May 12, 2011

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if this editorial space turned into an advice column, as opposed to a complaint forum? I wish I could blame the lack of a fresh editorial in the newspaper this past month on the fact we had been challenged at church recently to try and go 30 days without complaining.

What a test. I failed almost immediately. Turns out that is really hard to do, and this column, in its former format, is nearly impossible. Ironic that you will read the following passage in a space that traditionally has been filled with words authored, often sarcastically, highlighting something the author perceived as wrong.

Ephesians 4:29 (King James Version) says Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

That seems pretty cut and dried - we should use our words to build up others, not tear them down. It doesn't mean that we cannot address problems or even confront those who are responsible. Still for me it leaves as a gray area what I would call constructive criticism.

As a constituent, are we not allowed to let our elected officials know when they have done something we disapprove of?

Representative government is supposed to work off the concept that elected officials listen to those who voted them into office, attempting to establish a consensus or a majority opinion and then taking action.

Often times our personal ideologies may fall to the minority side of this equation, which can create the feeling that our voice was not heard.

At times like this, is it okay to voice an opinion, stating your belief that a particular decision was wrong?

I think so. However, where I think WE fail is we often do not realize that this can be done without running down the opposition. Often, we get caught up in the zeal of trying to prove our point, crossing the line of arguing the strengths of our case and highlighting the perceived weaknesses of the counter argument. In the heat of the battle it is so easy to begin grasping at straws, haphazardly firing any and all ammunition we can lay our hands on in an effort to prove our point.

That's often the case for me when I discuss national politics. As a conservative, I often find myself at odds with the direction our nation is headed in.

After listening to President Obama's speech announcing the death of bin Laden, it was discouraging that attention was turned from a triumphant moment due to the method in which the message was delivered, or more precisely how much of it was delivered in the first-person.

President Obama stated:

"...shortly after taking office, I directed Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, to make the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority of our war against al Qaeda...

"Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.

"Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan."

The old ball coach used to say there is no I in team. Ironic that there are I's in politics, and not just the spelling. In this case it appears to have worked, as public opinion polls reported the president's popularity rose 5% following bin Laden's death.

Maybe it boils down to job security, the sense that people must know what you have done in order for you to get re-elected? Unfortunately it appears that the political playbook calls for the insertion of I into every single press release, to the extent that politicians can often appear to be hijacking success stories.

Seems to me politicians would be better served to turn to the greatest playbook of all and follow the advice of Matthew 23:12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

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