Where there are crises, there will be politicians
By LOIS SAPTUZZI
Published September 15, 2006
Power is a driving force that compels some individuals to seek and gain elected offices. And, as election time approaches again, we see the same games played, but with different players.
My political experience is well into its 40th year and, as I look back, I ponder on those who choose to run.
Miss Carolin, my American History teacher in high school, probably had the most profound influence on my political experience. I can still remember her opening remarks. She stood just 5 feet and had a voice that carried to the back row. She explained that her job was to teach us American history; our job was to learn it - and that we would. End of discussion.
She also told us that homework, special projects and papers were due on the day assigned. The only excuse she would accept was a death in the family - ours. Again, end of discussion.
In that vein, we spent a year learning about this country, the how, the who and everything in between. On the last day of class she informed us she had given us the tools to become informed American citizens and that in a few years we could take our place in the voting booths and know who we wanted to vote for and why.
The first time I was alone in that voting booth I felt like a real American. My grandfathers, who helped settle this country back in the 1700s, had not died in vain.
In the 1960s, I went to my first political rally and it was for a mayoral race in central New York. The candidate said many things I believed in and gave promises that had meaning to me. I volunteered to help elect him. He won, and for four terms he helped put the city not only on the map, but held the esteem of many. There was talk that his next race would send him to Washington, D.C. Twenty-four hours after he left office, the FBI barricaded his home and office and he was charged with taking payoffs and later found guilty of those charges. To this day he is remembered as one of the best mayors we ever had, but his legacy is forever tarnished.
Not long after that I met, in a supermarket aisle, an elected official I knew personally. He was in his second term as a state representative. I asked him why he was not running again and his answer was that he liked sleeping at night.
Presidents have been murdered, have lied and resigned and defaced the office of president. Yet, through all this the candidates keep coming. From these pages of history I learned that all idols have clay feet. It is one thing to make a bad choice and learn from it. It is a different ball of wax if all that is learned is not to get caught. Today, the worst in everyone is up for cheap grabs, as there is money, greed and power to be had if you pull the skeletons out of the closet first.
With all this being said, the question of why anyone would run for public office is not so hard to understand. For some, it is the desire to see things improve and the feeling they can implement that change. It's an ideal and a dream that set the political ladder-climb. The daily rung-climbing, unfortunately, is met with harsh and difficult reality. The vote-getter is only as good as the votes tallied and as the polls project, and to achieve this ideals and dreams are swept away by caving in.
Standing up is a lot different than standing tall. I've often heard that politicians make strange bedfellows. How strange would they be if we took away the beds?
Every election season brings a new and better crisis to the voter. In my lifetime of voting we still haven't solved the health-care issue because too many toes will get stepped on if we do. Illegal immigrants are what you would classify as a relatively new issue. This new issue forgets that breaking a law is punishable. I can sneak into this country and receive amnesty, but if I fail to file a tax return I may face jail.
Terrorism has always been among us, as we went to the basement of our schools because the air-raid sirens were sounded for practice if the Russians attacked; it is as real to me today as when we practiced it. We have more laws, more crimes, and more prisons, and if there isn't a problem, just wait.
People look to every form of government to solve every problem. Common sense, common respect and responsibility are virtues that should be the ideal, but for many are as distant as the moon.
This is the perfect setting for a candidate and, thus, they step on stage to lead us to a better place, providing the polls dictate it.
Lois Saptuzzi lives in Spring Hill. Guest columnists write their own opinions about subjects they choose, which do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.