Politics: The Battlefield of Morality

How can anyone vote for Donald Trump?
How can anyone support the Democratic Party?

Anyone confused by how it’s all come to this?

When you look at some of the fundamentals of human nature and society, it really isn’t any wonder that we’re here today, staring at the biggest stand-off in awhile.

Politics is simply the manifestation a much broader and more important battle over morality. Whatever is deemed morally correct by the majority of the population usually gets the satisfaction of being translated into law. Therefore, we see the constant tug-of-war over which set of moral beliefs wins. How many do you have pulling for your side? Better rally the troops.

In ancient times when two groups needed to duke it out, each side would send in a champion to fight on their behalf. This saved thousands of lives and settled numerous disputes. I feel like our presidential election has become, in large part, a similar way of settling our disagreements. One champion wins one year, another champion wins another. If we’re the losers, better luck next time. Right?

Except, the stakes seem to be so much higher each time. Efforts seem to have exponentially increased to push the masses one way or another. Why? Why have things gotten so intense? 

Because the moral divide between the two main ideologies ruling this country have been pulling further and further apart to where we’re now so strained, we’re reaching a breaking point. 

We need answer these two questions:

How can anyone vote for Donald Trump?

And

How can anyone support the Democratic Party? (Because, let’s be honest, this election has less to do with Joe Biden.)

To answer either question I’m going to have to back up and engage in a moral discussion. This moral discussion, however, will come from the side we are trying to understand. If we have been enjoying the luxury of only validating our own moral perspective, this should be a good exercise. 

How can anyone vote for Donald Trump?

Over the years the moral debates that have surfaced have gradually put conservative values in second place. 

We see this in the question over sexual morality. Television and movies at one point wouldn’t even show a married couple occupying the same bed. Now, pre-marital sex is no big deal, assumed even, as long as those involved are consenting adults (or teens with no more than three years between them). Abstinence was once the reliable premarital birth control. Sex Ed now fills young minds with ways to engage in protected sex, as long as they are not transmitting sexual diseases. Divorce once difficult and condemned, is now remedied with co-habitation and “irreconcilable differences”. 

Same-sex couples who once engaged in different lifestyle choices are now receiving the same legal status as a man and wife. The L and the G are now joined by an ever growing number of letters and identities which question the understood male and female variety of our species. Legislation is overturned at the courts. The constant moving target of “acceptability” seems to be slowly excluding those who are not on board with the edits and changes. 

On the moral question of life, abortion rights are argued as a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body. A fetus is a mass of cells with no feelings and no rights. This view is simply unacceptable. Watching this debate deteriorate into haggling over body parts, it is clear that the battle for the right to life is far from over.

On the battlefield of these moral debates, we find religion at its center. Can religion maintain its Constitutional protections in the face of so many changes? Does religion find itself on the chopping block of outdated and conflicting ideas? The fear is real as conservatives consider the slow and eroding changes that have already taken place.

The rest of the moral issues converge on these, adding more momentum to the sense that liberty is tied to morality, and both are in the crosshairs. 

In walks Donald Trump, unafraid to be crass and better at the immoral game than the enemy. He is large and unbeatable, dishing out sweet revenge on those who have constantly sent volley after volley of immorality into pop culture, public education, and the home. Why wouldn’t someone vote for the person who can best defeat the growing mammoth of government control and legislating from the bench? The fact that he is immoral almost makes him perfect for the task. And above all, whether he lives them or not, it matters that he fights for conservative values.

Whether or not Donald Trump is defeated, this issue will remain as long as morality is up for debate.

How can anyone support the Democratic Party?

Since the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, it is clear that not everyone was included as deserving those unalienable rights to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”. While the Democratic Party has endured several makeovers, it is now the standard that calls all who fight for the rights of those who have been excluded (implicitly or explicitly) from those sanctioned rights. 

Each step of progress has taken tremendous effort and enormous sacrifice. On the battlefield lay the Brown Family, Jane Roe, Harvey Milk and Marsha Johnson, Steven Engel, and Alice Paul. Each victory opened another door to let in those oppressed and marginalized by the majority of society. There are more battles to fight and more needed victories to win. 

Standing high and casting a shadow on the happiness of so many others is the mammoth of institutional religion. It hides behind the notions of “love” while denying love. It claims religious freedom while stripping the liberties and freedoms from others. In the name of God, people justify bigotry, hate, and discrimination. Do they really believe in this God? Or is it simply the pedestal to stand on to keep others down? 

Religious notions have been the root cause of self-destructive thoughts and public rejection. It perpetuates shame and leaves people homeless and alone. The conservative offers tithes to the Church, but begrudges the taxes needed for education, healthcare, and social programs. They worship capitalism and industry, picking as their new god a businessman who represents the core beliefs that have contributed to so much suffering and misery in this world. 

