Easter followed by a federal election.
That’s appropriate, don’t you think? The season of resurrection and the promise of new life followed by the season of resurrecting old, tired and all-but-dead politicians, and the attempted resurrection of old, tired promises that have been dead since the last federal election.
The truth of those words is evident to me in the ease with which they rolled off my tongue and onto this paper. Normally it would take me an hour to come up with something like that and wondering if it was accurate and not just tired, old cynicism.
But the truth is also clear as you listen to the politicians again. They can’t even come up with new phrasing and new expressions, for heaven’s sake.
“We will get the job done!” That’s probably the most irritating one of all. Let’s face it, most of the time those politicians waxing so eloquent from their modern, technological soapboxes don’t have a clue what the job is, let alone getting it done.
“My door-to-door campaign is going marvelously! I have tremendous support!” That’s so close to a down-and-out lie in many cases that it’s a wonder the doors they speak of aren’t scorched brown with fire from the heavens. The reason they are not, of course, is that such doors are few and far between.
For some reason, they don’t realize that you and I, stunned as we are, have enough smarts to know that what they’re saying is not the total truth. They don’t seem to understand that we then apply the same intelligence to everything else they’re saying and come to the conclusion we can’t trust any of it.
In their defence, many politicians get so caught up in the excitement of the campaign that they actually believe what they’re saying is factual. It’s similar to the tender endearments and promises made by a lover in the moments leading up to the moment of truth. Political promises carry the same weight of fulfilment and commitment as does the heavily breathed pledge, “Of course I’ll respect you in the morning!”
“Your cheque is in the mail.” How often have I said that to a person on the phone knowing that they didn’t believe me for a second. It’s a terrible feeling. I am trusting that the majority of you are so genteel in your personal lives that the third example in this triumvirate is unfamiliar to you, and you therefore will not be offended by this.
At the same time, I envisage several women of limited life experiences turning to their husbands and saying, “What’s the third one, dear?” If she doesn’t ask, she already knows. I suggest you just let it go.
All of the foregoing is by way of saying that we find it difficult to trust the words of a politician. A poll of a few days ago indicated that less than 10 per cent of those responding believed anything a politician said. That is so incredibly sad.
I think of the thousands of men and women who have died on foreign soil or in strange waters to protect our democratic system of government, a system that relies heavily on the integrity of our elected representatives.
I wonder what my Uncle Ed would have thought of his sacrifice had he realized in his last moments that the system for which he was dying was coming apart at the seams. My own knowledge of that makes me ache for him and all the others who paid the supreme sacrifice, and also for those whose lives were so affected by what they experienced that they were never the same again.
And I wonder who’s mostly to blame for that. We don’t have to look that far back in our provincial politics to see unbelievable examples of corruption and dishonesty.
But that’s only the big stuff. By extrapolation, we know there’re tons of “lesser” incidents happening every day.
On the federal level, so many examples of untrustworthiness from MPs and bureaucrats come to light that there wouldn’t be enough space in an epistle to cover them all. Again, the majority of us simple voters (that’s how they regard us) know nothing about all that.
I don’t believe that all people who live lives of elected public service are rotten to the core. Some were that way when they were elected, and others were corrupted by power. Ex-premier Brian Peckford (whose honesty I have always believed in) once said to me that elected power too often makes already vulnerable human beings believe they are above the laws and morals that govern you and me.
I believe there are those who remain incorruptible and not only retain their sense of right and wrong, but also live by it. They are my heroes because the temptations to do otherwise must be incredibly challenging.
I do believe those people are strong enough in character and in numbers to ensure that government “of the people and for the people shall not perish from the Earth.”
But they can’t do it alone. There are two phrases in that marvelous sentence borrowed from one of the great Americans that are the foundation of our democratic system. Without them, that system will not survive. You know what they are.
“… Of the people and for the people. …”
The people. That’s you and me. Our democratic society is built on you and me much more than on our elected representatives. Its survival depends on our sense of responsibility to and our involvement in that system.
Nowhere have I mentioned partisan politics. I haven’t suggested which party you should vote for, although the temptation to do so was strong.
The reason? Because far more important than your support for one party or another is your support for the democratic process as a whole.
Last election, slightly more than half of us turned out to vote.
Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.