I have been sick in bed the last few days trying to get rid of that icky crud that has been making the rounds. Nothing quite makes you feel like a pipsqueak more than when your body is just not functioning properly and the only energy you have left is focused on recovery. I don’t get sick very often, but when I do, it usually hits me hard. Sometimes with all the responsibilities we try to meet in this life, we forget that we are still human, and end up draining ourselves to the point of where our body forces us to pay attention. And while being sick is a real drag, sometimes it is a good thing to get that occasional reminder to slow down and remember that we are not invincible.
As I watch the news, I think one the major problems that our DC elected officials have is that they rarely get the opportunity to feel like a pipsqueak. In other words, there is not a lot of opportunity for them to slow down and remember that they are not invincible. Being so distant from those whom they represent makes it easy to forget why they are there, since they associate more with the people circles of government than the real circles of ordinary people. Generally speaking, folks tend to be more loyal to those whom they see and work with every day than those with whom they don’t. We also tend to hang out more with those who share our same belief systems. While both behaviors are natural and aren’t in themselves bad things, in politics they are dangerous, as it can lead our public servants to focus more on the needs and wants of those closest to them, instead of the needs and wants of their constituents back home.
Living within the centralized bubble of a large federal government is not what our founders intended for the statesmen and women that we chose to represent us. They knew how dangerous it would be if all powers of government were centralized in one area, with the states and local governments devolving into nothing more than the mere enforcing arms of the same. They understood the dangers to liberty if our statesmen were continuously far from the faces and voices of the people, far from those who would hold them accountable, far from those who would remind them occasionally that they are human pipsqueaks like the rest of us. They knew that it would be a lot harder to fill invincible and arrogant if most of the people you dealt with everyday knew who you were before you became an elected official. They also knew that it would be a lot harder to be partisan, because now both sides would have to communicate to their neighbors face to face as to why they couldn’t work together, or why they continued to ignore what the local public has to say.
I think the reason why our federal government is so screwed up is that it’s harder to feel like a pipsqueak when you are so far away from those who are supposed to hold you accountable. Humility is a necessary thing in public office, as it ensures the proper focus on the needs of the people, whether our politicians want to admit it or not. The farther you are from those that can help you remain humble, the easier it is to think yourself a god and do foolish things. The closer to the people you place the seats of government, the closer to their desires the decisions made will be, and the easier for them to hold their elected officials accountable.
Perhaps the best way to ensure our politicians remain statesmen is to also ensure that they have opportunities to remember what it feels like to be a pipsqueak. For both their and our sakes, we need to shrink our federal government back to its original boundaries and return the reins of power back to the states and the local people. Until we do, our leaders will never realize the necessary humility that must come before greatness, and they will continue to fail in any endeavor to lift up our nation.
“Nobody stands taller than those willing to stand corrected”. ~William Safire (1929-2009), American author, journalist, and presidential speechwriter