Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Have a Happy 4th!

The other day at Shop Rite I ran into my 9th grade math teacher who for many years has also been a county legislator. It's amazing how time flies. He was my present age when he was my teacher; now I'm the middle aged man and he's a senior citizen.

I recently read in the newspaper that he decided not to seek re-election to another term as county legislator. As he departed the crowded deli counter, this man of wisdom and years of experience explained to me that the game had changed too much and that he was tired of the "young barracudas" who had invaded the political scene and were interested only in gaining influence through divvying up government jobs and contracts and not with serving the people. Mind you, my former math teacher is no wimp, standing over six feet tall and when necessary could be tough as nails in the political arena. He said he was sick of the hot shots who would let the "f" bomb fly with every other word they spoke.

That conversation actually left me feeling a bit empty inside as we approach 4th of July. It was a supermarket reality check that the political system is failing not only from the top, but even at the local level. Congress and the executive branch both get well deserved basement ratings for being ineffective if not traitorous for letting the problems of our nation fester, whether it be the war in Iraq, the invasion of our border to the south, or our fiscal disaster. It's sadder for me to see that local government is becoming just as ineffective while losing great people.

I've long had no use from contacting my House and Senate representatives - Engle, Hillary and Schumer; they could hardly care about the will of the people. But I have always appreciated that at the local level there were still folks to contact to try to solve a problem, or to get something constructive done. The loss of a guy like my old high school teacher at the county level (and I suspect he won't be the last to leave in frustration) is a big blow.

I've always had a fascination with 18th century America. It certainly wasn't perfect and I sure wouldn't live in that era where the average life expectancy was 40 with no running water, electricity, or modern medicine, transportation and communications. But in spite of being without all the modern innovations that we take for granted, those people got things done and were able to unify themselves to fight for a common cause - in that era - American independence.

Principled men in those times of candle light and horse drawn carriages, whether they ended up being Federalists, or Jeffersonians, had enough moral compass and sense to understand right from wrong so that they were able to create a country with unprecedented freedoms that largely enabled the next generations of families to be more prosperous than the previous.

I wonder what the young barracudas of today could do?

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