Beams in Our Political Eyes

“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” -Matt 7:5

Self-analysis is integral to the Christian experience. The ability to recognize our own failings is a must – how else do we know to repent? Further, hypocrisy is held by the Christians as a grave sin. Whatever standard we apply to others we must also apply to ourselves (Matt 7:2). (This isn’t necessarily true of other religious traditions.)

It seems that we always have more difficulty performing fair analysis of issues that affect us personally. We’re always the exception. We have emotional attachments to things that impact our lives. Yes, in a vacuum we have an ability to know right from wrong – but when that analysis will cost us something it’s not so simple.

We see this in our political practices as well. Congressional approval ratings are dismally low, and have been for some time. Yet, somehow, incumbents have a stunningly high re-election rate. How can this be? Everybody hates congress but loves their congressman. This is beyond statistical fluctuation.

We see it in pork-barrel spending as well. Everybody is opposed to pork spending, which is a massive waste of the productive activities of the citizenry. Yet, everybody seems to like the pork spending in their own district. Why? Well, it’s easy to know that pork spending in Idaho is wasteful when you live in Georgia (or vice versa). But when you know people (perhaps yourself) who will lose their jobs if the pork spending goes away, it’s not so simple. We constantly hear cries of “we count on that funding” (nice, how it’s now “funding” instead of “spending”). We can’t have it both ways. If pork spending is wasteful, then it’s wasteful everywhere. There will be people who have their lives and livelihoods upset by its disappearance – doing the right thing hurts some times.

As for the political scene, there is hope. Last night we saw quite a few primaries in which incumbents and “establishment” candidates had a tough go of it. In Kentucky, Rand Paul (son of congressman Ron Paul) handily dispatched the establishment favorite Tray Grayson. (If Rand Paul is anywhere close to his father politically, then I hope he runs for and wins the presidency in 2012.) In a more dramatic scene, representative Joe Sestak sent incumbent Arlen Specter packing in the democratic senate primary in PA. Blanche Lincoln is facing a primary runoff in Arkansas. Will this materialize into a “throw the bums out” wave come November? Who knows? But, it is nice to see folks finally expressing their congressional frustrations to their own representatives.

Change starts at home. It starts first with each of us. This is still a government of the people. They only have the power we allow them and we can fire every last one of them if we want. But, it may prove uncomfortable in the short term. So be it. I have some of confidence in the American people to respond well.

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