Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Remember When "Politics" was Called "Public Service?"

I am so glad that this election is over. I feel tired from all of the mutual bashing that went on (in direct opposition to what was promised!), and the horrible, insulting-to-my-intelligence, manipulative media coverage. I was commenting on a friend's blog, and thought, Perhaps I'd better post my feelings on my own site. Here goes.

Remember when it used to be called "public service" instead of "politics?" I have read a lot of books about John F. Kennedy and his wife, and I have enjoyed learning what I could from their lives. He was an unlikely candidate, perhaps better suited to being a writer or professor than a public servant, but he was "drafted," in a way, by his father. Jack Kennedy was very good at campaigning. This does not necessarily translate into being a good president, but he had some interesting facets to his character that helped him develop into a man of global scope, and I would have loved to have seen him preside in his second term. Here is what I see in JFK...

One: he had suffered profound physical & emotional agony, because he was very gravely ill for much of his childhood. He spent many months in the hospital at different times, without his large and boisterous family near him. He was ill or in pain for most of his adult life, as well, having suffered a back injury that never properly healed. People who have suffered see the world differently from those who have not.

Two: he had a sense of identity that developed as a member of a strong family and religion. He "belonged," both as a Kennedy and a Catholic, to institutions that helped to form his sense of who he was. I do not know about his faith-life, but being reared with Judeo-Christian values, and within the community of a strong church, gives a person a framework upon which to build.

Three: he had the opportunity of a top-quality education, though he often neglected his studies. He was exposed to high standards, the study of world history and great-quality thinkers (with disciplined intellects) in some of the finest schools this country offers. Later in life, he developed grace within his intellect, and an ability to weigh and evaluate subtleties. He never stopped learning, and seeking to learn.

Four: he was exposed to other cultures as a young man. He traveled widely, due in part to his father's (disastrous) ambassadorship to Great Britain, and partly due to his family's wealth and privileged position. He didn't always go in upper-class style, or with family; he saw many places and things from outside of the first-class cabin.

Five: he served his country in the Pacific during World War II, eventually commanding a PT boat crew. He was badly wounded when the boat was rammed (and sunk) by the enemy, and led his surviving men to safety. He suffered from the loss of members of his crew, and from his own failure to protect them. This served to deepen him. Being wealthy and privileged cannot shield you, once you are serving in the military and you get into combat.

Six: as Commander in Chief, he listened to bad advice (the Bay of Pigs debacle), made errors based upon that advice, and owned the responsibility for the decision. He took responsibility, publicly, for the mistake. Later, when faced with a serious nuclear threat from the Soviet Union, he took a non-combative course (brilliant, delicate avoidance; you should read about it) which led to a peaceful resolution in the midst of the Cold War (the Missiles of October).

I am sure that I am leaving out more than I am including here, and am intentionally not getting into his personal life. I just want to take a few moments to hold up a man whose character was perhaps uniquely suited to public service -- precisely because holding high office wasn't his life's goal -- and because I believe he saw it as public service, not politics. Doubtless he had his own selfish motives, as all human beings do, but he was a student of history, and he showed evidence of trying to learn & improve as he went along. He had an open and inquiring mind.

I PRAY that our president-elect will be guided by God, and by the wisdom that history has to offer, to serve the greater good for America, and for all mankind. I pray for EVERY person who holds office, that they might live for a higher purpose than the small "self." And I pray this for myself, too.


KBL 2 ORD 2 SAN 2 LUV said...

Amen. Perfectly stated.

BusyBeeSuz said...

This is perfect karen. You are so smart. Love that.
take care,