By Michael Haughey, June 18, 2009
You probably know the one. It was on the radio today and the last few days as well. It was probably on TV, but who watches that anymore? Another politician involved in a sex scandal. There are calls for resignation, and the usual refusal. What makes this one special? Nothing really. What makes it amazing? That “we” even care. Why is this a big deal? What does it say about us as an electorate? How can we change?
This yet-another-sex-scandal says more about us than the individuals involved. That there are calls for resignation says even more. If this is so important, does that mean it is a primary reason for choosing any particular candidate? Since no-one is perfect, does that end up forcing candidates to have to lie, at least those who want to get elected? We are, after all, voting for political candidates, not priests or popes or any other spiritual leaders. It is as if voters select politicians for spiritual and/or moral inspiration. What folly that is! For inspiration, I would suggest looking to a good book, someone like Ghandi, or your favorite spiritual or religious leader. But certainly not a politician.
There are better ways to select and judge politicians. I would suggest their understanding and position on actual issues. Do they merely throw out platitudes to get elected, or do they really seem to understand. We can show up at their town hall meetings and ask some hard questions. If the question is avoided or answered with a sleight of hand, that should tell you a lot. Do they say one thing and then do another? Their actions, how they vote, how well they bring differing constituents and viewpoints to the table – those are important to me. What is important to you?
It is hard not to notice that the media, maybe us too, seem to hold politicians to a higher standard than candidates for the local priest (talk about scandals) and even the pope. I think I’d rather have someone who is flawed, because it is from our mistakes that we learn the most. Someone who is perfect probably hasn’t learned much. Someone who appears perfect has probably learned how to create an illusion.
Finally, but not least, I suggest taking a close look at issues that are being pushed aside in the media in order to cover the scandal. There is a good chance, maybe even a high probability that it is no coincidence that someone leaked the damaging information at just the right time to take the public attention off something much more important. It need not be a scandal – any sensational news story will do. Pay attention and take notice. These things make the news right at the time we as a nation are debating something important. Not long ago it was the torture memos, and that news story almost completely disappeared. Now it is taking coverage away from the debates on health care and perhaps more telling, the possibility of a wage cap on corporate CEOs.
In summary, when a sensational news story breaks, take a hard look at what is suddenly not being discussed. Then act. Demand coverage of the important issues. Make your own coverage.
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