On Memorial Day, I attended a holiday event. It was somber, patriotic, and emotional, but something happened that bothered me.
A poem was read about thanking a soldier, reminding us that we should always be grateful for their sacrifice. Absolutely. I agree.
What bummed me out was that the poem repeatedly contrasted the soldier (courageous and heroic) with the politician (portrayed as anything but.)
Stanza after stanza repeated the contrast. At the end of it, I wondered why anyone would want to go into public service.
Politicians can be skeezy lying jerks. But often they’re not. Yet we paint them with this brush of hatred.
If nobody ever took those roles, a lot of work wouldn’t get done. Many of us shake our heads and say, damn, I’d never run for office. I’d never want to be a politician.
But somebody has to be. Aren’t you glad somebody steps up?
The poem I heard on Memorial Day described politicians as cowards. I wondered what the poet thought of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln. Or Indira Ghandi, Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
Of the 535 men and women of the House and Senate, there must be dozens we could appreciate. As a moderate/lefty, I’ve complimented politicians when they stick up for the poor or the health of our planet, and I don’t care what party they belong to.
There are people right now on your city council, county board of supervisors, or school board who serve because they are trying to help the community. Some of them are making personal sacrifices to do so.
If all the politicians left their jobs tomorrow, tired of being pelted by rotten tomatoes as a matter of course, we’d be in a fix.
I’m tired of all the negativity, and that poem stuck in my craw. Why was it necessary to kick somebody in order to raise somebody else up? That’s the fog we’re in right now. It’s red against blue, Paris against Pittsburg.
But I have a solution in mind. There are 100 million people in the U.S. who are our age. People who are old enough to know how to mend and fix relationships. Old enough to know how to nurture, how to build up. How to get the most or best out of people.
Knee-jerk negativity is popular right now, but it’s a bad habit, a slouchy, lazy habit. We can change that.
We could offset the negativity by recognizing the good in people more often. We could diffuse the polarization everybody complains about, by demonstrating the courage of an open mind and independent thinking. We could judge people by their actions, instead of their jobs or creed or age.
We could stop marching in negative lockstep.
We could. We older people. We’ve seen so much; we’ve seen it all. We’ve been through enough heartache to be compassionate. We’re strong. We’re generous. We know what’s important.
Our country needs us now, more than ever.
Thanks for listening.