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One big dysfunctional family

Aug. 10, 2009

by Ivan Raconteur

I recently spent an afternoon with some other citizens, sitting around a picnic table enjoying adult beverages and discussing the state of the world.

Like a lot of other conversations that have taken place around a lot of other tables recently, the conversation drifted to topics such as health care, the economy, and employment.

One gentleman made a comment that made me smile.

It was not that his comment was unreasonable, it was just unlikely.

What he said was, “If the government would just be honest with us, we could solve most of the problems.”

Our elected officials are put in place to represent their constituents, but a funny thing happens after they get elected.

They develop a sort of superior attitude, and a belief that they know what is best for us.

They apparently believe that they are in a better position to judge what we need than we are.

Ordinary citizens are treated like simple-minded creatures that cannot be trusted to understand complex issues.

For our own benefit, they withhold information so as not to confuse us.

One would not suggest that politicians never tell us the truth, but they certainly don’t overdo it.

They might tell us the truth if it is convenient, and if it doesn’t interfere with their agendas. Unfortunately, they do not find it convenient very often.

Once elected, many politicians seem to adopt the mushroom strategy for information management. That is to say, they keep voters in the dark and feed them a lot of organic fertilizer.

One hesitates to admit this, but this parsimony in the truth department may not be entirely their fault.

The tendency of politicians to keep the truth under wraps, rather like a bashful bride on her wedding night, may be due in part to the system itself.

In fact, the public may also share some of the blame.

The system is set up in such a way that those who stand up and tell the truth are chastised by their peers who would rather have them play ball. They are also penalized at election time.

The citizens, for their part, should not only demand the truth, but support the leaders who tell it like it is.

We may not like the message, but we ought not shoot the messenger.

When one stops to think about it, we are all like one big dysfunctional family.

I am rather a slow learner, but even I eventually figured out that when it comes to relationships, open communication is vital.

If we ignore things, or keep them bottled up or hidden, nothing ever gets solved.

The same is true of our relationship with our brother and sister citizens and representatives.

If only a select few politicians have access to the information, and try to muddle along and fix things on their own, the chances of success don’t seem too good.

On the other hand, if all of the pertinent information is put out on the table, we can all work together to come up with solutions.

Politicians need the support of the taxpayers, but it is difficult for us to support a program or idea if we don’t have all the facts.

There are a lot of complex issues facing our dysfunctional national family today, and it seems to me that the guy at the picnic table was right. We would have a much better chance of solving problems if we were all working with the same information.

It is not that the citizens are not interested. People all across the country are sitting around picnic tables and kitchen tables and saloon tables talking about the challenges with which we are confronted.

There are probably a lot of good ideas being kicked around out there.

Meanwhile, the politicians are sitting around their own exclusive tables, (presumably) struggling with the same problems.

Maybe what we need is some talented, energetic family counselor to help all of the members of our big national dysfunctional family learn to communicate better with one another.

Maybe some day we will be able to have open and honest discussions, and share information to solve problems, rather than engaging in political posturing and partisan bickering.

Maybe politicians can start being honest with us, and we, in turn, can be more supportive when they tell us something we don’t want to hear, with the understanding that we are all going to need to make sacrifices in order to get out of this mess in which we find our nation.

On the other hand, maybe I have been out in the sun too long, and maybe my first reaction was accurate, and the concept of honest politicians really is just another crazy idea.