21 December 2010

Restraint

from Proverbs Twenty-Five
"Debate thy cause with thy neighbor but reveal not the secret of another, lest he that heareth it revile thee, and thine infamy turn not away."

I wonder if our country can actually step away from the brink of disaster?  Can civility return to political discourse?  Can a degree of modesty be expressed without it being seen as prudish, retrograde, or fundamentalist?

The optimist in me sees the two most recent political developments--repeal passage of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and bi-partisan support for START as potential victories for moderation in our politics, two years late in the coming but a healthy step forward for a civic process held hostage by a virulent ugliness these past several years.  Mishley suggests that pride being what it is, it ought to be preserved in power negotiations, relegating its mitigation to occurring behind closed doors.

As we all know these days, alas, politics rarely occurs shrouded in the mystery of smoke-filled rooms, except for the brief moments in the last decade or so when leaders have emerged from said rooms to mock a democratic process by telling the people it has no right to know what goes on behind those closed doors.  This is no Charlie Rich song.  Bush-Cheney were masters at the deception that was anything but negotiation and we will be committed to undoing that damage for many years to come.  But as the Age of Transparency truly grows up, we will learn that transparency doesn't have to mean revealing everything--the shameless gossip and over-exposure of our revolting twenty-four hour news cycle; rather, transparency will evolve to mean clarity and honesty, while respecting and relegating some matters, with appropriate respect and humility, to the private realm.  Put it in family terms:  fighting parents say to a kid, "We had an argument but we worked it out and the family is okay."  Kids don't always need to know the ugly details; doing so could undermine the relationship.  To a degree, our politics is broken because we know too much needless information (and not enough of the right information) when it comes to making the right decisions.

I recently saw a family member unlock a secret, in private, and decide not to reveal it but to take the lesson learned from exposing it and applying it for the betterment of relationships in the here and now.  There is deep honor in that.

"As the cold snow in the time of harvest, so is a faithful messenger to him that sendeth him; for he refresheth the soul of his master."  A cold "wake-up call" can have the effect of making us turn inward, shelter and protect ourselves, and re-emerge, enlightened and ready to serve in a new way.  Better prepared with more layers of protection, we can weather the storm.  Which is a more reasonable approach from the usual yelling and screaming about the broken windows, the lack of insulation, and who's to blame.

"Like a city broken down and without a wall, so is whose spirit is without restraint."

Restrain thyself, citizen-statesman.  Heal the nation thou wast called upon to serve.

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