This week there’s been a lot of looking back at legacy. The death of Gov. Ned McWherter brought people from all walks of life together, and speaking with one voice about the influence, and positive impact he had on the state, both as a legislator and an executive.
I didn’t live in Tennessee at that time, but I did live in nearby Northeast Arkansas. When the news wasn’t about what was going on down in Little Rock, or wondering about the next move of our then Governor, Bill Clinton, we got a taste of what all was happening in Tennessee from the TV news and newspaper reports.
Honestly, I didn’t pay all that much attention.
It’s really only in the past 6 years or so that I’ve learned anything about the days of Ned. Some of it from researching programs that are a part of his legacy, and some from tales of legislators, politicos and friends. It’s hard to separate history from mythology in these tales, but considering how consistent the themes are, I expect I believe most of what I’ve heard.
In the end, the one thing that is clear is that Ned had a personality, a way with people that allowed him to do work with all kinds of folks, and the political acumen to back it up. I’m sure at times people left with a bad taste in their mouth, but that’s not only politics, that’s life. You live to fight another day, or you die trying…take your pick.
But politics isn’t hand to hand anymore. There’s a distance that maybe didn’t exist in a previous time. We lob artillery at each other from hardened positions. Negotiations are held with predetermined outcomes. We’re less concerned with the outcome than the perception of the outcome. And while the public may feed at this trough for a while, eventually they turn from one empty trough to another, looking for the fulfillment that neither will provide.
And all this leads to hopelessness, anger and despair, which we have in ample supply these days. I look around and see our “leaders” talking about putting 2.5 million people out of work or unpaid, like its nothing, and wonder just who they think they are, and more importantly, whose interests are they serving?
Certainly not the interests of those people who will go unpaid. Certainly not the interests of the millions of people who rely on the services these government employees provide. They are all collateral damage in a world of perception where the only seconds that count are the ones that are played on an endless loop on Fox, CNN, and MSNBC.
It just makes me sad.
It makes me sad and it makes me wonder what kind of heartless folks we allow to represent us that they can, with little or no care about the consequences, threaten the well-being of 2.5 million of their own people, all while grinning for the cameras.
I sit here and I wonder how much more people will take. I wonder if we’re as complacent as we seem, or if we’re just so overwhelmed that we don’t know where to start first.
I wonder when our next leaders will emerge. Leaders that are truly concerned for people on some level other than an intellectual exercise. And I hope those leaders will reveal themselves soon, and be willing to engage in real hand to hand combat for those values.
Because right now, the safest place in the world is behind the artillery lines, and that’s where our political leaders are standing, leaving the rest of us in the line of fire.