I’m not pure. I don’t believe anyone is perfect. But I do believe that perfection is a goal, and that we should all be striving to be that person.
Your view of perfection can differ from mine. I know who I want to be, and I know that I don’t want to have one face I show the world and a secret face I only show a few people. Like Abraham Lincoln, I have warts, and I’m willing for them to be seen.
This doesn’t mean I have no terrible embarrassing deeds in my past. I hope I’ve learned along the way, and that I’ve grown and improved as I’ve done that learning. It doesn’t mean I have no terrible embarrassing deeds in my future, either. But it means that I want to be the person whose face I show to the world. It’s a goal.
I’ve been thinking about this because it’s such a nasty political season. I know that running for office takes both self-confidence and a certain amount of ego. Serving in office is, and should be, a different thing. The folks running for office (you can decide whether I’m talking local, state or national) ought to be offering different solutions to the problems we all see. How do we really create jobs? (Look at the past, see what didn’t work, and don’t assume that doing something that worked 70 years ago or 50 years ago is still the answer.) How do we set priorities for the budget? (Remember why government was created: to clarify which people would be responsible for taking care of everyone: safety, health, welfare and other things that foster life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)
But running for office seems to bring out our primal fears, and so often the response is to fight. And that’s when things get nasty. What’s the worst thing that can happen if someone loses a race? They don’t have to serve. That’s it. That’s the worst thing. The sun rises; food gets on the table – mostly; people have their rights protected – well, some of them; kitties are smiling and we all go to our rest.
And yet, we have our time occupied by folks who think that winning is the most important thing in the world. They’ll call each other names; misinterpret their opponent’s words and deeds; look for dark secrets or curious missteps. For me, this is what gives politics a bad name.
I care about character in anyone who represents me. But I want to know if I can trust them, not if I agree with them. I want to know that they are adults, ready to work with others and solve problems. I want them to be reliable – if they change their mind about an issue, that’s OK, but if they change it back and forth, wobbling, ducking and weaving – well, I am pretty certain that means I cannot rely on them. My expectation is that they will do or say anything to get elected – as if getting elected was the end, instead of the beginning.
It’s a year when all that playground behavior, the stuff many of us hated at the time and long-ago outgrew, has returned to haunt us. Does he say this now, but said that then? Does she have poor taste in clothes, or men, or friends? Did he lie or just forget? Did she lie, or just gossip?
Remember back in 2008 when everyone was deciding whether they liked Hilary Clinton, or thought she was a liar (or worse)? And what about John McCain . . . did he really benefit from the Savings and Loan scandal in the 1980s? Well, I do. I also remember the John Kerry Swiftboat scandal, and a variety of other times when we all lost sight of the goal – to select someone who would reliably serve while representing us.
Maybe I have too high a standard. Maybe I am conflict averse. I don’t think so. I like a good fight, but then on the next issue, I like the opportunity to collaborate. Who would be willing to collaborate with others who just called them names, made fun of their funny haircut, didn’t laugh at their jokes? I want to judge a candidate on what they are for, what skills and passions they bring to the table. I don’t want to select a candidate because s/he is the lesser of two equally bad choices. And so, for me, it’s a matter of wanting to support someone, and help them win.
This is what I learned playing monopoly: you can play to win, or you can play to make someone lose. I don’t play cut-throat monopoly.
I refuse to make my decisions based on rejecting someone and working to make them lose. I just won’t – I’m tired of gossip and scandal and clay feet. We all have clay feet; get over it.
So listen up, candidates. Give me reasons why I should vote for you. Give me reasons why I should work for your campaign and help fund it. Tell me how you plan to work with others to solve problems. How you can listen and reflect on what others say. Make certain I understand that you know the difference between standing up for something, and just rejecting something else. Don’t tell me why your opponent is so bad. I’m not dumb; your opponent says you’re bad for our community and country, too.
Tell me how you can help. That’s why you should be running for office.