I grew up very naïve. My parents taught me to respect and trust police officers, teachers, doctors and nurses, preachers and priests, scout leaders, and our nation’s leaders.
That respect and trust has been damaged over the years by media stories of vicious cops, student-molesting teachers, and drug addicted or incompetent doctors and nurses. Then there are the way-less-than-righteous preachers and unpriestly priests. The vast majority of decent public servants are shamed by the few rogue professionals who give everyone in their group a black eye.
Even as a retired teacher, I still cringe when I hear the names of Mary Kay Le Torneau and Debra LaFave. But they’re only two of thousands of male and female teacher predators exposed in the last dozen years.
Then there’s bad cop Drew Petersen. I’ll let you supply your own names for other bad actors who have broken the public trust.
But let’s talk politics.
Recent polls reported in the Washington Times reveal that Congressional approval is at 9 percent, the lowest in Gallup’s 39-year history of asking the question. The rating hit 10 percent twice in 2012, and the 2013 average is now 14 percent. The dissatisfaction is fairly consistent across the political spectrum: 9 percent of Republicans, 8 percent of independents and 10 percent of Democrats approve. The president’s approval percentage has also sunk along with that of Congress.
Being something of a quote junkie, I offer several favorite examples aimed at America’s politicians:
“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.” (Ernest Benn)
“Giving money and power to the government is like giving car keys and whisky to teenage boys” (P.J. O’Rourke)
“No man's life, liberty or property is safe while the Legislature is in session.” (Gideon Tucker)
“This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when a baby gets hold of a hammer.” “The more you read and observe about this politics thing, you got to admit that each party is worse than the other. The one that's out always looks the best.” (Will Rogers)
“If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner.” “Looking for an honest politician is like looking for an ethical burglar.” (H.L. Mencken)
“There is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.”
“Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” (Mark Twain)
“Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.” (Ronald Reagan)
“It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged.” (G.K.Chesterton)
“Politicians, like diapers, should be changed often and for the same reasons.” (anonymous)
“People often ask me why I left the Senate, and I always tell them after eight years in Washington, I longed for the realism and sincerity of Hollywood.” (TV actor Fred Thompson, former U.S. Senator)
“One useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three is a Congress.” (John Adams)
“ ‘Need' now means wanting someone else's money. 'Greed' means wanting to keep your own. 'Compassion' is when a politician arranges the transfer.” — Joseph Sobran
“For those looking for security, be forewarned that there's nothing more insecure than a political promise.” (Harry Browne)
“There are just two things standing in between the American people and their freedom: Democrats and Republicans.” (Joe Seehusen)
And my personal favorite: “Politicians, like bombers, seldom see their victims …” — Donald Boudreaux
The words politician and statesman (stateswoman) refer to one skilled in politics. These terms differ greatly in their connotations. Politician is more often disparaging, and statesman admirable. Politician hints of schemes and tactics of a person who engages in politics for party ends or for one's own advantage, as in a dishonest politician. Statesman suggests noble ability, wise foresight, and unselfish patriotic devotion of a person dealing with critical affairs of state, as in a distinguished statesman.
Not every member of Congress, cabinet member, or president is an Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Benjamin Disreaeli, Margaret Thatcher, Cicero, John Foster Dulles, Colin Powell, Daniel Webster, Frederick Douglass, Mahatma Ghandi, or Winston Churchill (let me know if I left out one of your favorites).
But one great statesman or stateswoman these days would be nice.
Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.