A colleague likes to remind me that all politics are local. But the sad fact is that so little, if any, are based on accountability or trust.
This past year I have witnessed local “bad” politics set against the backdrop of national “worse” politics, and while the local players may not have nationally recognized names, their tactics are no different than what is playing out in Washington today. While some will say “who can blame them, just look at their role models,” this is no longer a satisfactory answer, at least not to me.
Two of our regional school board members are the subject of recall petitions filed by separate groups in different towns. The targeted officials are claiming that the recalls are about intimidation. I’m reminded that often when people accuse others of a specific character flaw or personality defect, they may be pointing to their own shortcomings. What further strikes me as odd is that these are the same individuals who I have personally seen intimidate their own members and the public, while disparaging and excluding those who don’t agree with them.
The politicians are piling in to the local battle in the hopes of gaining “control”- citizen activists, board members, town councils and mayors are all trying to grab their share of some elusive power pie, while balancing themselves on both sides of an imaginary political fence. Sound familiar? Lines are being drawn faster than summertime lightening strikes and alliances are made (and broken) with a mere phone call or wink of the eye. Meanwhile, the individual political motives and alliances remain nontransparent, finger pointing is rampant and the issues are spiraling out of control. If it sounds to you like a scene from the TV show Big Brother, it could be.
But what is the “real” issue at the local level? What makes it different than what’s going on in Washington? For me… well nothing. We, as a nation, have tossed ethics and morality to the wind. Those in power, at whatever political level, have forgotten what it means to be “servant leaders” and to do so with humility, dignity and grace. Elected officials are no longer accountable to their constituents, nor do they perform their duties with integrity or trust. In this particular case, a regional school district full of kids is suffering. At the national level, the whole country feels the same pain. What a shame. We have nobody to blame but ourselves.
I live in small town America. I speak to those in neighboring towns and I hear that the issues are the same. Only the names and faces are different. Imagine this. What if a copy of this blog was sent to every local school board, every town council and every mayor with a note that said “Say what you mean and do what you say. We, your citizens, are watching and we want you to help restore trust to this nation.” Imagine if these elected officials began setting the examples, at the local level, that our country so desperately needs right now. What is the downside? Where is the risk?
Readers of this blog have the power to start a movement. Forward this short blog to your School Board, your Town Council and your Mayor. Ask them whether they want to continue to be part of the problem or part of the solution. Remind them that collectively, they have the power to change the course of this nation.
Barbara Kimmel is the Executive Director of Trust Across America. Please feel free to send any questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org