We are at a particularly contentious point in American politics. In all of it, there is a lot of finger-pointing. We blame the party bosses, the media, big money, lobbyists, extremists, and our own elected officials. Oh, and partisan politics: the worst bastards that every walked the Earth are our beloved fellow American sitting across the political aisle.
I have come to believe that all of those are well wide of the target.
A parable: Let us say that we inherited a business on the other side of town. From it, we enjoy great dividends, and we often boast about owning it, and of how proud we are that it is so successful and that it not only takes care of us, it will take care of our descendants for generations to come.
It is a truly great property to own.
Then one day we decide to actually drive by the place. The buildings are run down, the grounds badly need maintenance, and the workers are doing whatever the hell they want. We are outraged, and we angrily storm in and demand to know, “Who’s responsible for the mess?!”
Ask yourself: How many city council meetings have your ever attended? What school board meetings have you observed? How many times have you called your legislator, or written letters to your congressman? How many times have you looked at upcoming legislation on the Internet? How many state and federal budgets have you examined on-line?
Then consider, How often do you seriously study a political issue in depth, carefully reading those who agree with you, and those who do not? How many news channels or radio programs do you listen to, how many different newspapers, news magazines and news websites do you read? How many of your news sources represent diverse viewpoints? Do you really consider all of the argument and options, or do you simply stick with those who tell you what you already ‘know’? And if you stick with the comfortable, if you subscribe to the hammer mentality, let me ask once again: If everyone’s thinking the same way, who’s thinking?
Let’s face it, we’re all just here for the football.
I call it the ‘Gus Levy Syndrome.’ In the madcap Pulitzer Prize winning novel, A Confederacy of Dunces1)The author, John Kennedy Toole, taught at here at UL, and apparently some of the characters were drawn from his friends and colleagues in the Department of English. I knew some of these people. the feckless protagonist Ignatius Riley starts an upheaval in a shirt factory owned by one Gus Levy. Although Levy is furious about it all, he can hardly complain. He rarely visits the factory, preferring to simply derive a hefty income from the declining and derelict business.
If up this point I have been too subtle about who is responsible for our governmental problems, let me be frank (note picture, pun intended):
And me, too.
In this blog I have repeatedly harped on the idea that there is great room for compromise in government, there are many things on which we could cooperate. But we have ignored our responsibilities as citizens, and we have let the government be overly influenced by special interests who really aren’t all that interested in us, nor in the continuation of our democracy.
They get away with it because we aren’t paying attention.
New Orleanian John ‘Spud’ McConnell as Ignatius J. Reilly, courtesy of Loyola University New Orleans.
Lucky Dog stand courtesy of Wikimedia.