Not Fair! But, Life isn't Fair!

When my kids were little, they would repeatedly tell me that something wasn't fair. And I, repeatedly, would tell them, "life isn't fair."

It continued, however, even past college years. One time, pushing 30, one of them told me we weren't being fair because we had more photos of the other offspring hanging in the hall than pictures of the complainer.

I only repeated my old adage that, "life isn't fair."

A few weeks ago, during a discussion of the chad and dimple mess on CNN, the moderator asked his panel of journalists if they thought the ultimate outcome of the process would be fair to the candidates.

One of the journalists, a bright young reporter for a national news magazine, said she didn't think the outcome would be fair to either Bush or Gore. But she went on to say that she didn't like the word fair. In fact, she added, we shouldn't even teach our children the word "fair."

Why not?

Well, she said life just isn't fair. And teaching our kids about fairness is to set them up for a lifetime of disappointments and unrealistic expectations.

I suppose teaching fairness would be OK if we were to have our children believe that every young athlete would become a Ted Williams or a Rebecca Lobo, every aspiring entrepreneur would become a Sam Walton or Bill Gates and every young musician would become John Lennon or Ludwig van Beethoven. Ultimate fairness would, under this philosophy, mean that everyone would be "the best."

Yes, the real problem is that things don't always seem to be "fair." In life, politics, or anything else. But why not teach them about the value of striving for fairness.

The MCAS tests come to mind. Some parents say the tests aren't "fair" to students. Maybe not. Maybe one size doesn't fit all. Maybe the tests aren't a fair reflection of our teachers; our school boards; our school systems. But taxpayers are saying "not fair" to keep spending more money without some system to monitor our progress in improving education in Massachusetts.

"Not fair" say those of us in the Western part of the state when it comes to money for highways and deteriorating bridges. Let's face it, we are in the minority when it comes to the state's population. Fewer people. Fewer dollars. In Boston, more people, more dollars, more legislative voices.

Not fair? Of course not. We deserve good roads and bridges. So your Western Mass legislators keep working on the problem and do our best to have our minority voice heard.

Senior citizens, eking by on Social Security, can't afford the prescription drugs they need. Not fair? Of course not. But in the long list of services that the government can provide with tax dollars, this has not been a big issue until recent years. As our elderly population grows in size and becomes more vocal, their efforts to make us all aware of this problem are paying off. We will have to make changes so we all can afford the medications we require in our senior years.

It's not fair that so many requested legislative initiatives die each session? Thousands are filed (as many as 8000). Few are passed (about 300 to 400 a session). But this is the only State in the Union that allows any citizen to request legislation. So we end up with tons of ideas and get to only a few of them. Would it be fairer to ban citizen legislative initiatives? I don't think so.

What is it that we teach our children about this word "fair?" Isn't it better that they understand what fair means? That we work to make things fairer. All men may be created equal, but it doesn't take long to learn that equality doesn't bring fairness.

Which is why our kids need to learn about fairness. They need to learn how to assume personal responsibility to help make this country, this world, a fairer place to be. And, I'll take fair over entitlement. Personal responsibility over letting the other guy take care of things.

So life, indeed, isn't fair, my friends.

Now, what are we going to do about it?

In the legislature this year, we'll be focusing on all of the problems mentioned-medical costs, education and MCAs, roads and bridges-and a lot of other issues. All I can promise my constituents is that I will try to be fair to all. But that means listening to all points of view, and trying to make the best decisions possible, so when I vote on the floor I will have researched the issue and vote with some intelligence. And you may well disagree with my votes.

So, be fair, let's talk. Before and after I vote. And we'll both listen.

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