Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
We’re working to raise $11,000 in just 24 hours. Give during Giving Tuesday today and you can help UPR close an $11,000 budget gap. GIVE HERE to help us reach the goal!

Citizen's Academy: Introduction to relationism

The U.S. Capitol Building.
Louis Velazquez

My daughter recently decided to take a little bicycle ride with her 14 year-old son. Two weeks later they were off on a 3,000-mile ride across the United States. Afterward, their deepest impression was that this country is filled with a lot of really nice ... good people.

Not a place where they might have expected people dying in the streets, mass shootings, power-based political gridlock and economic danger, a paralyzing medical pandemic, racial protests, a physical attack on the nation's government, communities and institutions overwhelmed with illegal immigrants and political refugees, and a smoldering standoff over what to do about unwanted pregnancies. On top of all that, we are told that our natural environment is teetering on disaster.

It is this second face of America that now concerns us. It is worrisome. For some, fearsome. But we believe we are not without hope. Perhaps, not yet, because of the genuine goodness of our people and our foundational institutions.

My name is Richard Ratliff. I am your host. The series will air weekly from July through November this year, 2022, in preparation for our November elections.

I think there may be a way to help. A way we all can adopt without demonizing or criticizing anyone else, one where we actually need each other's differences. There is no club to join, no need to change political stripes, no need for new governmental infrastructure or reorganization. We need no new political party, no new laws, no new taxes (in fact, we probably could even lower taxes for everyone, and still pay our gargantuan, dangerously threatening national debt). We need no new economic theory. We need not abandon or revise our constitution. And the curing effects can begin almost immediately.

So, what can we do? We can begin with a simple observation of how society works. We also might add a new word to our political vocabulary: relationism. And, of course, it will require us to vote.

First, a personal observation of how society works. The idea is that the defining characteristic of society is its relationships. Without relationships, there is no society. A healthy society enjoys an abundance of healthy relationships of all types. An unhealthy society suffers too many unhealthy relationships that threaten virtually every other aspect of life as we know it. Fortunately, we have a pretty good idea of how good (and bad) relationships work. In upcoming programs, we will discuss how healthy relationships work and how to fix unhealthy relationships even when we disagree.

Right now, our society is suffering. A nation of good people, bogged down in political mire, vitriol, conflict and a stubborn case of gridlock. All a result of bad relationships, where what divides us has confused and blurred what unites us. Perhaps if we fix the relationships, we could fix everything else.

This series of programs is grounded in this basic idea and four simple statements, together composing what I call relationism. If we can agree on these statements, perhaps we can agree on what to do about it. Consider the following:

(1) Good relationships are better for everyone involved than bad relationships ... and they cost less. Often, a lot less.

(2) The main purpose of government is to create an environment where good relationships thrive.

(3) Good government is conducted primarily by good relationships.

(4) Our job as citizens is to find, elect and support government leaders who possess outstanding relationship skills and who have robust relationship portfolios, including with those who disagree with them.

We will discuss in weeks to come how these ideas apply in current political issues, and how a simple change of mind from power-based to relationship-based can change everything. I am a political relationist. You may be, too. I hope so.

Richard Ratliff is a retired professor from Utah State University and lives in Cache Valley. He writes and presents Citizen's Academy for Utah Public Radio, airing Tuesdays at 9:55 a.m. and 7:55 p.m.