“It’s just a local election — not a big deal,” someone said.
“I’m tired of politics and politicians,” voiced another.
“Nah, I doubt I’ll vote,” mumbled a third who, after registering my look of dismay, explained, “Besides, what does it really matter?”
Well, my darling, let me count the ways elections — especially local ones — and participating in them matters. And while I’m at it, I’ll say a bit about why being tired of politics is, well, irrelevant!
You see, politics is not primarily about candidates or campaigns or even elections. Candidates are those willing to make decisions on behalf of the public — maybe with good motives, maybe not — and so decide to go through the process of seeking to be lected. Campaigns and elections are simply vehicles for establishing who the public decision makers are going to be.
Politics — the ordering and governance of the public — is bigger than that.
Politics is about the water you drink and the air you breathe and making sure both are clean.
Politics is about children not going to bed hungry. Politics is about all of us having access to the health care we need. Politics is about people being at war or at peace.
Politics is about distributing economic goods and defining what property rights are. Politics is about determining what a crime is and how it will be punished.
Politics affects the degree to which we can speak or write or even worship. Politics defines who will be accepted as members of a community and who will be placed in the margins.
Politics even seriously influences how you raise your children by determining the circumstances of family life and, don’t forget, influencing the subject matter of their education.
While I take a breath, let me ask: Do you get the picture? You are not, and almost cannot be, immune from politics because elected politicians are, by definition, public policy makers. And public policy affects — wait for it — the public. And you, with very few exceptions, are part of the public.
Now, are some politicians motivated by private greed? Are some motivated by public good? Yes, of course, to both questions.
So then politics depends on all of us and on each of us.
The way I like to explain it is this. Each of us is like an individual trickle of water. When enough trickles of water come together, they turn into streams.
When streams merge, they become rivers. When rivers have enough energy and force, they become mighty, so mighty that they have the power to shape or reshape the very landscape around them.
Do you think our public landscape could use some reshaping? Then your trickle matters. Your vote matters. Your voice, when used civilly, matters. Without them, mighty rivers will never be formed and our landscape will never be reshaped.
That might be what the prophet Amos had in mind when he said let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream!
This article by Nathan Wilson originally appeared in the Shelby News.