030219-bara-news-JYMS-referendum-03 (copy)

Students use the ramp to walk to their next class March 1 at Jack Young Middle School in Baraboo.

One thing’s for sure — there are good people in every group; every occupation, congregation, organization, classroom, boardroom, etc. The problem is that it’s almost always the bad examples who get the attention and make the news.

Police departments, for one, have been under fire because a few police officers have abused their power. The ones who do their jobs with efficiency and compassion, who assist the needy, and who put their lives at stake every time they pull someone over for speeding, respond to a domestic abuse call, or apprehend a criminal rarely are in the spotlight. Firefighters, too, respond to every call even though the threat of injury or death always is present.

Healthcare workers such as emergency room and psychiatric ward staff face physical and emotional threats, but do their jobs anyway. Teachers and school counselors are under constant scrutiny by students, parents and administrators while they face major challenges as they work with an increasing number of students with mental health and other serious issues.

We often hear of greedy corporations that skimp on quality and pay low wages while their owners and executives make millions. Less well-known are companies that compensate fairly, contribute to their communities, and treat their employees and customers well. Alliant Energy, Costco and Culver’s are three that come to mind, but there are many others we rarely hear about.

Students who have behavior problems and lack respect for rules or teachers require more attention and energy than respectful students who are trying their best to learn and show responsibility. Efforts to reward students for positive behaviors have been made, but then the question arises: Should students who are merely doing what’s expected be rewarded, or should the rewards be reserved for those who go above and beyond what’s expected?

For example, if everyone always gets a reward for standing quietly in line to change classes, doesn’t that render those rewards mostly meaningless? Sometimes it does. But other students, who have behavior problems, may need positive reinforcement when they do what’s expected. It’s tricky.

Cable and network news almost always focus on negative events. Stories that cover positive, uplifting news items are given only a minute or two at the end of network news. That’s better than nothing, but wouldn’t it be great if the positive received more air time?

Newspapers include much more variety in their news coverage than do television channels. It’s possible to skip over newspaper ads, but impossible to avoid commercials unless you watch only public television. It’s unfortunate that newspaper circulation is falling.

Politicians make up another group that attracts the most attention for what they do wrong. They may be doing a lot of things right, but if citizens don’t receive their monthly emails, they have no idea what they’re fighting for or against. And, unfortunately, most people don’t have the time and/or inclination to keep track of their voting records.

Kudos should go to those lawmakers who make it a point to visit towns in their districts and listen to all the people’s concerns, and not just to those who belong to their political parties. That’s their job, but not all of them do it. If they don’t publicize their upcoming listening sessions to everyone, and not just their supporters, that means they don’t want to know what anyone else thinks or needs.

It’s true there are a lot of issues facing us that are reasons for concern: the opioid drug epidemic, prices of prescription drugs, the cost of health care in general, wages that have barely changed while business profits go through the roof, unethical redistricting that gives the most legislative seats to political parties that get fewer votes, the influence of big donors on lawmakers’ decisions, the devastating effects of climate change, gun violence, disturbing divisions between Americans that we haven’t seen since the Civil War era.

A lot of those issues could be remedied by Congress and state legislatures. But many of the lawmakers won’t act until the majority of voters demand it. That means contacting them, getting involved at a local level, and voting in every election.

It also means paying attention after elections to see if the winners do what they promised and making sure they’re held accountable for their actions. It means spending more time seeing how they vote, going to listening sessions and being involved in groups that work to make needed changes.

It’s been said that democracy isn’t easy. It takes persistence, a search for truth and knowledge and the determination to seek justice. As always, it’s up to us. If we all do our part, we’ll hear a lot more good news than bad.

Pat Nash has lived in the Baraboo area, off and on, for more than 35 years. Contact her at patnash5149@gmail.com.

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