“If you get, in public affairs, men whose life is impoverished and destitute of personal satisfactions, but who hope to snatch some compensation for their own inadequacy from a political career, there can never be good government. They start fighting for power, and the consequent internal and domestic conflicts ruin both them and society.” […] “But what we need is that the only men to get power should be men who do not love it…” Plato: The Republic
I had an epiphany last night; I realized, suddenly, that I was politically unrighteous. Yeah, I know, the term ‘unrighteous’ is a socio-religious moniker created with the intent to tag and separate those people who have not reached religious enlightenment. It’s another typical method used in dividing humans. And maybe that’s what I’m referring to here – the fact I just don’t fit with the same political tribe claimed by some associates, most friends, and almost all my family members. Admittedly, I used to be affiliated with the ‘Ocasek Gang’ back when most of the family was largely uncivilized and settled our personal and political differences with our fists. But that ended decades ago. Currently, I realized I just haven’t yet reached the same political enlightenment they have. I admit, being a political outlier (not an outlaw) can be dangerous and a little bit lonely – even in the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave! Thankfully, my introverted nature can bear it. But I digress. The epiphany of which I speak came on the heels of my most recent brush with an aged and esteemed member of the prominent political tribe in Idaho.
It all happened when I and my family visited an old and dear friend in my hometown last week. Naturally, in this election year, the conversation immediately turned to Donald J. Trump and a tally was quickly taken of those who favored and adored him. Tribal bylaws apparently dictate that numbers must be counted and duly recorded with each new social interaction in order to confirm loyalty to the tribe. Well, that’s the moment the wheels began to fall off for me. It was verbally confirmed by a member of my group, and with some amount of glee I might add, that “Kip is not a Trump supporter and never has been!” Suddenly, tension filled the air and an otherwise happy reunion became a potential hanging party. The old and dear friend looked me in the eye and pretended to shoot me with a gun and then everyone laughed.
Actually, the moment caused me to flashback to 1982 when I was in Washington D.C. and Philadelphia for a couple weeks – a country boy from Idaho walking the mean streets of the big city, along with some other country kids. One evening, a hooker working a dark corner near the 14th Street Bridge likely saved our lives. She said, “Hey boys, you don’t fit in here in this ‘hood. You better go back home before you get killed – or worse!” I suddenly got chills thinking of being brutally beaten or killed at the hands of gangsters. We all took her advice and retreated to our motel – probably saved us from a mugging or something. Anyway, back to our family visit – the old and dear friend, after mimicking my shooting death, voiced that “it was impossible to be a Democrat and a Mormon at the same time!” Fascinated how he made that brood leap between me not being a Trump supporter and a supposed member of the Democratic Party, I informed him that I was, in fact, an independent voter and not affiliated with any party. I preferred that non-fashionable method because I could vote for ‘an individual person’ and not be tied-to and hounded by the ambiguities of ever-changing political party platforms. My words bought me some favor with the old and dear friend who seemed alright with allowing me to live another day – satisfied that I was not ‘one of those lefty Democrats’ – an apparent marauding enemy tribe.
But on the subject of voting for an individual rather than party line, I’ve been fascinated that in my lifetime, the selection of national leaders has perhaps largely reflected the ideals of the collective voting masses. Each president was likely chosen as a mandate for change and progression. And in the case of populist Trump in 2016, folks were so sick and tired of run-of-the-mill politicians, it’s likely anyone with a warm body who was NOT a career politician could’ve been elected. We chose Trump – a self-proclaimed rich businessman and Reality TV star. He is also widely known for his lifetime of narcissistic self-aggrandizement and hedonist living.
Frankly, I have no problem with Donald J. Trump, but I do with his words and actions. I don’t even know the guy. He and I live on different planets. At home away from the cameras and crowds, he could be a nice guy – I don’t know! He might even be a decent Scrabble player! But where it counts as president of the United States, his actions and words will and do condemn him. I guess I’m old fashioned. I like and support global leaders who are moral, do not lie, and respect the little people. Trump’s actions and words prove he is not that leader. There’s a passage written in at least two Judeo-Christian scripture canons. It says, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” There’s also a scripture passage that says, “…by thy words, thou shalt be condemned.” I’ve wondered over the months why my politically righteous acquaintances completely disregard those well-known passages when it comes to their adoration of Trump.
But we’re all humans, right? And most of us Christians believe, at least on some level, in the idea of repentance – erasing our bad behavior and replacing it with good. At least a few times, I’ve had tribal members hit me with the claim that ‘Trump has repented of his old ways – he’s a changed man since his move to the White House!’ No question about it – one whose whole life has been defined by narcissism, money, and sex and then suddenly hits the civic jackpot and is elected to the most powerful position on the planet will undoubtedly find himself at the depths of humility with a desire to repent! Now that’s clear thinking!
But for the sake of fairness, let’s let that ‘changed man’ idea play out. When exactly did it occur? Was it when the president pushed through a tax bill that would likely make him much richer? Was it all those times he, using his influence as president, intentionally pushed national and international business to his numerous personal hotel and recreation properties in violation of the emoluments clause? Was it right before the 2018 midterms when he excoriated poor Central American refugees and migrants as hostile criminals? Or did he reach those depths of humility when he heard about the new coronavirus and intentionally hid it from the American public at the expense of public health (interpreted: didn’t want any economic fallout) because he didn’t want to panic people. Or was it during the recent national debate broadcast worldwide where he exhibited honor and restraint in discussing reasons why he should be reelected. Well, you know I’m just being sarcastically silly on that last sentence; we all saw his embarrassing, bombastic behavior during that dark-comedic sideshow.
So, here I am ranting about something I can do nothing about except for my single vote which will be cast in a few weeks. It’s the least I can do – a measure of my civic responsibility! And then I will resume my position as journalistic observer, reporter, and commentator, listening to some good ol’ 1980’s power ballads, missing those days when the masses expected their chosen leader to be an individual of high moral and ethical character. And at some point, I will likely begin to relish the spot in my tribe of one – the tribe of the political unrighteous.