Guest Editorial; By Lori Welbourne
I grew up believing that all politicians were egotistical, thieving liars. Not because my parents taught me so, but because that was a common societal perception. I’m not sure when I recognized that this was not actually true, I only know that once I did, I felt compelled to defend them, much like kids who get picked on in the schoolyard.
Yes, some politicians are egotistical, thieving liars. But so are some doctors, firefighters, teachers and just about any other profession out there. To think that all politicians fit this negative stereotype would be completely inaccurate. Yet, according to the website Dictionary.com, the second meaning of the word politician is this: “A seeker or holder of public office, who is more concerned about winning favour or retaining power than about maintaining principles.”
Wow. It’s no wonder such a small percentage of people choose to pursue a career as a public servant.
Over the years I’ve met many politicians, from the local level to the national, and almost all of them have been well-intentioned, hard workers who either had developed a thick skin, or were in the process of doing so.
“You can’t take things personally,” said one of them. “And if you don’t learn that early on, it’ll eat you alive.”
When it comes to representing the people, politicians are inherently at a huge disadvantage popularity-wise because there’s no way they’ll be able to please everyone, and some of the people they’re unable to please will lash out aggressively.
Due to voter apathy, politicians in our country continue to be elected by the minority of people. This means that even though they’re representing all of us, it’s commonly expressed that perhaps they wouldn’t be if the majority had ventured out to vote. This is hardly the fault of those elected, but it adds to the resentment they are exposed to.
And the public is fickle. When the global economy is in a crisis, for example, it’s easy to blame the elected officials – even the ones at a local level.
The other thing impressed upon me growing up was to never talk about religion or politics in polite company. I understood the logic to that the first time I ignored such advice, and experienced a friendly debate progress to a heated argument with someone I barely knew.
But sharing ideas and beliefs about two of the most influential factors on our human existence is important and should not be avoided. I think it should just be conveyed with more respect.
It’s okay for us to have different opinions and to not agree on everything under the sun. What’s not okay is shoving our beliefs down another person’s throat and casting judgment where it doesn’t belong.
Tolerance and communication are paramount to getting things done in this world, and I am grateful there are people willing to put themselves out there on our behalf, particularly if they continue to listen to those they represent.
There’s obviously many good reasons that 99.9 per cent of us would never run for public office, but imagine our world without them.
With our municipal elections now over, I thank all the candidates who put themselves out there for a job so few of us would ever want. I think the majority of the people would agree: “Better you than me.”
*Lori Welbourne is a freelance columnist for Black Press. Go to LoriWelbourne.com