Only the Shadow Knows

We can’t see truth in politics, but we can see its shadow.

The formal definition of politics is the “art or science of government,” which seems like a worthy, almost noble pursuit. When we watch politics play out in the real world it comes across like the label on a sausage wrapper with the comforting voice of Jimmy Dean talking about “that good mornin’ feelin’.” But when we peek into the back door at the sausage factory, what we see is not very appetizing at all.

We’ve grown weary of being shocked and offended by daily revelations of shocking and offensive behavior in the political realm, but we just can’t seem to look away. That’s on us. However, we could choose to see the humor in the spectacle instead. There is plenty to laugh at.

Granted, some of our apparent mirth is bound to be nervous laughter. People get hurt in the political process. We forget sometimes that public figures are human beings with families. We forget that here at home more often than a good and kind community of people should.

The one unforgivable sin in Towns County is the sin of winning an election, and with some elected offices in particular, public service apparently includes subjecting your family to the worst kind of rumor and false witness. False witness, by the way, has been considered sin for a lot longer than social media and public forum websites have been around. If your ears are burning, good.

It’s easier to laugh at the actors on the national stage, much farther removed and unlikely to be seen at the local market, though some of those national actors are rumored to be human beings with families as well. But in order to enjoy the spectacle, we have to learn not to take things so personally, and to accomplish that we have to divest ourselves of the notion that politicians behaving badly is a new and unusual occurrence.

Campaigning for the office of president in 1800, Vice President Thomas Jefferson said that President Adams was a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” Adams said that Vice President Jefferson was “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”

And we thought Hillary calling Tulsi Gabbard a “Russian asset” was bad. Or funny. Did you see the interview that started the word war? While affecting a false modesty reminiscent of Uriah Heep (the fictional character, not the band) Hillary suggested that Representative Gabbard, a Major in the Army National Guard, was being groomed by the Russians.

Major Gabbard was quick to reply, saying, “You, the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long, have finally come out from behind the curtain.”

Incidentally, Gabbard is the only candidate, aside from the President himself, who has consistently talked about disengaging the American military industrial complex from forever war. Chances are she means it, which makes her the natural enemy of CNN and the New York Times, among others. But don’t hold your breath. The Representative is polling below 2% in most polls and recruits are training right now who were not born when our engagement in Afghanistan began.

Let’s take a step back and look at this exchange from a different angle. Did you see the shadow? Was that truth moving behind the scenes, casting a shadow that is the political process? Was Hillary attempting to clear the field for herself or for another candidate more supportive of business as usual? Who will the next “Russian asset” be? Bernie Sanders? Elizabeth Warren, perhaps?

Are you laughing yet, or were you offended that someone dared to criticize your favorite celebrity/candidate? Don’t take it so personally. If it helps, we’ll make a few observations about the president. We like to be equal opportunity offenders.

“Removing troops from Syria” apparently means moving them next door to Iraq, but leaving enough behind to protect “the oil.” President Trump, it has been observed, is one of the most honest presidents in history. Now you’re laughing. Or choking. We’ll wait while you get a drink of water.

Full disclosure, we laughed when wrote that. But seriously folks, if we disregard his almost habitual statements of untruth, exaggeration and hyperbole, Trump may be the most “honest” president since Eisenhower, if you listen to what he’s actually saying: We sent the troops. We paid for the bombs. We’re keeping the oil. Maybe we’ll send in one of our big oil companies to do it right. We don’t really need the oil ourselves, but we’re not going to let anyone else have it.

There are times when President Trump opens the doors to the sausage factory, turns up the lights and conducts guided tours. This makes him the natural enemy of several established interests that prefer to remain out of sight, though they do cast big shadows.

Some of you will vehemently disagree, but as we count down another year of bad actors auditioning for a poorly written soap opera, some relief may be found in the notion that it really doesn’t matter who gets to be president. Think about it. Look at the situation like a comptroller or an accountant instead of a social justice worrier or a disgruntled audience member who can’t get a refund for the ticket. We’ll argue about this later.

But for now, let’s agree that there are undoubtedly as many laudable motives behind the desire to be President of the United States as there are candidates. The same is true for every elected office right down to the local level. But the ultimate prize is the chance to play a role on the stage, maybe even do a bit of directing. And hardly anyone ever left public office poorer than when they entered it.

So the competition will continue to be fierce. The democrats started with over 20 candidates hoping to act on that stage, but like politicians everywhere and as far back in time as we care to look, they have acted more like crabs in a bucket than statesmen.

There is nothing unusual here. They are no different than republicans or any other party’s candidates in this respect. If you’ve ever caught crabs and put them in a bucket, you’ll know that it’s not necessary to put a lid on that bucket if you have more than one crab. One by itself might easily climb out of the bucket, but any more than that and they will pull down any individual that looks like it might make it to the top.

There are better things to do this time of year than worry about politics. The weather is changing. The days are crisp and the nights are cool. The leaves are taking on color, and the holidays are just around the corner. But if politics is your thing, do remember not to take it so personally, and enjoy the spectacle as much as you can. Halloween isalmost here, and who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

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