For those who care at all for the liberty and happiness of others, people must come together under the Democratic banner to defeat Donald Trump.

Whether or not they are victorious, this fight will remain as long as others create stumbling blocks for progress.

What can we do?

It is worthless to debate who has the moral upper hand. We have come to this point because one group or another believes they are defending and upholding the right set of moral values. The current tactics include shaming, unfriending, and bewilderment. We try to kill our enemies with “kindness” and feed each other information that only validates one side. We continue to see casualties of our friends and relatives and lament that there is nothing we can do. 

Stop. 

Stop unfriending, stop preaching, stop trying to make the other person “see”. Stop discrediting, stop tearing down, stop excusing behavior. 

Until we come together and negotiate terms that leave both sides feeling satisfied, we will continue to see new Goliaths emerge, one bigger and uglier than the last.

The key to winning the moral question is simple. It starts with a small stone. Do you cast it or use it to build something new?

Voter Experiment

I have received a lot of questions about Proposition 9, an item on the ballot in Utah County that would change the structure of county government. As a state senator, I would not be able to impact local government organization. However, the discussion around this particular topic has made me curious whether there might be a better way for voters to make decisions like this. I mean, a “yes” or “no” vote doesn’t say much, but maybe there’s a way to say a lot more.

Take this informal survey to see what voting could look like when addressing more serious issues like changing government structure. This survey combines simple yes/no questions as well as ranked choice voting.

Disclaimer — this survey is NOT official and has no bearing or impact whatsoever on this election. Results will be shared publicly for those interested. Personal information is not collected in this survey.

The Women in My Neighborhood

Today we celebrate 100 years of women having the right to vote.

But something has been frustrating me lately. Various groups recognize the strength and power of the women’s vote. They try to push us into action and get us to care about various causes, political issues, or certain elections. But they all seem to miss one vitally important fact about women.

We don’t all think the same.

I love that.

While we all try to navigate this election, it helps to have things that keep us grounded. For me, it’s the example of the women in my neighborhood. No matter how crazy and brutal political discussions get online (or in real life), I feel uplifted and strengthened by my neighbors. We don’t believe in all of the same things, but we are all doing our best to make the world a better place. Let me share a few inspiring stories.

One neighbor is extremely passionate in pretty much everything she does. She’s going to school and raising a house full of boys. She doesn’t let failures stop her. She is amazing.

Another neighbor several years ago shattered both of her feet. The thought of not being able to walk again didn’t paralyze her with fear, but inspired her to push herself to prove the doctors wrong. She now regularly hikes mountains — on her own two feet. Having overcome her own health challenge, she now strengthens her family, and our whole community. She shares her thoughts of hope and inspiration. She’s vulnerable about the days she’s feeling low alongside her moments of strength. 

Several mothers have stared down the fear of giving birth during this pandemic. Each one of them have not only faced their own fears, but reached out to help and lift others. 

One neighbor can tell you so many things about each family in the neighborhood. Invested in the welfare of her community, this neighbor pays attention and loves the people that surround her. Though she struggles with her own internal battles, she is there to fight alongside any friend or neighbor who needs her help.

Another neighbor regularly reaches out to me to see how I’m doing. Regardless of the multiple things on her own plate, and in spite of her own struggles, she never fails to think of others and make sure they are doing okay. 

And speaking of plates, several neighbors regularly share food. Food from their garden and meals that they’ve made. I think that’s just amazing. 

Another neighbor, at the start of this pandemic, started making story book videos for the kids in our neighborhood. Such love and care has helped me find that inner angel in those moments of dealing with less-than-angelic children. 

There are neighbors who jump right in when there’s an opportunity to serve. Whether that’s helping me with my insane mask-making project or stopping by to share some flowers, the joy these women spread is refreshing.

And not to wander back into the political topic, but several neighbors have helped me understand political issues better by taking the time to talk with me. I learn so much from listening to these women’s perspectives.

We are not all the same. We shouldn’t be the same. We agree sometimes and disagree other times. Each of the women I know personally represents the strength that comes from diversity, when it’s combined with caring for one another. It’s not about getting people to vote a certain way or to act a certain way. It’s about helping us feel our own value. 

So to all of the women out there — regardless of your political positions, your favorite version of Pride and Prejudice, or where you see yourself in five years — you are strong, you are brave, and you can change the world.

Reigniting the Fire

I remember walking home one day from my university American Heritage class and feeling so inspired! “The United States of America is an amazing place to live,” I thought, “not just because of the freedoms we enjoy, but because of the miracle of how it was formed.” As I walked, I recalled moments of the semester. We learned that the Founding Fathers managed to work together and pull off, against all odds, an impossible feat that would launch us forward as an independent nation. It took courage. It involved great risk. But the Founding Fathers knew that life could not continue on its present course. Something needed to change.

