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Talk less, listen more

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I normally do not do a tit-for-tat response to my letters to the editor, but I am making an exception here.

In his 12/12/2021 letter, Mr. Hulse claims I misrepresented Sen. Manzella’s recent actions. Although he was right in pointing out that she was not technically the keynote speaker at the Clinton God, Country, Family Tour meeting, according to the poster she was a “Special Guest Speaker”.

Although I stand corrected on this point, Mr. Hulse affirmed that Sen. Manzella did advocate on behalf of a COVID-19 patient in Helena, an individual who is not a constituent in her district. Unfortunately, he missed the major point of my letter. I was suggesting that Sen. Manzella could be more effective by tending to business closer to home advocating for her constituents and that she could better use her time and the privilege of her position to tackle valley-wide issues over which she could have some influence.

Mr. Hulse’s defense of her work “protecting my rights” did help clarify some of our differences of opinion. For me, it isn’t really the issue of protecting “individual” rights, but one of differing views of the role of the government: what services are needed and who pays.

He stated “…government’s role is to secure the rights and freedoms of liberty, not to provide benefits. No one has a right to something for which others have to pay.” I respectfully disagree. Yes, it is vital that “rights” afforded to us by the Constitution are protected. However, passing laws, policies and regulations needed to achieve the collective good of our “united states” is also critical.

The day-to-day job of government is to govern. Only government can provide the many health and safety services and programs that aren’t profitable for the private sector but needed to make our nation strong and resilient. We all benefit from government support of public education, a safe highway system, law enforcement, a safe food supply, to name just a few. Equally important, government can take the long view for the public good by investing in people, an investment critical to sustaining our nation. Since I see only the good that comes from these services and investments, I can’t understand why someone would advocate for our government to ignore our health and well being.

Although most of us can agree that some level of service is appropriate, the difficult questions remain: how big is too big and who and how much should we pay? To answer this, we must go beyond sound bites and campaign slogans and get into the weeds to better understand what it means to govern. We must be willing to talk to each other to find common ground. What are the goals and roles of government? Where is the balance point between protecting personal liberties, promoting public responsibility, and attaining social justice? How can government achieve the collective good, as I believe it should.

Currently, our nation is in a state of unrest and is in dire need of open and honest discussion regarding the role of government. Since we voters hold the ultimate power, we need to be well informed, know the facts and understand what we are getting and what we are giving up. Finding agreement on what our government should and shouldn’t do is hard and complicated work. Sen. Manzella could help improve the effectiveness of government by listening more to all her constituents to improve her understanding of the wants and needs of citizens of Ravalli County. She could help find that balance. The question is: Will she?

— Margaret Gorski, Stevensville


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