We've heard President Bush and Gov. Bredesen's addresses on the state of their respective domains.
But they don't own the final say on how things are. You -- and I -- have a voice as well, and a right to be heard.
Here are my takes on things as they are. We welcome yours.
* It's time to end the "us vs. them" mentality. Conservatives and liberals are so polarized it's surprising anything gets done in Washington. The flat-out insults against the "other side" on talk shows and in Internet blogs and newspaper letters to the editor are ridiculous. Are we becoming a nation of closed-minded bigots?
* Stop using -- or, in the case of some conservatives, misusing -- the word "patriotism." Dissension is sometimes a sign of patriotism. It's interesting that Bush surrounded himself at his Nashville appearance with soldiers, Boy Scouts (no Girl Scouts?) and GOP stalwarts. His real message: You're against God, country and America if you disagree with him.
* Those concerned about immorality running rampant have a strong point. Freedom of speech must never be diminished. But when some factors within Hollywood and the recording industry insist on presenting perversion as normality and belittling those with more mainstream beliefs, we've got a problem.
* Big oil. Big profits. It's time for the smirky comments more or less saying, "The market will bear it -- Americans want their gas for their big SUVs," from the president on down, to stop. And, if Alaskan oil reserves can be used without harming the above-ground ecology, go for it. Here's a compromise: Allow Arctic oil drilling in return for guaranteed lower fuel prices.
* Americans watch corporations transfer jobs to countries where the unenlightened work for pennies per hour. Then officials of those same firms, at the same time they raise prices to astronomical levels, harshly say Americans should gladly accept lower pay. How do they think their own employees will be able to afford those products?
* Illegal aliens are exactly that -- illegal. So could somebody enforce the law and start deporting those who are breaking them, as any other laws would be enforced? On the other side of the issue, there's no place for ethnic prejudice toward legal aliens, who have as much right to be here as lifelong Americans.
* The state ethics bill doesn't end the main problem, which probably can't be changed due to the mentality of politicians and the wealthy: Well-connected individuals and big business have the biggest voice, and the more money the spend, the louder that voice gets.
* Are the Tennessee Highway Patrol's top levels any more crony-filled than any other state agency? For the record, our state troopers in Bedford County are highly professional. Don't get a bad impression of them because of what the big guys in Nashville do.
* Should someone who can't speak or write English be driving a car? We're endangered by too many illegal aliens crashing into innocent people and running away.
Could some of these wrecks be caused by vision problems? I hate to pinpoint one ethnic group, but look closely: You never see Hispanics wearing glasses.
* City and county officials must work out solutions, if needed, to the alleged tax inequities without causing acrimony and hard feelings.
In the mid-1990s, when a similar issue erupted, some city officials were upset over the county fire department (this was before Volunteer Fire Services, Inc., was formed) holding a fund-raising "haunted house" in the city. We don't need that kind of acrimony again.
* New schools -- and additions to existing facilities -- should have room for growth. Building schools that are already at capacity on opening day isn't good, and I realize the school board's doing the best the county can afford. But growing counties to our north don't seem to have this problem.
* One unofficial proposal made following a Shelbyville Planning Commission meeting last month was good: Write new zoning regulations for Shelbyville requiring open space and the amenities that "make a subdivision a neighborhood."
I'd add to that legally ensuring that homes on adjoining streets be constructed in similar fashion. Large, two-story homes next to mobile homes make for mismatches.