Getting Things Done

For years Americans have been bemoaning the slow pace at which both the legislative and executive branches of the government “get things done.” Of course, there is the question about whether or not we really want any more laws, but we agree that some actions really must occur: the repeal of ObamaCare, the vetting of refugees, the cutting of taxes. We all know that we’re in a national bind on many fronts and that things must change. But how?

Allow me to point out three major concepts that must be in place before any kind of forward movement can happen. These used to be common sense, but good sense of any kind hasn’t been groovy now for several decades. So let’s review:

Any sensible manager, leader, or club president knows that you make policy to cover the general state of things; you don’t make policy for the exceptions. That is, however, what has been the common practice for at least the last eight years. How many people are truly transgendered and stuck in the awkward position of not knowing which bathroom to use? And yet Obama instated policy that affects the safety and privacy of all Americans to protect the feelings of less than 1% of the population. What percentage of that population is both permanently gay and wanting to marry? Maybe 1%, and yet Christian business owners all over the country have been attacked because their biblical beliefs preclude them from aiding and abetting such a mandate. About 80% of Americans identify as Christian. What percentage of the population is Muslim? And yet Christian students all over the country are being indoctrinated into Islamic practices and beliefs. What is that?

It is true, everyone knows, that not everyone fits into every scenario. We know some of us are square pegs that are not going to fit into society’s round holes. So do we just flip those folks off and go on about our business? No. We make exceptions for those folks as best we can. The high school where I spent most of my teaching career had a strict no-hats policy, no headgear of any kind. That policy was designed to keep gang signs to a minimum, to keep distractions down, and to teach the age-old etiquette of removing one’s hat as a symbol of respect. But then what did we do when a Sikh boy enrolled? His religion required him to wear his turban. Simple: we made an exception for him. This allowed us to maintain control without stepping on his religious toes.

Making exceptions is tricky because it requires that we actually think through all the ramifications. If a young girl wants to wear a burqa to school, we have another problem -– what could she be hiding under that gear? If a young man wants to dress in the girls’ locker room because he claims to think he’s a girl, well, what could go wrong there? Wouldn’t an alternate shower room be better? Mightn’t it be better to see to it this kid gets some psychological help? It is much more efficient to set up systems that generally work well, and then deal individually with the exceptions.

But there’s the rub for the leftist, who doesn’t want to think of people as individuals. To do that would open all their pet theories and projects to the kind of negative scrutiny they deserve. So it’s zero-tolerance policies and five-year-olds being suspended for the way they chew their Pop-Tarts.

Which gets to the next simple rule that a functional organization follows: it recognizes the miracle that is each individual. A truly effective group makes it the highest value to respect the intelligence and good sense of its members. Yes, people all have flaws, but anyone who has lived any time at all (and paid attention) has noticed that making rules rarely improves behavior. (See previous point; the more rules we create, the more exceptions have to be made.) People are smart and inventive and will find ways around stupid rules. Yet, because folks are smart they can generally be counted on to fix things themselves without formalities.

As a high school teacher I learned quickly that rules and regulations were a waste -– I’d just have to spend time enforcing them. I knew my students weren’t just variable units of the exact same being; they were each totally unique and I had to engage each in lessons so interesting that rules were really irrelevant; I owed them that respect.

I am pleased to see President Trump demonstrate that same deference, in his appointments, his demeanor with foreign heads of state, but also in the ways he deals with private individuals providing quietly the help needed. I think of the man to whom he recently handed a $10,000 check, of the way he stood behind Saeed Abedini during his Iranian imprisonment, of the relationships he has with his children. These things give me hope for a more personal government.

The third characteristic of a society that functions well is rationality. Leaders do not make policy on the basis of emotion, but rather on the basis of fact, of historical and economic patterns, of acceptance of reality. These past eight years were devoid of this trait. Our news organizations have lost track of it as well.

This is the fault of America writ large; we are so used to emotion-laced entertainment, so drenched in drama –- most of us can’t be interested in politics unless it, too, is a tear-drenched soap opera. We watch non-sequitur music videos, play endless, winless video games that feature no clear villain and no clear hero. We don’t study logic or even care to be concerned about reason.

So what happens when we have to make quick, efficient policy? We’re paralyzed by the fear that someone somewhere will have his feelings hurt or his plans inconvenienced. We hear the word “refugee” and we picture a sobbing three-year-old girl with a dirty face -– never mind the fact that the majority of European refugees have been battle-age males.

Facts, because they are often unpleasant or don’t fit our preconceived, comfortable mental images, are offensive. History, because it demonstrates clearly that progressive ideas are utterly insolvent, and because it is filled with facts, must either be rewritten or ignored. No unpleasantness allowed.

This recent kerfuffle about immigrant vetting is a good example of both courageous, logical leadership, and of the insane, over-reactive, emotional reaction of the left. How can reasonable policy be developed by people who, on the one hand hate Donald Trump because 25 years ago he said the p-word, and on the other hand march around the streets wearing vagina costumes and shrieking about blowing up the White House?

I spent 20 years teaching dance –- follow me here; I’m not off the trail -– and I always emphasized good technique because it prevents injury and allows the body to move more surely and more openly. The same is true for making policy; the right technique must be practiced. That right technique involves aiming that policy for the general mainstream, dealing with people as individuals, and using logic backed by real information. A society led by anything else will quickly slide over the edge of the falls. Then all you have left is emotion.

Deana Chadwell blogs at She is also an adjunct professor at Pacific Bible College in southern Oregon. She teaches writing and public speaking. 

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