Friday, August 21, 2009

The Statesman and the Churchman: Lost American Icons

Everyone wants to be a politician. Which is rather odd given their reputation. Everyone complains about politicians, most agree that 100 politicians on the bottom floor of the ocean would be "a good start," and we tend to see them as sellouts devoid of principle. For a politician to be trusted in America, he or she has to overcome the pre-existing baggage that comes with the job. Yet, it is hard to find leaders that don't seek to be politicians. Even politicians want to be politicians.
Let me clarify as there are alternatives. In the political realm, one can choose to be a statesman. Perhaps this is a man who doesn't accomplish all he might like. He may take the high road, he may compromise some of his own agenda, and most importantly, he always represents his nation before himself or his ideology. He may refrain from defending himself against attacks for the good of the nation. And he governs with the wisdom of the ages, knowing that the problems he faces will never be completely solved by his efforts. (But that doesn't stop him from trying.) The statesman represents the ideals of his state before the ideas of his party, though the two can often work together in legislative efforts. He is modest, but forceful when needed, gracious, but firm. He and the state are not one; but the values of the state are represented by the life of the man.

Compare that with the crowd in Washington, and the contrast is stark. I will be so generous as to say this is true of both parties from time to time. Both sides have policy initiatives they want to get through, and both sides will engage in "hardball" tactics to get them through the slimy, greasy gears of the law-making machine. But there does seem to be little of the statesman in our current administration. Instead of defending the honor and the values of this nation, our president besmirches the good name of America while currying favor for himself in Europe and the Middle East. Instead of admitting errors when speaking of police action or attempting to force legislation that would forever change healthcare in this nation, he persists even harder in his original mistake. Instead of respecting the natural, unforced political action of grassroots conservatives, many on the left are remarkably un-statesmanlike in their assessments, even accusing such protesters of being un-American.