“What are you going to do for society today?”

I had a chance to speak with Bob Driscoll, a former member of the Department of Justice during George W. Bush’s administration. Our conversation covered our duty to society, the limits of government, and what each side of the political aisle needs to learn. I also recommend reading an article he wrote on many of these topics for the New Boston Post.

What his family taught him:

My dad was a great citizen. My Grandad was a postman. My dad went to college on a military scholarship, then was in the Marines, and then became a lawyer. He asked us every night at dinner, “What are you going to do for society today?” He emphasized that it wasn’t about us. It was about the greater community. We did service at the church. My parents were active with setting up housing for Vietnamese refugees. There was always this notion that we had to be contributing something beyond our family unit.

He thinks American life has changed in the last twenty years:

Coming from a conservative perspective, I feel like because of maybe social media, or media saturation, people have lost any sense of limited government. Every problem today is a government problem. We place too much of our hopes in our federal leaders to fix our problems. That’s a cause of anxiety for both sides, depending on who’s in office. I read a piece from a psychologist that talked about how when we feel like we don’t control our lives, we are anxious. We have an outsized notion of any given impact that a federal leader has on them. People’s angst about their government is greater than the impact of the government itself.

I think what’s unique about the American experience is that we’re a society of negative rights, not positive rights. The Bill of Rights is a list of things the government cannot do to you. That’s good because it restrains government. But for others, it’s not enough. We don’t have a right to healthcare (at least legally speaking). People look to government to solve more problems, rather than the government setting the parameters by which government can solve your life.

How Democrats can improve as citizens:

People are so quick to go to motives these days. I think Democrats are, in general, a little bit quicker to do this. “If you don’t want gun control, you’re responsible for this shooting.” What I feel like saying is, “If someone calls you a baby killer, is that gonna make you pro-life?” Are you ever going to say, “I’ve never thought about it that way! Now that you put it that way, I’m going to change!” It’s the late night comedy phenomenon: everyone who disagrees with me is stupid.

How Republicans can improve:

Conservatives put things too simplistically sometimes. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Just because political correctness can bother you doesn’t mean you should be an a**hole. Pissing the right people off and being an a**hole has become a substitute for ideas. I’m halfway to the point that thinking that this is all about culture. I joked to a friend, “If Trump nationalized the energy industry overnight, no one would care so long as he tweeted something insulting about Rosie O’Donnell.”

What he thinks the average Democrat and Republican would say about one another:

It kind of depends what you mean by average. The average, meaning we randomly pick someone out of the phone book, you would think people of different political leanings are good citizens. In the real world, people aren’t that politically active, nor do they care that much about others’ politics.

But among politically active people, I don’t think they’d say people of the other side are good citizens at all. Republicans would say Democrats are f***ing communists who want the government controlling everything. And Democrats think all Republicans are racist bigots who are secretly Bull Connor.

What he’d say to a Trump voter:

To the average Trump voter, I’d say anger, even justifiable anger, is not a policy. Think about what governing means instead of just making a statement.

What he’d say to a Clinton voter:

To the average Democratic voter, I’d say get outside the bubble and make an effort to understand religious people. There’s a not unfounded perception for religious people that there’s no place for them in the Democratic Party.

Religion has informed his ideas about society:

We don’t have the idea that “if we had the right policy in place, we can fix this.” Policies help on the margins. But religious people see the sin of man. I understand that government can’t fix that. Understanding their value in the world brings them happiness. People who are more secular, democratic, liberal think “if only we could do this thing, it’d be great.” It still won’t work. Someone will take a bribe. Someone will fall on hard times. Someone will become an alcoholic.

What it means to be an America:

It just means to live in America and benefit from the freedom of structure of government. America needs people with those values of freedom and equality. But you can be a communist in America, and you’re no less American.

The thing that concerns him most about American politics:

I’m constantly amazed that no one has written about all the things that happen with (politicians’ finances). Maybe it’s because everyone is a part of the game. Bernie Sanders has been in government for 40 straight years and has three house. Same with Harry Reid. He only ever worked in government, and now he owns a suite in the Ritz. Ted Stevens, a Republican from Alaska, was investigated for corruption. His defense was two million bucks. That’s way more than he made in his career.

One Comment, RSS

  1. Linda Van Horn October 7, 2017 @ 2:37 pm

    Jamie,
    I loved reading your article in the Boston Globe- it didn’t surprise me!

    Your road trip and interviewing people is outstanding- listening to all sorts of people on their honest viewpoints! Your reflections are wonderful! I agreed with the teacher when he said, “What about the American Indians!”

    I am.very proud of you and keep doing this needed work!
    A big hug,
    Mrs. VH

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