The news this past week has been grim. There is no way to sugarcoat it, and to say otherwise would simply be a glib response. I don’t usually tackle topics like this, but it is what has been on my mind and I write from the heart. This is simply how I feel; I am not asking you to agree or disagree with me, but I do think we need to sit down and have a conversation about society and where we are headed.

Are things worse than they ever have been? That is a good question and one I don’t have an answer for. I don’t know if things are worse than they ever have been, but I do know we hear about it sooner and in greater detail than we ever have before. Technology such as the internet and our smartphones bring us news faster than we have ever gotten it. Many times, I worry it puts ideas in the heads of sick and evil individuals, but I really have no proof of that. I would also guess that they would do bad things regardless, but why give them a how-to video.

When bad things happen, it is the natural response of many to ask for new laws to be made. I can tell you, without a doubt, that from many years as an Extension agent, more rules are not the answer.

I know this is an oversimplified example, but when we had individuals break rules at the fair often, we imposed new rules. Those new rules never really had the results we had intended and often only tripped up honest people who were not aware of them. Those bent on breaking rules would find new and more creative ways around them.

I am not sure what the answer is to the ills of society, but I am pretty sure it is not new laws.

I am sure that since the beginning of time, there has been a discussion about the erosion of society and if you believe in Adam and Eve that is probably true. However, I am also quite sure that I have witnessed an erosion of civility and morality in our great nation.

We have probably all seen the children’s sermon about squeezing the toothpaste out of a tube and equating that back to one’s actions and not being able to take them back, just like you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. Often, I wonder if that is where we are at today.

We are told that you are the most important thing in your universe, make sure you get what you are entitled to and advocate for yourself. Notice I said “entitled to.” Yes, we have lost the idea of going without or working hard to achieve something and truly believe we are entitled to what we think makes us happy no matter what. To make matters worse, society tells us to use whatever means it takes to achieve material happiness.

We have taken worship out of the Sabbath; Sunday is no longer a day of rest and reflection. We eschew common courtesy as outdated and old-fashioned. Civility is no longer part of debate and debate means shouting the other person down or demeaning them. Too many believe that ”I am right, if you disagree with me, you are wrong and there is no room for compromise.” Compromise is the relief valve that lets pressure off before it builds up the point of explosion, and that is one thing we are missing. The good of society is lost on those who believe in “me first”.

I don’t mean to be gloom and doom — rather I am asking each of us to do our part in making things better. Amid hearing all the bad things, there are still many more good things about the time we live in and the location of where we live. We need to make sure we take care of each other, that we model how to be a contributing member of society.

I truly believe there are more good people out there and that if we make our voices heard, we can still control the direction society moves in, but we need to do that quickly. It starts right in our own homes and communities, and I am not pointing a finger as much as I am reminding myself. We are in control of the society around us — maybe not the whole great big world, but we do have a sphere of influence.

I am not sure where we are headed, and I am concerned. Each day I count my blessings that I was born where I am, get to do what I do each day and try to appreciate the life the Good Lord has given to me. I do know that we are being challenged and what we believe in is at stake, it is up to each of us to make the difference.

Glenn Brunkow is a fifth-generation farmer in the Northern Flint Hills of Pottawatomie County in Kansas. He was a county Extension agent for 19 years before returning to farm and ranch full time. He can be reached at

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