Roger Barbee: Maintenance always needed

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 18, 2023

The house in which we live was constructed in 1996, but it is not completed. Yes, the builder planted shrubs and flowers, paid all the workers, and placed a For Sale sign in the front yard. In that way, our house was finished. However, anyone who has ever lived in any dwelling for a length of time, knows that it will always need attention. It may need a repair because something breaks; it may need preventative maintenance like painting; it may be given what my wife refers to as “upgrades;” and it will need regular cleaning to maintain its fabric and perhaps, if the inhabitants are so inclined, its luster.

Everything deemed important or necessary in life needs and even requires maintenance. Relationships, vehicles, health care, pets, and even the unsightliness lawn will need some care. Thus, as a person who came of awareness during the 1960s and was a member of the brigade of young people who fought for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam, I have been thinking of maintenance for the past several months because it seems that we of that generation have become lax in our maintaining of what was gained during those years.

While I won’t write for others of my generation, I admit to becoming too busy elsewhere and forgetting to continue the struggle. As I aged my interest became focused on things such as my career, my marriages, my children, and other facts of my expanding life. You could even say that life replaced my passion for equality and change and my “No more war” philosophy. I went on to a career and family, thinking that the work was done. But through the years certain situations, such as the horrible response by President Reagan to the AIDS epidemic, would ignite the old flame; or sometimes a child’s question or comment would illicit a fevered response; yet generally all my energy was placed elsewhere, secure in the false sense that what had been accomplished those 50-odd years ago was still alive and thriving.

It’s not.

Many issues face our country and require serious actions. Gun safety; abortion; voting rights; the influence of big donors in many facets of political life; the integrity of our elected officials and jurists; the rise of would-be autocrats; and the use of gerrymandering are just a few of the issues that have risen to threaten our Republic.

We need a political revival to move us back to a more central way of governing and it matters not which “side” you are on. After all, we all are Americans and unless we stand united, we will fail. Yet, while some of us dozed off in false security, self-serving and autocratic forces gained control by questionable means. We now have super-majority state legislatures that have absolute control over their states and the decisions of such bodies fill many parts of life from appointed boards to local school boards. A supermajority is akin to when a child knows which parent will “give in” to his or her pleads and thus conquers and divides the family by such one-sided decisions. And that holds true for any legislative body that is overly controlled by either Republicans or Democrats. It is not healthy.

During my active days of the ’60s, we mobilized and held protests. While some of those events were sadly violent, most were peaceful, and those peaceful marches were the ones that changed minds and eventually policies. While much has changed since then, the basics of how to change policy have not; but we must act before more damage is done. A mass mobilization is needed to correct our ship and help our Republic thrive again instead of withering on the vine of its past successes.

A political revival in which we older radicals of the ’60s participate could lead to us hearing secular altar calls that ignite a fire, and we could then form or join a cross-generational brigade much like the Tennessee Three and begin working to repair the damage. We need the fervor of the secular altar call to get us out and active in helping to correct America’s course. Many good policy changes came out of the 60s and now basic maintenance for those and other needed programs is vital for our country’s health.

The lawyer Ostrovsky tells prisoner Yakov in The Fixer, “In a sick country every step to health is an insult to those who live on its sickness.” It is time to make our sick Republic better.

Roger Barbee lives in Mooresville. Contact him at