We Have Met the Enemy - Us
Like most humans and many animals, I like games. Some I no longer play but still remember fondly. I like board games like Monopoly and chess, card games like bridge and poker, and outdoor games like golf, croquet and skeet. I like the challenge of trying to do them well and like the head-to-head competition most of them offer.
What I do not like are political games. These are games played not with rooks and pawns but with people - you and me. We are the ones who become the pawns on which politicians prey. We are the ones who suffer when they lose. Too frequently these days, these are the games that are played - and calling time is long overdue.
Consider the recent battles over the debt ceiling, with all of the brinksmanship, blame-calling, and storming out of the room. Our economy, credit rating, interest rates, income and future were all at stake, but we were not in the game. We weren't players - we were simply pieces on a political checkerboard to be shuffled around. We were at the mercy of power-mad players enjoying their moment in the spotlight.
Who was at fault? Everybody, especially us. This column has been pointing the finger at the president, but he is not alone. The Republicans have been playing the same game with the same goal: votes.
This brings the blame back where it belongs: on us. We remain in the stands enjoying our hot dogs and beer but ignoring the game on the field. We pretend that we are not participants but, in truth, we are the guiltiest.
We have forgotten how our government operates. If we were truly a democracy, we would have to weigh in on every decision. The majority would rule. But we chose to be a republic, which means we elect people to represent us - to vote in our absence.
Fair enough. But that should not mean we can forget our responsibility and simply not pay attention. Not doing our homework opens the gate to a mass of power-hungry, perk-fueled, pompous narcissists, which describes who we have now in our government.
It is one thing to want someone to do the nitty-gritty work of running our government, but it is something else to abdicate the responsibility of picking the right people. Now, we are bearing the brunt of our apathy and ignorance. We are so wrapped up in our self-interests that we are willing to let the government take more and more control of our lives, foolishly confident that Washington has our best interests at heart and the knowhow to do right by us..
It is easy to blame Obama. But who put a man with limited experience in running anything into the Oval Office? You know the answer to that one: We did. It is, therefore, we who are to blame.
This is not to suggest we should all go to Washington to stand over that crowd - although sometimes that seems sensible. I have long believed that whether you are hiring a painter, carpenter or landscaper, the best approach is to seek the best person and them let them do their jobs with no micro-managing. But until we get better people in there, we need to look over the shoulders of those in government and demand they do their jobs.
Our job is to look carefully at all candidates and not be taken in by grandiose promises and forked-tongue pretenders. There are some good people out there - some of whom may not wish to run. Nonetheless, the really good people will step up to the plate when called. That's why they are good people.
But we can't wait for them to come forward. It is up to us to seek them out and study their backgrounds and qualifications. Before we vote, we have to pay attention. Otherwise, we the people will be the ones in the penalty box.
Allan Jefferys, a former New York theater critic and newsman, lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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