I communicate with a lot of people during the course of a week. In person, on the phone, e-mail, add that even a guy suffering horribly from PSM (Phone Smarter'n Me) syndrome has to text these days, in short order these combine to represent a significant population of communicants.
And the topic of discussion frequently turns to government... and politics...
Government, by definition, sets the rules of conduct for a civil society, ensures an environment where all citizens may live in some measure of safety, whether or not harmoniously, with one another, and builds infrastructure when private industry cannot due to the size of a project, or the diversity. There was a time when basic research didn't depend upon government funding, or direction, but more about that another day, and how Lupton City, Soddy, Daisy, McAdenville, Kannapolis, and other former "mill towns" came into being. McAdenville's a particularly interesting little burg. Christmas Town, U.S.A. is what's it's called in some quarters... and don't you dare fail to yield to the ducks when they're crossing the road.
Politics is how we get there, isn't it. We probably ought to save the symbolic comparison to multiples of ticks, for now, because campaign season still has several months to go before it's done. We're still in the primaries, and oh the fun really has yet to begin.
What is politics? Wouldn't it be fair to state that politics is nothing more than sales, and that political campaigns are the process by which those who would presume to represent We The Peeps sell themselves and their abilities to us? I submit that's exactly what it is, nothing more than an extended job interview because, when we get right down to where the nitty meets the gritty, those who work in government, be they elected officials or their appointed functionaries, they're nothing more than hired help... whether they wish to understand that fact or not. Hired help, just like we peeps, those of us with jobs who work for a living so we can support those who won't... no better and, at least we'd like to believe, no worse than the rest of us.
But there's always one candidate, at least one, during each campaign cycle that gives us cause to stand back and ask, as did that old 60s song, who put the dip in the dip-de-dip-de-dip, isn't there. So how do we separate the chicken salad from the chicken... uh, let's use different symbolism. How do we differentiate a sales job from a snow job?
Little things that you do make me glad I'm in love with you... so goes the first line of an old Bobby Goldsboro song. And the second line; little things that you say make me glad that I feel this way. After 86ing the boyfriend/girlfriend mush, the chicken salad here is watching and listening to little things tells a lot about a candidate, about anyone actually, doesn't it.
The Gang and I don't live in Hamilton County any more but still own property, so government does matter even though I no longer vote there. We had to run some errands in town a few days ago so, being a cheapskate, I combined those with a side trip to a judicial candidate forum. How else do we get to know our candidates than with a little face time? Websites are cool, mailers are too, as are radio and television spots, or billboards, but there's nothing like real face time to see how a candidate responds to a gentle poke in the ribs... sort of like the day I asked our county mayor here at Yonder Mountain about his opponents' creds. One day he'll get my number, and won't be fun any more.
Cruising up 58 Highway, me in deep discussion with Ms. Sophie about having passed up the third, count 'em 1-2-3, set of Golden Arches, it was actually six but she was asleep for three of them, without stopping for their McDoubles, we had to stop for a traffic light. The light turned green and, still arguing with Ms. Sophie, I couldn't help but notice some cat with blue and gold signs had three of them beside the road in the space it took the GrampyMobile to accelerate to about 5 MPH. That says several things; he has too much money to spend, he isn't spending his money wisely, actually it's OPM or Other People's Money isn't it, his supporters are being wasteful because he isn't paying attention to what they're doing, and he's operating on the premise that by slinging enough stuff on the wall some of it has to stick. If he's going to treat his friends' money that way, how frugal would he be with TaxBucks?
The forum, as are they all, was quite interesting. Watching the interaction between various factions, how candidates reacted toward one another, and who was speaking to whom told stories about candidates. All but one had a supporter hitting every table with propaganda. The other one? She was working the room herself. She got to our table and sat down to chat briefly, giving us each some of her literature. I explained that I'd done a great deal of work for her opponent in another campaign and had known him for some time. I didn't want to be too rough on her because, well, I really hate when a girl whups me and, even though we have mutual friends, didn't know how she would react. I do now.
Her response was rather impressive. She smiled, really smiled, and simply asked, "What would you like to know about me?" The body language was quite telling too... open, comfortable in her own skin, hands resting in her lap or arms at her sides with no signs of tension in her voice or taking defensive positions like folding her arms. This is much more what one might desire as "judicial temperament" than a candidate who gets a might pithy when a stranger, or an opponent, pokes him in the eye. But some will get pithy, then proceed to tell us their temperament is judicial, won't they.
We can tell a real smile from one of those baby-kissing politician smiles simply by looking at a person's eyes, can't we. If we stop and think about personal interactions with others for just a moment, what do we observe when we meet someone for the first time? What are the green flags about whether or not we'll jeehaw with someone? The red flags?
Immaculately coiffed and manicured or not, three Irish pennants (loose threads) completely ruins the effect of all the primping and preening a guy might do. When there's a field of candidates and all are satisfied to be introduced by the forum moderator, except one who feels a need to be introduced by someone he perceives to be among the elite, perhaps one of his daddy's buddies, what does that tell us? Doesn't that smack of elitism, imperialism, and majesty... at least in their own minds?
Do we want candidates who've worked more for their political parties or their communities? Meanness and a short fuse, or calm and even tempered? Self aggrandizing and braggadocios or quiet and humble?
Do we want leaders who subscribe to the philosophy of Niccolo Machiavelli? Or that of Sun Tzu, and how do we determine who believes what? It certainly isn't sitting and reading the sales propaganda each sends out or watching TV ads.
We saw in the last elections that money doesn't necessarily ensure electoral success, didn't we. If it did, all those (m)illions of dollars Karl Rove spent would've generated better than a 1.3 percent success rate of the candidates he backed. If it did, the Republican party, from the national down to the state and county levels, wouldn't be begging for money, would they. And they are. Democrats too.
It's time, feet on the street, people talking to people that really makes the difference... as we've seen during the last few election cycles. Two hundred dedicated people, devoting as little as an hour a week, on average, to the candidate of their choice amounts to a lot of time during a month and has been shown to be more effective than beaucoups of bucks. It can also be a lot more fun than merely writing a check. Additional positives are we might meet new friends and the personal satisfaction of having an affect on our government. The down side is that politicians will be shown who actually works for whom.
The alternative is to watch our society, our nation, the greatest nation to ever grace the face of Planet Terra, continue in decline. Doing as Bob Seger once sang, splittin' for K-K-K-K-K-Katmandu, isn't much of an option either.
Tell me again, how's that public/private partnership at VW working for us now?
Royce Burrage, Jr.