Sometime back, doesn't matter exactly when, politics said goodbye to me. I didn't say goodbye to it. As an avenue for active citizenship, it fundamentally changed.
There was a time, years ago, for no apparent reason of birth or training I had a keen insight into American politics. I understood it about as well as anyone and could practice it about as well as anyone. Then, everything began to change.
Instead of politics as an avenue for service, it became a road to wealth. Instead of the means to define the national interest, it became a career and a stepping stone to behind the scenes influence. Instead of a noble ideal, it became a battleground for hard core ideologues looking for a fight.
I am not naive. There have always been cynics, maneuverers, and hacks in American politics. But they were no more than hangers-on and bottom-feeders, not the mainstream practitioners. Even the most Machiavellian manipulators, say the Lyndon Johnson of the old political school, often practiced their art to achieve a noble social cause. Power is where power goes, he once said.
Then came assassinations, Cold War deceits all around, Watergate, and much more. And it was as if a kind of Gresham's law of politics took over. Bad politics drove out good politics.
Those diminishing few of us who saw ideals more important than careers and the national interest more important than a narrow, vindictive, and mean special agenda, now find it necessary to move on and abandon the field of today's unproductive politics to those who understand and relish it as a path to a lifetime office-holding career or to great lobbying wealth.
But this thought lingers. Someday, somehow, America will long for a restoration of its ideals and its nobility and it will once again turn to young women and men who understand politics to be unselfish, a way to serve, and a process for the creation of a better society and world. May that day come soon.
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