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June 17, 2024

A Modest Proposal

By Tedi Trindle

When I was an English Literature major at Michigan State University, one of the essays I studied that really struck a chord with me was Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal". As an emerging essayist myself, I was attracted to historic essays. "A Modest Proposal", although written in 1729, is still probably the greatest example of political satire to ever greet the public consciousness.

If you are unfamiliar with the essay, or the premise, Swift's essay was written during the Irish Potato Famine. Swift was so incensed by the lack of British response to the plight of the Irish that he "modestly proposed" that the solution to the problem was simple. The Irish would survive the famine quite easily if they would only take up the practice of eating their young.

Now, obviously, Swift was not advocating the braising and garnishing of Irish children. But I've always admired Swift's ability to cut to the chase and point out what should be obvious to everyone and seems to be obvious to no one. In Swift's, and Ireland's, case, an entire population which the British wanted dominion over was, due to the potato blight, literally starving to death. Yet the British were doing nothing to resolve the problem. In short, they wanted to make all the political decisions, but they did not want to take responsibility for the welfare of the people.

The parallels to the current political situation in the USA are, I think, manifold. On both sides of the aisle, there is a hunger for power and dominion. But there is very little desire to step up to the plate, take responsibility for, and address the welfare of the American people. This should be an elected democratic government's first and foremost priority. It should override any other interest, be it personal, political, or financial. What is best for the most citizens?

I see an obvious solution. It is not the least bit satirical, or even partisan. Although I do have partisan opinions, they are strongly outweighed by my opinions on human welfare.

My own modest proposal is that, the next time we (you and I) go to the polls, be it local, regional, state or federal, we put aside our personal "hot button" issues for just one moment and ask ourselves one simple question. "Is the person I am voting for well-educated, well-read, and well-versed in the skill of critical thinking?" If you are not a person who is one or any of those things, I'd urge you to ask yourself, "Is this person clearly and obviously smarter and better educated than I am?"

Because I want my leaders to be smarter than me, intellectually. I want them to approach a political problem with an open mind, not an agenda. I want them to gather as much information as is available to them, sort through it, and critically arrive at an informed decision. I want to trust that my representative always has my best interests at heart, even though I may not fully understand the processes by which my representative arrived at his or her decision.

I don't want to be pandered to, and I don't want to be manipulated. I want to be lead. I want to trust my leaders. That is my modest proposal.

Article © Tedi Trindle. All rights reserved.
Published on 2006-06-05
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