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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

On Being a Politician

NPR: This I Believe

(Our church has been using the NPR Series This I Believe and the companion book as the basis for its annual Lenten Study Series. Rev. Meyers, our pastor, has encouraged each of us to write an essay describing some belief we have in 500 words or less. This is my contribution which I read at today's service as a part of my responsibility as lay worshp leader for that service.)

I eagerly await the day that researchers involved in the Human Genome Project announce that they have discovered the “Political Gene.” I can think of no other reason why some of us become so politically involved. I am one of those whose political gene is dominant.

My political tendencies manifested themselves very early. In 1960, I had my classmates in the 3rd grade vote on which of my two best friends would be my “very bestest friend”. Since I personally favored one over the other, and I knew my parents favored Nixon over Kennedy, I ran one as a Republican and the other as a Democrat. Thus I not only took part in my first campaign, but my first “push poll” as well.

It is easy to become cynical about politics in our time. In fact, that has long been the case. Aesop is supposed to have said, “We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.” My childhood faith in politics and politicians has gone through many tests. For example, my first campaign in Oklahoma, was to elect David Boren as governor. Later I watched him as a US Senator vote to confirm Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, an action that Boren later said he, too, regretted.

Politics is like that: glorious one moment, appalling the next, very much like humanity as a whole. Politics is, after all, a human enterprise; therefore, we should not be surprised that it displays all of the generosity and compassion humans are capable of showing as well as the cupidity and cruelty endemic to our species. The same body politic capable of creating Social Security and Civil Rights legislation can also reward corporate greed and deny some Americans their rights because of their sexual orientation.

So why do folks like me, and many of you, keep at it year after year, election after election? I believe it comes down to our faith in the possibility of justice, the only true purpose for any society. After all, any political decisions from the school board to the federal government must be examined in the light of whether or not the choice enlarges the realm of justice. We should always ask this question, “Will or will not this action allow more of our citizens to enjoy their right to dignity?” For human dignity is the true measure of a just society. I also believe that, despite setbacks, defeats and occasional reversals, we are making progress towards securing justice for all. The task, of course, is far from finished. What justice we have achieved happened because a body of people, usually an elected body, had the courage to do a just political act. Because I believe in justice, I must to be political. Therefore, I am proud to say that I am a politician.

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