The tribe I’m from has been enduring a series of upheavals in all levels of government. What we have can scarcely be called a government anymore. Government on Pine Ridge reservation has devolved into a salaried infighting and bickering club. Every other week, a judge is thrown out of tribal court and replaced with someone new. Legislators suspend each other constantly, then get put back in after trials that only serve the purpose of being a public humiliation. The tribal president was suspended. The president’s trial on his suspension had to wait to be heard until the chief judge was done being suspended. Our government is that dysfunctional and Kafkaesque.
The real victim in all this turmoil is the communities of the reservation. Obviously with such a gridlock, and no functional judicial or legislative system, not much of anything can get done. The short term projects and programs are neglected. No one even seems to think about anything long term.
Nationally, the situation is no better. Government only half-functions when guided by persons with principles. No one out there seems to have any principles anymore, or any care for the common good. It is all about what lopsided laws can be drafted for whatever corporation sponsored this or that senate campaign. It is all greed and nepotism, a slimy cabal of vultures fighting for their own class interests. It is all cults of personality with no substance, competing over who can squawk louder, look shinier, lie with a straighter face.
Someone asked me recently why I don’t write much about politics. If my distaste isn’t palpable enough, I figured I could publicly address some of the bigger reasons.
1.) “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his livelihood depends on his not understanding it.” (Upton Sinclair)
A portion of the people who care about politics do so out of passion, out of intellectual conviction, out of concern for the well-being of their communities. Yet just as many pick their politics according to what it will gain them, individually, as a family, as a class of people. They have something to be gained if a certain candidate gets in, if certain policies are pushed.
No matter how well you reason, or how profoundly and superbly you plead the case for something, it is very hard to reach someone who has a vested interest in not understanding. For example, good ideas mean very little when a relative is promising a free job with minimal responsibilities if they get in office. Right and wrong tend to be very flexible when personal gain is at stake. The ability to contort something is magnificent, if it allows someone to justify their self-interest.
2.) Hardly anyone pays attention to facts. Politics seem to be 99 percent emotion and credulous assumptions. Even when you do diligent research, and present it in a logical manner, it likely won’t matter, if the conclusion goes against what a person assumed on the basis of that emotion.
Emotion is also easily manipulated. Most campaigns from the local level all the way to the national are adept at exploiting emotion rather than offering platforms with any substance. The people who are willing to think, willing to weigh both sides of an argument, rather than credulously mime everything they hear from a biased source, seem to be in short supply.
3.) Hardly anyone seems to realize what is at stake. Politics should not be some soap opera entertainment. Real issues with tangible consequences for the community are being played out. If everyone took it a little more seriously, it could result in funds being allocated more appropriately to good things, positive programs being developed that many could benefit from. All the changes everyone longs to see could happen if everyone got more serious about the political process. If it was brought back to being a venue to bring about those changes, rather than some high school soap opera of pettiness and interpersonal drama.
4.) All the elders, visionaries, thinkers, leaders, and good people I would like to see shaping the decisions that guide our communities are sitting at home, cast out of the power structure. Locally, nationally, I have no dogs in the fight. I see very few politicians worthy of cheerleading. When corruption fights corruption, I hope corruption destroys itself. When the pawns of groups that don’t have my or my communities interest at heart face off, I don’t care who is left standing at the end. I refuse to fake passion for people and agendas I don’t support.