In our negative narrative world, the dirty, thieving politicians are all deserving only of scorn, criticism, and abuse. Members of Congress are out-of-touch, corrupt, pandering, and stupid buffoons. The ones we vote for are only the of lesser of two evils on the ballot. The office holders of national statue are truly kings of the dung heap worthy of the personal loathing that the opposing parties hurl at each other’s leaders.
I feel the imperative to distrust government and to vilify every single Member of Congress. Whether it’s Fox News or MSNBC, the sneering, impartial, truth-telling reporters make it clear that America is ill-served by its officials.
Except it isn’t so. My personal experience contradicts the dominant nightmare paradigm.
Yesterday I saw my Congresswoman in person for the first time in her tenure. I was invited to go as part of a group of small business owners to hear her discuss of the Affordable Care Act, aka: Obamacare.
My Member of Congress showed up on time, and chatted sociably with her fellow panelists while they waited to be introduced. I know this because she was sitting on a folding chair in the audience directly in front of me. She was in Row 1 and I, having been anal-retentively early, was in Row 2. My Congresswoman was neither haughty nor remote while in the audience or when she spoke. When she took the podium she gave facts and figures and stories without notes. Her responses to questions were on target and not evasive talking points. Her face and gestures showed her connection to the people in the room, and she gave a warm feeling.
What yesterday’s event reminded me was how good we have it in the United States and how good our representatives are. Whether you agree with my Congresswoman’s positions on a particular issue, I think she – and so many other politicians – should be lauded and thanked for meeting real people and listening to us day after day.
A year and a half after Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot at a constituent meeting, my Member of Congress was still incredibly accessible and vulnerable. Sure, I was a wearing a logo-embossed business shirt and am a white man of a certain age. But, still. I didn’t have to go through metal detectors or a weapons search. I wasn’t kept a reasonable distance from her –she just sat down in front of me in a metal auditorium chair. I was not questioned about my political views before I entered the room, and I wasn’t coached how to act by anyone warming up the audience.
I left very impressed with my Congresswoman, Representative Nancy Pelosi. Yes, I live in the district of a very well-known, very targeted, very slammed Member of Congress. But, Representative Pelosi didn’t show any signs of being a star or of being a political target. She was matter-of-fact and direct.
I am very lucky to live where I can see powerful government people when I, myself, am no one special. I am very lucky to have a representative who works so hard listening and keeping on top of so many facts on so many issues.
I believe that Nancy Pelosi is not the only Representative working long hours for the public good. The good people – of both parties – care.
After yesterday, reveling in cheap-shot attack photo captions on Facebook strikes me as dangerous and mean. Are we better off when we attack our elected officials for simply breathing? I’m not saying that we have to applaud their views if we disagree with them on the issues. But, unless someone is caught in a wide-stance, toe-tapping hypocrisy, I think we’ve trashed our politicians enough for a while.
About the only surprising point I learned about Rep. Pelosi was how very unphotogenic she is. She’s positively anti-photogenic. I always thought that she looked like she was a victim of too much plastic surgery. In real life she appears friendly, relaxed, and attractive. Her face can move! Yet almost every picture I took of her showed her face in some twisted gesture, eyes darting evilly, or her hands doing accusatory pointing. I think she’s so alive and moving that cameras cannot keep up.
Of the 70 or so photos, here’s the only 7 iPad shots that don’t make her look awful!
I’ve met her in person, too. Several times. She’s always come off as being incredibly competent, caring, and intelligent. She does not photograph well.
I believe the RepubliKKKans hate her precisely because she’s a highly intelligent woman, and that threatens them.
I think its good to call people out when they are behaving badly. However, I think we gotta be careful about using “KKK” so that we don’t wind up turning off reasonable allies from the “other” side.
IMHO the fight is for the country and keeping us together in our diversity.
There’s a larger issue here as well. When was the last time we saw someone calling policemen pigs or making a joke about their eating donuts? I have friends who are policemen and I trust them to do their jobs with competence and professionalism. I have friends who are firemen and EMTs and don’t like the jokes about them, either. Gay men in groups say derogatory things about women, and yet most of us have good friends who are women. It is easy to hide behind the anonymity of the internet and to say horrible things about people with whose views we don’t agree. And I know I do it myself.
We as citizens should know better. We as gay men should know much better.