National political problems are rooted in personal hypocrisy

Monday, September 8, 2008 | 10:00 a.m. CDT

Over Labor Day weekend, I visited family in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Since I wasn't the least bit curious about the Republican National Convention I didn't bother to take the opportunity to drive by the Xcel Center to catch a glimpse of the festivities.

Since the election of Richard Nixon to the highest office in the land, my interest in politics has waned as I came to understand that the majority of the citizenry and I disagree basically on the direction the country should be heading. For the most part since that time, except for a few bright moments that disappeared overnight, as far as I'm concerned, the country has been on a downhill slide. Every four years I kept hoping, but it just kept getting worse.

Insofar as I have not been exactly hesitant about expressing my views of the two-party system, I have received many kind lectures on the importance of going to the polls and casting my vote for the nominee of my choice. As I am prone to point out, however, since there are no independent candidates on the ballot, I suppose I could write in "None of the Above."

Seriously, no one knows better than I do of the long fight to gain the right to vote for women. And the long hard struggle for voting rights for African-Americans long after the laws were passed is virtually tattooed on my brain. But having acknowledged these facts to my lecturers, I have to remind them that the responsibilities of citizenship extend beyond the ballot box. Included among those other duties is the job of demanding that those elected to public office be accountable. Those who join political parties and campaign for their candidates should be especially diligent in letting these candidates know what is expected of them if they are elected.

The way I see it, without genuine reform in the way political campaigns are financed and without strict censure of lobby groups, the public has no means of controlling the way campaigns are waged. And political parties should get together and make rules, guided by what best serves the public interest, about how long the campaign season should be. This business of allowing paid public servants to do whatever they please, in spite of how it affects the society, is so out of control that only the most irresponsible would insist that it continue. Is it fair that the majority of citizens who engage in responsible and appropriate behavior should have to suffer at the mercy of people who are without ethical considerations of any kind?

It's amazing to me, how these politicos with their hard-core ideologies, can do an immediate turnaround depending on whether they like or dislike the individual. They can actually accuse people of being without religion and family values because they don't belong to the "right" political party. The thing about religious values really winds me up because it never occurs to these plutocrats that many people are brought up to understand that it is impolite to try to foist your religious viewpoints on other people. Frankly, I know many Christians who pray and meditate in private because that is the practice of their faith, and they wish not to be offensive. To imply that simply because some people do not go running through the village shouting their religious beliefs from every rooftop means they are faithless is not only rude, insulting and offensive but makes me believe that those who practice such behavior have motives that are questionable.

Many Christians I know that can go head to head with any person of any faith in defense of their own beliefs feel that it is a private discussion and not material for a public forum. That just proves to me that some people have more enlightened spiritual leaders than others. I suspect that some folks believe that talking the talk will impress the kind of people they know who would be offended if they really and truly walked the walk.

We can blame it on television or all of the electronic media, but as a society we seem to no longer be able to distinguish between private matters and public issues. I'm not certain how many Americans can separate fact from fiction anymore. I'm not a fan of "reality television programming." On those occasions when people tell me what they are watching, I know for sure that we exist in different realities. For that reason, it is not surprising to me that so many children are confused about true and false questions. They are the products of confused parents, so it's understandable.

The other thing is that I am sick to death of people prattling on and on about family values. First of all, the only families these prattlers know anything about are generally people of their own race and class. Their political parties obviously give them the right to believe that their values are superior to the values of other races and classes. That kind of thing happens when you coexist only with those who agree with you.

History will ultimately expose all of us for who we truly are. I suspect that, at best, we are all just human beings in need of mercy. As long as some people believe that they are the exclusive owners of all things right and decent by birthright, we will continue to be separated by a gulf. A country divided, I suppose, is just a country divided.

Somewhere, hope abides that we all will finally get over ourselves and unity of purpose can prevail.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at


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