A lifelong poli-junkie, I have lately grown positively allergic to political theater and repelled by the showboating, the preening and the pride; I’ve had a bellyful of politicians gassing away about the wonderfulness of themselves and their marvelous ocean-receding powers; how they are going to be the “most ethical” this and “smartest” that. And I am fed up to the neck with hyperventilating factions among the political class–and even some portions of the citizenry–that project perfection onto ideologies (and onto mere humans who know how to talk up a crowd) and who spin like angry rottweilers, showing their teeth to any who do not fall in love and fall in line.
The tiresome, empty and predictable rhetoric being thrown our way by elected officials who seem to have no idea what either “serving” the people” or “cause and effect”) mean, accompanied by what Roger Simon correctly identifies as a self-destructive over-weaning hubris (and that’s not just for politicians, anymore) has so soured me on politics, that I’ve stopped listening to most of it.
Yes, it was the new speaker’s first aria, and he bumbled a few words. But after quelling the theatrics with a bang of his gavel, Boehner cleared his throat with four magical words that would be unimaginable coming from the throats of most of our current cabal of political “leaders”:
“It’s still just me…”
And then he sang not of hubris but of humility, not of superiority but of service. And in such a refreshing tone:
The American people have humbled us. They have refreshed our memories as to just how temporary the privilege to serve is. They have reminded us that everything here is on loan from them. That includes this gavel, which I accept cheerfully and gratefully, knowing I am but its caretaker. After all, this is the people’s House. This is their Congress. It’s about them, not us. What they want is a government that is honest, accountable and responsive to their needs. A government that respects individual liberty, honors our heritage, and bows before the public it serves.
If these sane and humble words are real, we might be able to save ourselves. There may still be hope.
If this is genuine–and Boehner’s penchant for weepiness suggests to me that he is a man familiar with authentic humility–then it might actually become catalytic; other old-hand pols might come to realize that they no longer to polish that hard, shiny and slick shell of arrogant, I-have-all-the-answers assurance – which never re-assured any of us out here in the middle class, as we’ve had to slip-slide through oily wake. They will perhaps feel safe enough to even–gasp–admit their mistakes and take concrete, constructive steps to rectify those mistakes.
It is up to us to daily remind our “servants” that we never thought they were the godlings they believed, but that we’ll accept humble admissions of error accompanied by corrections, with our own genuine gratitude, but no more games. At this point, we are so near our very last chance to make things right that there is little room for error.
And our politicians need to realize that they have worn-out our indulgences, and are out of second-changes. What needs to be made right, needs to be made right now.
I liked Boehner’s speech. I thrilled at his aria. But he’d better be able to sing the rest of the show, and bring that chorus in line, too.
Otherwise, it’s curtains. For all of us.
UPDATE: Boehner, in this email, may well have figured that out.
Bookworm: Reading the Constitution in Congress: a chat with her daughter.