Since that inspiring class, I am sad to admit that the fire within me fizzled and died. I saw the realities of the political environment and concluded that there was no place for me. Things seemed to move along fine without me. 

Years went by and I found other ways to make a positive impact on the world. My life journey eventually took me overseas where my husband and I worked to help other countries improve on their democratic ideals. And then a few years ago it hit us that we might need to focus on the democratic ideals at home. 

Coming home to a divided country has been interesting. I have family all along the political spectrum, all equally passionate about their positions. I haven’t had the luxury of an echo chamber, or a group of like-minded individuals who simply reinforce what I already think. I have had some tough conversations that have stretched me and required me to reach deeper within myself and my personal beliefs. I have found myself understanding my own ideals better. I have made some adjustments when a conversation has shed light on areas where I had more to learn. I have found connections with people I never thought possible. 

And through this whole process, I find myself getting inspired again! I find myself eager to learn and eager to express hope for the future. 

Democracy is not easy. I have come to appreciate that more as I’ve worked with countries that go for the easier, tyrannical way of running a country. Democracy requires effort. We can’t force other people to just go along with the things we believe are right. It takes work to recognize true connections, true and lasting solutions to our problems that lead us to a path forward — together. We have to especially do our best to not leave anyone behind. 

Looking back at what it took our Founding Fathers to unite the colonies and bring about our independence, I hope to have that same courage regardless of the odds. I have hope for the future and believe we can bring about lasting change for the better. Because looking at the way things are going, something needs to change.

So here I am, running for Senate District 7 with the United Utah Party (UUP). Let’s see what great things we can do!

A Change of Heart

In March, when a lot of us started quarantining and social distancing, I was chatting with a friend about all of the changes, and I happened to mention face masks. Immediately she said, “I would never be caught dead wearing a mask.” I was kind of surprised she already had such firm feelings about it.

As April rolled around, I started making a few face masks, mostly because I can sew and I had people asking for some. I figured it couldn’t hurt to be prepared. A thought came to make one for this friend. The thought kind of terrified me, fearing that by the simple gesture I might offend her. Somehow, though, I got up enough courage, made one and gave it to her. To my surprise, she graciously accepted it. (Whew!) Thinking back, I am really not all that surprised because she is a nice person, but at the time, I had worked myself up to imagine some real fireworks. Later, I asked her if I had offended her by making her a face mask. She chuckled and said she wasn’t offended, but that she didn’t expect to wear it much.

Later however, and being the good friend that she is, she sent me a message and thanked me for making it, in spite of her initial reaction. She said that several times she was happy to have it in her purse since a few places had started requiring masks. She said it made her feel good to have a nice one to pull out and put on, even though she didn’t exactly agree that she needed it.

We have had the occasional discussion about everything going on. She looks at how everyone is acting and reacting, and comments on how it’s all a little overdone (or a lot overdone). She is concerned about the fear that’s being generated by everything. She disagrees with the enormous amount of responsibility being placed on the government to make decisions for us. Even with her own personal beliefs, she has volunteered her time and helped sew face masks for others. 

But then, she faced a real challenge as the messages from various leaders in her life have become more direct in saying that we need to wear facemasks in public. She didn’t say this directly to me, but I can imagine that having the same messages of “the other side” coming from people that she respects might have created some feelings similar to betrayal. How could they be saying the same things that all of these overhyped people are saying? How could they be telling her to put on a mask?

It was a few days that we didn’t talk and I wasn’t sure what she was thinking or feeling. When we finally connected again, I asked her how she was doing with this whole thing. “It’s been rough,” she admitted. She explained that at first, she didn’t want to have to go along with what everyone else has been saying. She didn’t want to have to give up her position and her belief that masks aren’t important. She had to take some personal time to reflect and understand why all of this mattered. In the end, she concluded that while she still might not agree with all of what people have been saying, she decided that she wanted to move forward and support the more fundamental things that she believes in.

I share this story not so that you all feel guilty and put your masks on. It’s just that I can’t help admiring my friend. I have reflected again and again on what she did. She went from thinking and believing very strongly one way, to being willing to do something else. That is HARD. That is really hard. I think about the amount of humility it must have taken her. I think about what our communities, and society, would be like if we had more people like her. 

I want to be more like her.

Legislative Special Session – Special Needs Scholarship

As we follow the Legislative special session to address the emergency created by the COVID-19 pandemic, an odd bill stands out in the line-up. HB 332 is a bill, which passed during the regular legislative session but was vetoed by the governor earlier this year, is making another pass with the hope of getting enough support to overturn the veto.

