Author explains why ‘liberal’ isn’t such a bad word
Jim Buthman of Flagstaff, Ariz., is the kind of liberal with whom even conservatives would enjoy sharing a beer. his own count, Buthman says he has had a million jobs. He has worked as a guitar manufacturer, substitute teacher, a bartender on a gambling boat, an ecological researcher, a salesman for Pepsi and the financial adviser for a Toyota dealership.
Today, he is the author of a new book, "America Matters: Why We Should Care." Buthman will be at Dolly’s Bookstore at 510 Main Street Thursday, Aug. 14, from 4-6 p.m. to talk politics with customers.
"All you have to do is call someone a liberal and the discussion ends there," he said in a telephone interview Monday. "It’s a very common theme when you talk to people. They say the government sucks."
"America Matters" is an ambitious anti-screed meant to help liberals and conservatives find common ground to discuss important national issues, Buthman says. The 137-page text delves into the American psyche, the rhetoric of politicians, and the legacy of the founding fathers. Some of the sub chapters are titled "Optimism and Negativity," "The Rule of Fear," and "Angry Amerika." Other pages are devoted to national policy, homeland security and personal debt.
Buthman earned his bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University in political science and a master’s degree from Northern Arizona University. He is currently working toward a PhD in political science at Northern Arizona University.
The range of topics in the index are as varied as Buthman’s own experience. The book may seem sprawling to some, but the first-time author says his goal is to get people talking, not answer all their questions.
Buthman started the project in 2003, during the 2004 presidential campaign. Born in 1969 in Chicago, Buthman notes that in his 40 years, he has only seen two Democratic presidents, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. "Saying you’re a liberal is a difficult thing," he said. "I think it has become a bad word in our society."
Although Buthman identifies himself as a diehard Democrat who campaigned for Kerry four years ago, he doesn’t vote strictly for people in his party. The impetus behind releasing the book during an election year, he says, is to attract average Americans who have been turned off from politics in the past. "I’m not trying to say we all need to be on the same page," he explained. "But the only way to change things is to get people more interested."
Buthman voted twice for John McCain when he ran for re-election to U.S. Senate. This November, the Chicago native says he will likely vote for another person from Illinois: Barrack Obama.
Buthman blames incendiary cable news shows such as "Crossfire" for stifling real discussion between people of different political parties. "’Crossfire’ became the model for all the other TV news shows: two extremists sitting there not discussing the issues."
One sign of the public’s incipient dislike for political wrangling is the eye rolls Buthman gets when he says he has written a book on the subject. "Our general conception is that politics is dirty, corrupt and bad," Buthman said. "In my interaction with regular folks I get a lot of cynical comments, how we’re all doomed. It’s either how the liberals have destroyed the country or how George Bush has destroyed the country."
A more constructive approach would be to uncover the systemic roots of corruption and work to end it, he says.
In "America Matters," Buthman uses Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan as archetypes for effective leadership. Both leaders accomplished the most when they were forced to work with Congressmen from across the aisle. "I’m trying to show people that dialogue and discussion is very important," Buthman said. "This is democracy, man. We’re not going to fix everything.
Buthman, who spent time studying the ecosystem in Moab as a master’s student, named the environment as the most pressing issue America faces today.
The U.S. stature in the world and education were next on his list.
To purchase a copy of "America Matters: Why We Should Care," go to http://www.politicsandnature.com or meet the autor at Dolly’s Bookstore Aug. 14 from 4-6 p.m. on Main Street.
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