“Is anybody there?” asks John Adams in the musical “1776,” referring to the Continental Congress. “Does anybody care?”
There are times when we wonder the same thing about Congress or the White House. In fact, we question whether anyone in Washington actually understands what it means to lead.
The fiscal cliff and Sandy relief debacles converged in late December into an object lesson in how not to conduct the people’s business.
We are not unmindful that the end of December is traditionally a lost cause when it comes to productive work, at least in the public sector. We understand the need for people to take time out to be with friends and family as the December holidays unfold.
What troubles us is the petty partisanship that passes for government today. There is no reason why the legislative and executive branches of government cannot resolve their differences over crucial issues in late November, or even early December, without the high drama of clocks ticking down and hysterical pronouncements of the dawn of an economic apocalypse. There is no reason why the people’s elected representatives cannot deal swiftly and forthrightly with restoring homes and rebuilding shorelines and giving hope and help to those among the people who feel hopeless and helpless in the wake of a natural disaster.
Yet that is the picture we all saw- our government in inaction. This is a great country and it deserves great leaders. None seem anywhere to be found. Instead, our “leaders,” from the president on down, went on their merry way out of town, either to return home or to go to lush and lavish vacation spots. When some people are homeless, their leaders teeing off on a golf course in Paradise is insensitive. Being choked with tears upon being handed a gavel smacks of theatrical posing, not genuine concern.
Yet again, Nero fiddled while Rome burned. That is not leadership; that is open contempt for us, the people being led. Neither party acquitted itself well in these last weeks. Both served us ill.
Surely, they must assume some of the blame. We, the people, however, share a greater part of that blame. We have become careless in exercising our democratic responsibilities. Too few people vote. Of those who do, too few actually take the time to study the issues and the candidates. We are content to let self-serving so-called political pundits guide us, rather than taking the time and making the effort to make up our own minds for the right reasons. We prefer to put our own individual interests ahead of society’s interests.
We should not expect our leaders to do their jobs if we are not prepared to do ours.