I’m a crank. I’m an equal opportunity crank: I don’t like most politicians or political parties. Most politicians don’t keep their campaign promises, and often, in the end, their rhetoric appears manipulative.
Why do they do it? Really, because we voters accept it. We refer to it as “how the game is played” and anyone who is upset by the gulf between political rhetoric and reality is naive and should grow up. We give politicians a pass, a big thumbs-up to stretching the truth.
I’m reminded of the old Saturday Night Live skits with John Lovitz as Tommy Flannagan, the pathological liar:
“Hello, my name is Tommy Flanagan, and I’m a member of Pathological Liars Anonymous. In fact… I’m the president of the organization!
I didn’t always lie. No, when I was a kid, I told the truth. But then one day, I got caught stealing money out of my mother’s purse. I lied. I told her it was homework – that my teacher told me to do it. And she got fired! Yeah, that’s what happened!
After that, lying was easy for me. I lied about my age and joined the Army. I was 13 at the time. Yeah… I went to Vietnam, and I was injured catching a mortar shell in my teeth. And they made me a three-star general! And then I got a job in journalism, writing for the National Enquire… Er, Geographic! Yeah… I was making $20,000 a ye… month! In fact, I won the Pulitzer Prize that year! Yeah, that’s the ticket.”
So what’s my point? Well, we are suffering from a pandemic–not the Swine Flu, but the “Victim Virus.” It seems that when caught in the act, the standard response is not “Whoops, I’m busted,” but rather, “I’m being persecuted, singled out, victimized. Everybody does it; so what if I’ve murdered, stolen, lied, cheated? Nothing was wrong until some evil person had the nerve to blow the whistle and ruin my life! Yeah, that’s the ticket!”
You could call this the Rod Blagojevich defense, but one needn’t look to Chicago for examples. We have our share here in Alexandria. The latest example involves City Council Member-Elect Alicia R. Hughes.
I don’t know whether Ms. Hughes has committed a crime; that is for the legal system to decide. In fact, I was glad to see the party in power lose its choke-hold on local politics when Mr. Fannon and Ms. Hughes were elected. Not because I expect great things from them, but as a friend of mine (a Republican, no less) once said to me, “It’s unhealthy for any one party to be in charge of everything.”
Now, it would be naive to think the Dems are not delighted to have an issue to engage in mortal combat with the Republicans. Both parties love to be right. However, a number of Republicans in the City are crying foul, that Ms. Hughes is being singled out and is the victim of racism and a Democrat-sponsored witch hunt. The Victim Virus spreads and Tommy Flanagan would be proud.
Political parties catch fire with morals and ethics any time an issue provides election leverage, and we are talking about politicians here; not Joe Schmo, who was minding his own business before a local conspiracy happened to swallow him whole and ruin his life.
So while the two parties prepare for battle, voters are treated with more manipulative rhetoric and righteous indignation as the core issue recedes from the dialog, namely, did Ms. Hughes falsify her residency claims when running for office?
This question seems to me to be quite important and quite simple to prove or refute, without all the hoopla and campaign-style rhetoric.
In the end, the Hughes business will conclude after due process. This is no time to succumb to the Victim Virus. We should innoculate ourselves by rejecting the rhetoric. Instead of accepting that “this is how the game is played”, we should demand honesty from all our elected officials, not just Ms. Hughes.
We should stop giving all politicians a pass.