July 17, 2006
Late Night Cynicism: Politicians
Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy had more than one thing in common. One of these is that they both presided over pivotal and difficult times in American history. FDR asked Americans to sacrifice for the sake of the war effort. He told them that if they did their part, then America would triumph in World War II, and reassume their place as the leader of the free world. A generation later, JFK again asked America to sacrifice for the greater good. This time, the enemy was Communism and a competition with the Soviet Union in many facets of life, especially the race to the moon. Americans accepted the challenge, and lo and behold, the United States triumphed again.
Both men pulled no punches in their requests. They stood before their countrymen and told them that difficult times were ahead. They told the people that there would be a heavy price. Despite that, the American people responded and paid that price. They believed that it was their duty to do so.
Today, it is very rare to hear any talk of “sacrificing something for the greater good” come out of the mouth of a politician. All I, and I don’t think I’m alone, ever hear is about how we can have our cake and eat it too. Nobody ever mentions, publicly at least, the price that must be paid, because in this day and age, there is always a price.
You never hear about how much something will cost, only the benefits. The positives are repeated over and over, loud and clear, but the price tag is handled behind closed doors. Sure, you hear about costs and negatives, but always from an opposing opinion that may or may not be exaggerating. It is very rare to hear a politician stand up and say, “This is how I am going to address the problem, and it will cost this much, and it will not be perfect, but I think it is the best plan available.” And that’s sad that such total public honesty is a thing of the past.
In this age of detachment and rosy outlooks on life, Americans seem to be mostly concerned with their own tiny spheres of life, while turning an all but blind eye to the rest of the nation and world. Many of the people who pride themselves on their patriotism are the same people that are unwilling to give even a tiny slice of their life to help the country as a whole.
I think that if the words “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” came out of the mouth of a politician today instead of forty years ago, that politician would be laughed right out of whatever office he or she held. And that’s all the more reason that we need someone to slap us in the face and say that we can’t fix every problem perfectly, and we sure as hell can’t do it for free. I just hope that whatever finally drives that point home doesn’t involve body bags.