Politics get personal

Published 6:21 pm Tuesday, March 18, 2014

To the editor:
The political hostility that resonates from Washington is dividing communities across America and here in Polk County is no exception. Inevitable perhaps, because what happens in Washington doesn’t stay in Washington. Mud-slinging, name-calling and party bashing from our national leaders is rampant. The loudest voices advocate for conflict and divisiveness. Politics lacks civility, is short on honesty and abounds with hypocrisy… virtue-less qualities most find distasteful and a turn-off. While politics has always been a tough topic to navigate among friends, it has taken on a new dimension in recent years. It’s become a bit more personal. No, make that, it has become hugely personal. Okay, how, so you may be asking? Well, let’s pick a few topics to illustrate.
Starting with perhaps the most personal and provocative of them all…the right to life versus the right to choose (abortion). Some view this issue as a national human crisis, others characterize it as a ‘war on women.’ Divisive? This very private and personal decision, agonizing at best for the people involved, is being played out in every branch of our government. Whose bright idea was that? The two major political parties have elevated this topic to a central theme in political campaigns. Are you nuts? For hundreds of years, this topic has been discussed by families in a closed meeting with family members. Outside snoopers not welcome.
Next issue. Washington spending. Not so personal? Wrong. Washington can’t pay the bills, and yet year after year, it spends more than its makes and we rack up the debt. A debt now our children and grandchildren may have to deal with. Getting personal. We fight amongst ourselves over what should be done. Cut military spending, entitlement spending, foreign aid. We argue, we cuss, we want to slap our elected official beside the head and say “stop it.” Balance the budget like you’re supposed to so we can stop fighting down here.” Let’s just get to the granddaddy subject, the heart and soul of America’s identity crisis that’s tearing us in two.
Big government versus limited government. Here it is. Uncle Sam plays an ever increasing role in our lives because so many more Americans receive some form government assistance. Are you having a love affair with your uncle or are you being abused by him? We have distinctly different views of our uncle and it’s become very personal. Consider this. Uncle Sam is the biggest spender of our dollar, the biggest borrower of money, the most prolific lender of money, the largest landowner in the country, the largest leaseholder, the largest healthcare provider, the largest charity and the list goes on. He’s a goliath. We’ve created him. He must be fed. And just how big can he get before he’s goes from being on life support to complete system failure?
In this debate over how much government we can afford, we must come to some consensus about the spending. Logic and common sense dictate there are limits. The more compelling question is to what extent will we let government impact our daily lives? If we’re depending on the gov’t to sustain our basic needs, or for validation of some behavior, perhaps we’ve bartered too much independence.
The more personal you allow politics to become in your life, the less ‘free will’ you have. Government provided comfort is paid with personal dignity. The exchange should be temporary. I sort of long for the time, a few decades back, when I used to complain about the IRS being the biggest pain in my butt. Now, it seems there’s an alphabet of agencies (IRS, NSA, TSA, HHS) who want a piece of me. Yes, politics has become very personal!

– Dick Shaughnessy,
Green Creek

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