I’ve written very little about the incidents last Saturday in Tuscon, AZ that occurred at a public event hosted by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. I did however share my thoughts with the Cleveland Jewish News, and you can read them here.
My focus is on how we flood the media with stories that will encourage people to not only not hate public servants for any variety of reasons, but will in fact do the opposite and make people want to be one themselves.
Two years ago, when I met with someone who was well into her second decade of being a city council member, the first thing she told me was that some people will hate you just because you are in the government. Those were her exact words. People will hate you just because you are in the government. They won’t know you, they won’t care what you’ve done or not done. If you are in the government, they will hate you.
It doesn’t help that our media is shameless when it comes to its nonstop highlighting of all things corrupt and salacious related to people in public service. Of course the publication of those stories doesn’t make the people corrupt – its their actions, their responsibility, their behavior.
But the media shows no inclination toward nonstop highlighting of the millions of public servants – civil servants, political appointees and elected officials – who keep every level of government running. No matter what size would be your right size for government, there will always be a need for good public servants to be performing the work. And most of them do it without any notice – or whiff of corruption or other impropriety.
In this time of needing to have role models in public service, and new faces and new ideas, I continue to be angry at the media for its failure to use its megaphone in ways that can and would encourage people to become public servants. It doesn’t help to have a new governor who seems to either mock people in public service, condescend to them or point to them as the source of all our financial woes.
So the task is difficult but far from lacking in actual models or examples, and certainly not lacking in reasons for why we should set that goal. It is something President Obama spoke about perfectly in his speech Wednesday night when he talked about the nine year-old girl, Christina, who was killed on Saturday:
Imagine — imagine for a moment, here was a young girl who was just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that some day she, too, might play a part in shaping her nation’s future. She had been elected to her student council. She saw public service as something exciting and hopeful. She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted.
I want to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it. All of us -– we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.
Those bolded parts (not in the original) are so true, so true. I have always felt that way about who I vote for and how I vote and how I hold myself accountable for what I do as an elected official.
Is it really that much to ask that the media contribute to this effort, rather than produce so much content that discourages and denigrates it?