Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Public Servants

Political officials on all levels are public servants.

Their function is to serve the public interest.

Unfortunately, some of our political officials do not know how to serve or are not willing to serve the public interest, the public good.

Instead they often want to serve their own interest or the ideological interests with which they identify. And they are encouraged to do this by some aspects of our political and judicial history and philosophy. 

In our court system we support an adversarial process as the way to get to guilt, innocence and justice. The prosecution and defense adversaries "fight" a case out within the rules of the judicial system and the results are supposed to lead us to finding the guilt or innocence of the accused. We often assume, but clearly this is not requisite, that the verdict will also reflect a finding of the "truth" of what occurred, though when examined closely we can see that it is only a "truth" within the limits of the rules of the judicial system, not the wider reality.

This adversarial process has often been extended into the political arena, with the decision making in elections, legislatures, executives and elsewhere having become an adversarial process with the "winners" justifying their actions based on their partisan winning. And what we lose in this is the very fact that our political officials no longer serve the public interest, the public good, even if they attempt to re-brand their partisan interests as the public interest. And sometimes all they can see is their partisanship, and they get caught up in that sort of poison which harms them and the public discourse and atmosphere.

A recent example of this gratuitous partisanship: In the wake of the killing of Osama Bin Laden (whatever one says about his being killed rather than captured), there has been a general willingness to rise above partisanship. Even Nancy Pelosi announced that she called former President George W. Bush to congratulate him on the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden. Despite this general rising above partisanship, we have Barney Frank, a senior Democrat, publicly criticizing Eric Cantor, the second-ranking House Republican, for saying, in his congratulations to President Obama, that  Obama had  "followed the vigilance of President Bush in bringing Bin Laden to justice."

Not being willing to serve the public good, the public interest, means that political officials also cease to be political leaders. Paradoxically, it is primarily the one who serves the political interests who can be the true political leader.

(c) 2011 Elihu Genmyo Smith