Biff America: We’re not all freaks and weasels
“Ask not that your roads be clean enough to eat off of but ask …”
“I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
For many, that expression is an oxymoron – their thinking being that the government is the problem, not the solution. There is little doubt that the public’s confidence in its elected body – be it federal, state or local – is at a low.
The complaints vary upon who is complaining. Many conservatives are angry that the feds are too soft on immigration; the liberals feel our leaders have allowed anti-immigrant emotion to supersede fairness and decency.
Those in the energy industry are crying foul that over-regulation makes it difficult to do business, while environmentalists believe the BLM, Congress and the EPA have sacrificed habitat and water quality for revenue.
The social conservatives feel the sanctity of marriage is being eroded by the inclusion of rights being afforded to same-sex couples. Gays and lesbians are angered by the snail’s pace of the dissolution of “don’t ask don’t tell” and the rights to legally marry.
Many of those with the wherewithal to have health insurance don’t want to pay for those who don’t and feel doing so will bankrupt the nation; while others believe, in a nation such as ours, health care should be an inalienable right.
Anyone who has ever read my writing can guess where I fall on these issues, but that is not the point of this column.
I’ve become more and more convinced that, politically, you can, almost never, change anyone’s mind. The best you can hope to do is to get both camps to acknowledge that those on the other side are simply decent people with dissenting opinions. If that goal is achieved, then it is at least possible for those in disagreement to (perhaps) hear a fraction of the other side’s argument and (conceivably) reach some compromise.
To be clear, what I am talking about here are rank-and-file voters; I think in government this happens more than you might believe.
I believe, for the most part, the government, and those who serve in it, are really here to help. Now admittedly, there are crooks in public office as there are in every sector, but in my experience, most public officials got into it for the right reasons – they think they can make a difference.
And I say this as a public official. Granted, I was elected in the only town in the world – except for a few small villages in the Amazon – where I could be elected. But that said, I know I ran for office because I wanted to have a hand in making the place I live a little better. Some voters are happy to have me there, some think I suck; that’s OK as long as they believe I’m trying.
Over the years, I have served with many people with whom I profoundly disagreed but I am convinced they ran and served with the best of intentions.
I have come to accept as true that that’s also the case on a state and federal level. Yes, there are some freaks and weasels holding public office, but the lion’s share of office holders, on the right and on the left, are voting the with both their hearts and conscience.
But the truth is, pleasing the public is hard. The reason being is that few voters care about the entire package but, rather, focus on their pet obsessions. They judge the success of an administration based on their specific passions and not on the greater good.
For instance, in my town complaints about government range from lack of revenue directed toward snow plowing to too much money spent on social programs. Now, since I do almost all of my commuting by bicycle, it would be in my best interest to err on the side of plowing. But, as promised, I’m not going to takes sides in this column, as I’m sure no one’s mind will be swayed. But I will say that everyone I’ve ever served with, whether they commute by bike or Hummer, votes their principles, not their personal interests.
The bottom line is if you distrust the government – look in the mirror. It is “Government of the people, by the people, for the people” and like it or not, you are the people. Don’t get mad, get involved and get informed, run for office, get elected and then, maybe someday, people can think you suck too.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8 and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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