But honestly, what is this bill and what does it do? Essentially, HB 332 would give corporations, as well as individuals, income tax credit for donating money for the purpose of helping private schools accommodate students with disabilities through a scholarship program – the Special Needs Opportunity Scholarship Program. This scholarship program would be managed by the State Board of Education. As it oddly sticks out, it’s interesting trying to peel back the layers and understand this bill.

To begin, the difference between a public and a private school has a lot to do with accountability and oversight. By definition, a private school is free from government entities looking over their shoulder. For those who don’t like certain aspects of public education, it is their right to pay tuition or seek scholarships to attend a private school. Most people agree that choices in education are important, including the choice to attend a private school.

Okay, so students and parents should have choices, even students with special needs. As a person who serves as an American Sign Language interpreter, I agree wholeheartedly!

But there are a few important questions we need to ask. Should we give corporate donors tax breaks because they donate to the Special Needs Opportunity Scholarship Program? Does giving an income tax break to corporations impact our revenue? Does it put an undue burden on the State Board of Education?

I would argue yes. Here’s why.

Does giving an income tax break to corporations impact our revenue?

Income tax is how we pay for education. As we give corporations tax breaks, the amount of money we can collect for education goes down. This leaves fewer dollars to cover the needs of the state. So though the state would not be paying for the scholarships directly, we would be paying indirectly in lost revenue.

Does it put an undue burden on the State Board of Education?

This is probably the most important question. Because private schools are not required to follow the rules and regulations that public schools do, there is still a need to provide oversight for the care of special needs students receiving an education at a private school. Each student qualifies for this Special Needs Opportunity Scholarship by having an IEP (students under the Individualized Education Program — supported by IDEA – Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). Receiving and maintaining an IEP is intense and requires at least five different people. IEPs are evaluated at least every three years and in the case of a private school, would have to be conducted by the local public school. So a public school would still have to be responsible for the educational goals and responsibilities of a special needs student, but would have no say or control over the measures taken to meet the needs of the Education Plan.

In addition to all of that, the State Board of Education would become responsible for this private school’s scholarship program, managing the funds, determining qualified applicants, and conducting any follow up and oversight to ensure proper use of the funds. That all requires additional money that would be paid for by the state.

Hmm….

I have wondered why this particular bill is so important, especially given that we already have the Carson Smith Scholarship Program which essentially does the same thing. The one thing that stands out as a difference between the Carson Smith Scholarship Program (CSSP) and the proposed Special Needs Opportunity Scholarship Program (SNOSP) is the source of funding. CCSP is funded through the general fund and controlled by the legislature. Funds for the SNOSP but is donation based and is tied to an income tax credit.

I also can’t help but notice that one of the bill’s sponsors, Senator Lincoln Fillmore, is a former private school principal.

Studying this bill and trying to understand the real reasons for pushing it through at such a time as this makes me feel all the more certain that we need to be understanding these issues and making decisions together.

If indeed we feel that it’s important to support students with special needs having the choice they would otherwise not have to attend a private school, I would love to understand that point better. I would also love to round out that discussion with appreciating and understanding the efforts made by public schools to equally serve the needs of all students, including those with special needs.

Let us all continue to understand and learn together.

Face Mask Fundraiser

Life is challenging as we do our best to adapt since the outbreak of COVID-19. As new information becomes available, we do our best to apply best practices. One of the things our health leaders advise is the use of a face mask.

Therefore, I would like to make free face masks to anyone who donates to my campaign.

How does it work?

Make a donation to one of our candidates and then send an e-mail with your order to emilybergeson@uupforsd7.com. Please include:

  • Fabric selection
  • Size
  • Strap preference (elastic or ties)
  • Quantity

I will contact you to confirm your order and delivery preferences. I am also happy to send masks to other friends and relatives. I can work with you on the details.

Questions? Contact me at emilybergeson@uupforsd7.com

Sizes: men, women, teen, youth (7-12), child (3-6)

All masks are made according to the design pictured above. These masks are made with a white quilters cotton lining (the part that touches the face) and has a choice of elastic around the ears or ties. These masks do not have wire around the nose. For custom requests or questions, feel free to contact me!

Fabric choices (please check regularly as choices are based on supply):

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Cherry checkered
(loose weave poly-cotton)
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Garden flowers
(flannel)
Berries
(stiff cotton blend)
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Flowers on green background
(quilters cotton)
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Alligators
(quilters cotton)
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Summertime
(quilters cotton)
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Noah’s ark repair
(quilter’s cotton)
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Light green crosshatch
(flannel)
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Red with white polka dots
(quilters cotton)
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Red and navy plaid
(flannel)
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Silly dogs
(flannel)
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Light blue
(quilters cotton)
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navy blue
(quilters cotton)

Also available in plain white.