Many years ago, I played second base and was a knuckleball pitcher for North Central High School. It wasn’t until I got glasses my junior year that I realized I was nearsighted. With glasses, I could see pitches better to make contact with the baseball — and get hits. I could finally detect from the mound the catcher’s hand signs for pitch selections. Sometimes in politics — and in life — we don’t see things clearly until we get help with our vision. And we don’t always need glasses to do so.
An analogy can be drawn to the state of American politics today. In public service, better vision comes not from an ophthalmologist, but from longevity and wisdom gleaned from having “seen” more of life and lived more history. Two dear friends from Eastern Washington remarked recently how disgusted they are that political money requests have replaced requests for advice, as elected officials build massive campaign war chests to protect their own political status.
When serving as a House Appropriator, I was asked to make larger contributions to various political organizations, just to be sure I was “doing my part” for the party and could continue as a member of the House Appropriations Committee. As I matured in office, I saw more clearly how the leadership game was played — in both major parties. Most experienced donors now understand it.
What I love about Christmas is the clarity of vision it gives us. Christmas music has words we know and messages we easily understand. Christmas enchants children, and inspires fantasy in adult lives. After all, who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus at Christmastime? To this day, our family’s motto is, “If you don’t believe in Santa, he won’t remember you on Christmas morning.”
A recent remake of Miracle on 34th Street has the sweetest message of Christmas. When Kris Kringle is dismissed as an unstable old man (and not Santa), at Kringle’s mental commitment hearing, the judge doesn’t dare rule that there is no Santa Claus. Instead, he cites the words, “In God We Trust” printed on American money as an example of the faith that abounds in America. Though there’s no dispute that Americans trust in God enough that we put it on our common currency, having trust to believe what we can’t see justifies believing in Kris Kringle as Santa Claus. The judge dismisses Kringle’s mental competency petition to the delight of all New Yorkers. Fantasy — yes, but it’s heartwarming fantasy.
The same goes for being able to see through the fog of the current political scene. Many Americans now see that Obamacare was not all it was held out to be. “Hope and change” turned out to be a lot of change and a lot of hope — that the political pendulum will soon swing back the other way.
And that’s the hope the history of America teaches us. Our nation has endured and been better enlightened by many critical developments — and survived. Here are a few:
Finally recognizing women’s rights.
The pursuit of racial equality and sensitivity.
The importance of fathers in traditional two-parent families.
The necessity of a strong American foreign policy to act as a bulwark against aggressive nations that ignore the human condition.
The many failures of America’s social welfare system.
Responsible environmental sensitivity.
The wisdom of free markets and capitalism.
The United States has the capacity to change our culture and see through the labyrinth of public policy. When we try to rewrite settled policies that have worked for most Americans, a backlash occurs, because most common-sense Americans with a working knowledge of history know not to be mesmerized by dramatic new public policies that sound too good to be true. No one needs glasses to see that Mr. Obama’s vivid “red lines” in foreign policy always manage to turn white, signaling that America is now walking softly, carrying not a big stick, but a twig.
That’s why it’s important that young people know about American history, government, economics and foreign policy. They’re our next generation of leaders and we’re counting on them to be principled leaders, able to envision the importance of and perpetuate enduring Constitutional principles of justice, freedom, equality and individual liberty.
So this Christmas season, as we have been gathering around Christmas trees, warmed by logs on the fire and enjoying turkey dinners, let’s remember to give thanks for things seen and unseen, and have faith that 2014 will open all eyes to the “Christmas Miracle” to help us see what lies ahead. ♦