Morality and Politics? by Victor Kulkosky, Editor of the Fort Valley Leader Tribune
[This is not my own blog post, but with his permission, I am posting Victor's editorial to make it easier to share. --Anna]
Morality and Politics?
Last week's Virtual Town Hall, hosted by Peach County Concerned Citizens, is the kind of event that's hard for reporters to write up. A bunch of people talk about a bunch of different topics; simply transcribing would take up the entire paper, so we're left trying to boil the whole thing down to a few quotable moments. A couple of comments stuck out to me, which were not in response to the same question, but I connected.
U.S. Representative Sanford Bishop laid bare the essence of politics. In so many words, politics is about who gets what, when, where and how. That's definitely true: whatever principles we use to cloak the debate, a lot of politics involves distributing resources, local, state, federal – even global. For most of history, the people had no say in the distribution: kings, queens and a select few “noble” people got most of the resources and the rest of us got the scraps. Then along came republican (with a lower-case r) government, in which the people elect representatives to manage the resource distribution on our behalf. The rich still get theirs, but they're supposed to share the booty.
But what principles guide this distribution of resources? The process can became a cynical game, in which the who gets what, when, where and how depends on who's good at the game – who knows whom, who has the biggest bag of tricks, who already has resources that give them a leg up.
In response to a question about how to reduce the divisiveness, Byron Mayor Michael Chidester also reduced the answer to the basics. The solution to the current polarization, Chidester said, is more in the hands of people such as Peach County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Lionel Brown, rather than politicians, that is, on educators.
“If people are given a good moral foundation and educated on the founding principles of this nation,” then we would be less divided, Chidester suggested. That moral foundation should include, I believe, looking beyond naked self interest toward the greater good, so that my pursuit of happiness doesn't block you from pursuing happiness as you see it. This is the antidote to belief of those “realists,” who declare: “Like it or not, politics is a dirty game, but if you don't play the game, you get nothing,” sometimes followed by a bit of self-defense: “I didn't make the rules, I just play the game.”
But who makes the rules, if not We The People? The “rules” include the “inalienable rights” of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The rules our first representatives chose to set in writing, in the interest of “a more perfect union” include separation of powers. Congress, an assembly of elected representatives, makes the laws; the President takes care the laws are “faithfully executed” and the judiciary keeps an eye on whether Congress and President play by the rules. If that doesn't quite sound like the current state of affairs, then perhaps that education on morals and founding principles to which Mayor Chidester referred needs an overhaul.
While we remember Congress does not establish religion or interfere with its free exercise, we also have assurance that God is on our side. A Bahá'í prayer declares: “I beseech Thee, by Thy divine grace and surpassing bounty, to aid this just government, the canopy of whose authority is spread over vast and mighty lands and the evidences of whose justice are apparent in its prosperous and flourishing regions.” Idealistic, yes, and definitely not cynical. Those prosperous and flourishing regions got that way through that resource distribution process described above, based, when practiced correctly, on a moral foundation and founding principles, a practice that's always perfectible.
Simple, really, but not easy. We have the choice to live up to the high standards of justice leading to more prosperity and more flourishing regions. There is no set limit to the size of the pie, and therefore no need for cynical approaches to who gets what, no need for checks returned marked “insufficient funds.” We already have (or should have) the moral foundation, and we've had the founding principles for over 200 years, To the extent we've had justice, prosperity and flourishing regions, it's because we remembered the lessons. To the extent we've degenerated into competing tribes playing the cynical game, it's because we forget the lessons.
So, thanks, Rep. Bishop and Mayor Chidester, for spelling it out. Let's go back to school.
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