Last week I had a chance conversation with a friend who succinctly summarized part of what many of us ordinary people have been thinking about present-day politics: "I just want to understand how some of these policies and pieces of legislation will affect me."
Well, I thought, maybe politicians and pundits do explain their versions and it's like studying the Bible from different translations: It may be a matter of interpretation.
It's like hearing descriptions given by five different people who witnessed the same event. And most of the time we don't have the luxury of the NFL: We can't go back and study the replay. Incidentally, we also don't always have the chance to "take a peek" or "buy a Mulligan" as did the contestants in R.E.A.D.'s fun-filled "Are You Smarter Than a 10-year-old?" fundraiser.)
My friend is also a retired educator, so we have some of the same interests, like the fate of public schools, health insurance policies, pensions, etc.
As former state employees, are we part of that infamous 47 percent?
Exactly how is the Affordable Health Care Act to affect our State Health Benefit Plan as it fits into Medicare?
What will we have if that act is repealed?
We definitely get differing opinions as answers.
Does anybody have definitive answers?
Does it all depend upon whether or not the U.S. Congress and our own state legislators can stop bickering and blocking and can make constructive decisions?
As U.S. citizens, we are also concerned about many other topics: For example, will it make any difference whether we pull out of Afghanistan early or on the present time line?
Will tribal leaders regain their powers - or have they ever really lost them?
Can we as Americans effectively change a culture that existed before our nation was even created?
How does that affect our security?
Although self-interest is basic to human nature, I believe that our individual interests are best served when the focus of government, including education and regulations, is on the public good.
Living together in civilized society demands that focus, not only in lip service, but in actions. When those in power focus only on themselves, or a favored few, the oppressed and/or neglected will eventually rebel.
One point that I have always stressed - as a teacher in school and Sunday school, as part of a family or an organization - is that individuals must make choices.
There is no such thing as not choosing: If I do not choose to get up from a chair, I have made the choice to stay put. And if I do not or cannot make a choice, eventually someone will make it for me.
Therefore, as long as I can think at least somewhat reasonably, I shall try to align myself with others whose choices are most nearly like my own.
Determining how others give answers and promote actions are important to me - and to you.
That choice-making, that alignment, that determination applies not only to politics but to our other priorities.
How will I spend my time, my money, my efforts?
Collectively, as we choose, we do make a difference.
Helen Taylor's column appears periodically in the Dawson Community News.