A Good Word for Politics

From a piece by John Andrews in today’s Denver Post.

Hecklers, on guard. On this Independence Day, in a stormy election year when Americans are out of sorts, I’m fool enough to mount a soapbox and orate upon the proposition that “politics” should be an honored word, not a dirty word, in our vocabulary.

Politics deserves its bad name, you scoff. It’s a hustle wherein we are lied to and led on, defrauded and dumped on. H.L. Mencken nailed it, you say, when he groused that an election is but an advance auction of stolen goods. Will Rogers was right that just as “con” is the opposite of “pro,” so Congress is the opposite of progress. Fie upon the politicians, the parties, and all their tribe.

I concede your indictment — up to a point. But before you let fly with the rotten vegetables, remember that the Greek derivation of politics, 2,500 years and counting, simply denotes those things concerning the community, or city, and its individual members, or citizens. Can we write off those things? Not unless we’re prepared to live in solitude as hermits or in servitude as slaves. I’ll take my chances with politics, messy as it is.

Like any human endeavor, politics can be done in a noble or a base way. July 4 commemorates the noblest political moment of all — our nation’s birth in genius, blood and fire. But the Fourth also looks forward, reminding us how timeless our political challenges are across the centuries, powdered wigs and parchments aside.

Prove it to yourself today by reading quickly through the Declaration of Independence. The framers, after a lofty opening argument on “laws of nature” and “self-evident truths,” enumerate specific grievances like hammer-blows to pound home the case for change. They deliver (speaking of indictments) a 27-count rap sheet convicting king and parliament of intolerable misrule.

This piece is worth a read in its entirety, although the examples are mostly Colorado politics.

Often in natural resource or environmental disputes, we read opinions that infer that politics is inherently bad and that “science” is a better decision tool. You have probably seen the raised eyebrow and sneering tone, as in “that decision was political.”

There are varying degrees of this; one thing they have in common is an apparent lack of reading in the field of science and technology studies. In this field, people study how to use science in policy; yet many of their findings are not listened to or acknowledged by people attempting to make the science-first case. Yes, irony abounds here.

On this Fourth of July, let’s reflect on how we all (whether we like to admit to it or not) are continuing the Nation’s work of politics.

Leave a Comment

Discover more from The Smokey Wire : National Forest News and Views

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading