Forgive this whiny missive, but over the years in this job I have on occasion been accused of being buddies with big shots.
I can sleep at night because I have on occasion also been accused by the same big shots I’m supposedly buddies with of being buddies of the people I was first accused of being buddies with, or something like that.
Truth is, I don’t have many friends among the ruling elite and I like it that way. I suspect they feel the same.
Still, the assumption used to tick me off, and about 13 years ago one troll I never met was so good at pushing my buttons from a safe distance I actually messaged him or her back to tell him or her to kindly kiss a certain part of my anatomy, only he or she outsmarted me somehow because when I sent him or her the message it came back to me.
And, no, I still don’t know how that happened, but never mind, because I’m about to write something in defense of elected officials -- and may God help my soul.
For starters, let’s be clear. I believe most people I come across who run for office or work in government do so because they want to help make the place better.
Some of them even manage to get themselves elected or get important jobs.
Some are good at what they do.
Sure, some of them have bad ideas, and some have agendas, and some confuse their best interest with the public’s, and some have egos the size of Atlanta and like to take credit for things, and some are more annoying than others, and some aren’t rocket geniuses, but that's OK because neither am I.
And, last time I checked being a pompous know- it-all isn’t a crime.
Neither is hubris, actually. If it was, you’d probably have to lock up two-thirds of the country, since we tend to live in an era where we’re right and good looking and everybody who disagrees ain’t.
Finally, at least those who run for office have the guts to step up and run. It’s not their fault they get elected. It’s ours.
So, you ask, what brought this on?
In recent meetings of various governments I’ve had the misfortune to overhear conversations between various elected officials regarding the running commentary and criticism they face on social media in general and Facebook in particular. The latter is a great tool for dehumanizing humans, by the way.
Still, some of that commentary and criticism is healthy, I think,not least of all because some of it is valid.
Besides, public officials need a thick hide or they’ll have a nervous breakdown, or at least get what in football used to be called alligator arms and, elsewhere, rabbit ears.
Basically, that’s where you start worrying about the reaction to an action before the action, and that alters the action and makes you drop the football, if you get my drift.
But I’m actually starting to feel sorry for some folks in office, because the days when they could get away from the cares of being important are few and far between.
It wasn’t always the case, back when the citizens who used to want to run everything from the sidelines simply showed up at a meeting and harangued everybody who looked like an official and then went home and it was over until the next meeting a month later.
People on all sides had time to consider and reconsider, and sometimes that respite was good for all parties concerned.
Not that those were golden times for public servants, either. I remember one very kind, soft spoken, gracious, well respected and long -since- retired county clerk in another place who, when I was doing her retirement story a couple decades ago, told me off record that she was happy to be out of public service because the general public was filling up with people who, to paraphrase, were a bunch of something I can’t spell in a family newspaper.
On record, she loved everyone in the county. I do wonder what she’d think of us now.
Especially since these days folks don’t even have to show up at a meeting to get their two cents in, and I’d bet most don’t.
But let them see something on Facebook or somewhere else they don’t like and they’re rounding up an online battalion of like-minded souls and demanding to know why their elected or appointed so-called leaders aren’t doing something smarter or better or sooner or prettier or hipper or nicer or cheaper or whatever.
It comes with the territory, I know, but again, there’s no escape from it these days.
I suspect people who work for the public get messages at midnight, on Sundays, during holidays or whenever someone decides they need to vent or question something. And woe be to he or she who doesn’t respond in a timely politically correct manner.
The simple solution would be for public officials to shut down their social media accounts or not answer phones, or wear blinders near computers and smartphones, but people on social media are also part of the public that public officials are sworn to serve.
So how do you find a happy medium? I don’t know. What worries me, I think, isn’t that we’re a nation of born experts on just about everything, because we’ve always been that way and social media just makes it easier to tell someone how clueless they are whenever one feels the urge. If you doubt it, go talk to high school refs and ask them how much help they got on calls from the fat guys in the stands over the years and remember it only takes a couple of jerks to make your life miserable. Better yet, think back seat driver, then multiply that by people with internet connections and divide that by, say, 114.9. Or pi.
No, my real worry is we’re going to eventually run out of decent people willing to put up with the dumb stuff that goes with public service these days. Then what are we left with? Reality TV stars?