If politics is an art, then I am not an artisan. I am reading “Team of Rivals,” a book that in its opening chapters frames Abe Lincoln’s assent to the Presidency. Interestingly thus far, this author portrays aLincolnthat would not speak out against slavery but only resisted its expansion into new states. He was very skilled at avoiding confrontational situations, very seldom creating them.
When confronted about his accommodating stance on slavery, he posed an imagery of snakes in bed with children; surely taking a stick to the snakes, he postured, would not be wise, as one might harm the children? However, if one were making a new bed for children and found snakes attempting to nest there…you get the picture. Was the abolition of slavery his intention all along, his skilled avoidance of the subject a means of preserving votes against that day; or was his desire for office and leadership most important, the abolition of slavery simply politically correct by the time he arrived there? This is not about bashing old Abe, but understanding what drives politicians and how they arrive at a point of impact that creates legacy moments, though often with heroes they simply survive longer than others; or in this case, die as a result of their stand.
I am not trying to be a hero, but rather desperate to learn from these last few days and hoping that my ability to lead has not been so damaged that my beloved days of community service are now over. Avoiding self-pity and allowing humiliation to do its hard work, while benefiting from the encouragement of those who have failed forward, is critical to staying in the fray.
The thing that I wrestle with each morning is why I took the liberties that I did with the media. Was it a character flaw that had lain dormant through my years of service; like some resistant virus, immune to the body’s defenses and at some weak moment seizes upon opportunity to destroy any good within one’s spirit? How did this thing reemerge through the filters of life experience, validating itself as justifiable given the trauma of friends thrown out of office, simply for risking democracy?
Our Council knew the community was split in its understanding of the means proffered to address transportation and safety in our community. It wasn’t even any one design that we were after, though a concept had been studied. A simple referendum would be offered: deal with our challenges immediately via debt, while construction is less costly; or delay another decade or two, in order to pay with cash, though our future economy could be threatened by this long deferred infrastructure challenge.
Then two weeks before the election, trusted men and former leaders opposed to debt and armed with misinformation, catapulted the community toward a vendetta to remove a well-meaning team of community servants. Ironically, this melee occurred on the heels of a very successful celebration of our 25th year anniversary of incorporation; adding grief to the mix.
Though freedom of speech allows for such a last minute campaign, I suddenly found myself spewing accusations in the ear of a newspaper reporter with some foolish sense of righteous indignation, morphing by morning into one’s worst nightmare politically. I provided the very fodder for those who would hold back progress and created embarrassment among the very ones who had served beside me. How does such error mask itself for so long, in one who only desires to serve?
Humiliation is a powerful tool for insight.