I don’t write much about politics. Not directly. I do pay attention to politics, among other facets of the world that combine to create our existence. My views could definitely be considered unsophisticated (just like my writing), and I make up for it by listening carefully to what other people say. The trick, of course, is to listen without adopting the wrong views. How do I define wrong? At this point in our history, it’s a very difficult task.
I was just listening to a guest on CNN talking about poverty, railing about the fact that American poverty is largely ignored in the great political discussions of our time. Before I get into my reaction, let me say that I consider any news outlet as another organization with an agenda, and I spend as much time reading between the lines as I do listening to what they say. In any case, I’ve seen real poverty in a number of places, both near to my home and far afield. I’ve met teens who look forward to a good set of false teeth like I looked forward to a cool car. I’ve held children who had never seen a white face before. I’ve done mission work in places where the wind blew freely through the outside walls of collapsing homes. I’ve seen people burning broken furniture for heat. Like many of you, I am struggling with the realities of our economy. Yet, I manage somehow to be one of those people who ignore the issue of poverty in this country. I place it into the category of “things that could happen” and fail to consider the individuals who actually live with it – right now, today.
Unlike most political maneuvering, I actually watched the Iowa results with interest. I think my curiosity comes from the fact that I can’t find a GOP contender who doesn’t seem to have some kind of deal-breaking flaw. This is no surprise, since finding a politician of any stripe without major closet skeletons seems impossible these days. If you remember the scene in the movie “Animal House” where one of the guys leads the marching band into a blind alley, you’ll have a good idea of my impression of American politics. The band continued to pile into the wall long after the false band leader made his escape. I did come away with an interesting impression. The disclaimer is that I have read Ron Paul’s books and hoped that we would have the courage to enact enough real change in our system. Is he radical? Yes. Is he ever likely to get elected? No. Why? He is talking about the kind of change that would cost our political class far too much power and money. Nobody who has it wants to let go of it. But… I watched the various speeches and heard the word “I” roughly eighteen million times. In Ron Paul’s speech, I heard the word “we” in the places that everyone else was using “I”. In fact, the only time he used “I” was when he was introducing some else. I came away from the evening with the idea that everyone was an individual seeking an office. If the words of his speech rang true, Ron Paul was seeking election for a cause.
Is his cause acceptable? I don’t know, and I’m open to your views. What I do know (yes, this is just an opinion, a belief) is that we’ve completely lost the original concept of elected office in America. You know, the one where we have a life, decide to serve our fellow citizens for a while, and then go back to that life. We’ve traded it for the idea of political career as a lifetime of privilege, power, and money that is only available to those who manage to hurdle into high office. Even the most generous assessment of career politicians would suggest that the very existence of those people would demand that they rapidly lose the ability to relate. Those of us who get by without the perks of power in our back pockets probably come to look like strangers, a tribe of people found in the Amazon basin who somehow are not able to function without our political big brothers and sisters to show us the way.
That was the generous view. The cynical view is far more deliberate and sinister, but you don’t need me to explain it. Just look around.
The biggest issue, according to every news outlet I see, is jobs. Jobs are a subset of the economy, which we all know is in bad shape. I can see ways to fix it. You can see ways to fix it. Why aren’t our leaders busily fixing it? Could it be that fixing the economy – even on my simplistic, common sense level – is contrary to the true interests of our leaders? Has our leadership lowered itself to the point that it’s okay to sell out the future for a bulging set of trouser pockets today? I could slice off examples all day, but the one idea that really twists me up is the one that has led to our profound lack of middle class jobs. Everyone understands that it’s cheaper to buy products from cheaper foreign manufacturers. Everyone understands that companies want the cheap labor to become more price competitive and to improve the bottom line. Does everyone also understand that the support of this state of affairs equals a steady exporting of our quality of life? Should we allow it for the privilege of having cool stuff made in foreign lands? Should we allow our leadership to encourage the practice? If we do, it’s only a matter of time before the great American experiment is over. We’ll lose our livelihoods, then our freedom, and we’ll all stand in line for our minuscule slice of the once-delicious apple pie.
Poverty, service, jobs. Just tiny bits of fluff in the giant hairball we have created. It’s not just here in America, either. It’s everywhere. Can we fix it? Sure. Can we fix it without sweeping changes in the way we do business as a nation and society? I’d say it’s unlikely.
Two questions launched this piece. I ask and encourage you to answer them as you see fit.
1) What is your most patriotic idea of America? (Feel free to replace America with your own country, or if you prefer, the world)
2) What is your idea of the most perfect America you can imagine? (Again, I think this question applies anywhere)
Bonus question) If you were given total executive authority for one week and your decisions could not be reversed for a decade, what are the first three things you would do?
I’ll try to answer these questions for myself next time.
Thanks for reading.