor has no clothes” moment, Kennedy exposed a key reality in Washington: The greatest deliberative body in the world no longer deliberates.”
Also: On The Death Of The Senate And Its Long History As The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body – https://wapo.st/2OTUvT7
“Do Now What You Would Do Later.”