Politics

Like many of my family and friends, I am tired of politics. I grew up in a family they shied away from conflict. My sister’s and I argued (and still do), but knock down, drag out fights never happened. We tried really hard to get along with our neighbors. Politics were not frequently discussed and most of our closest friends shared our religion.

We cannot all agree all of the time. If we willingly and happily all marched to the same music, we would always make massive, disastrous mistakes. No one knows all the “what ifs” of every policy and every decision. We need each other to point out the missed flats and sharps in the score, the subtle changes in tempo and the markings for repeated measures or chaos ensues.

Politics exists in all of our human relationships. Every workplace has internal policies, power struggles and complex relationships. Families relate to one another in ways determined by children’s birth order, gender, real and perceived hurts, and learned behaviors. Organizations have official hierarchies and unofficial power structures. We are faced with politics of one kind or another in everything we do.

Our government is probably more political than any other part of our lives. Partisan politics has become institutionalized and determines everything from who we vote for to the policies enacted on our behalf. Each party has factions and their own left, right, and middle. There are formal structures and elected leaders and then there are the informal leaders. The real power in our political parties has recently become entrenched with the faction which comes up with the most money. Money buys advertising, media coverage, and mass marketing that can determine who is elected.

What happens if those of us who are tired of the arguments simply give up and tune out all politics? Perhaps that is what those who seek the unofficial power in our system are hoping for. If, as in the last presidential election, half of us give up and don’t vote, those with the most money gain control of how our country is run. It is possible the same people may have been elected (no one knows for sure how those who stayed away from the polls would have cast their ballot) but they would know that they needed to answer to the real majority of citizens not just those who showed up at the polls.

I am tired of politics. I am mostly tired of the meanness, bullying and rancorous tirades that are passed off as debate. I am tired of elected officials who deflect criticisms of their actions by casting aspersions on their opponents. I’m tired of politicians who act as though winning an election means that they do not have to listen to both sides of an argument. Winning an election is not like winning the lottery. The winner still has to govern everyone.

Like it or not, government is necessary to the orderly functioning of a country. We need rules and regulations that protect citizens from fraud, toxic pollution, abusive labor practices, and exploitation. We need publicly funded water and sewers, schools and universities, roads and airports. We need government to negotiate with other governments and to defend us from attack. No one that I know thinks our government is perfect. How we live together is complex and changing rapidly.

I am tired of politics. I do not believe we would be better off without our government. As flawed as our system is, doing without is not the answer.

I will be spending a week in Haiti soon. Haiti’s government does not enforce labor laws, there are few environmental regulations and those that exist are overlooked. Public education reaches very few and only about half of all young adults can read. Health care is cheap, but is mostly inaccessible. Three out of four children will not celebrate their fifth birthday. When a hurricane hits head on, there are no FEMA funds to rebuild. Most Haitians do not have access to a sewer or to clean water.

Instead of turning off the news and disclaiming politics, we might do better to become informed, engage in debate and make sure we vote.

Copyright © 2017 Janet Jacobson and Sustaining the Northern Plains

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