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The coffee and roses must be smelled

November 4, 2012

By Brent Davis

Recently, I took the opportunity to watch the sun rise. I sat in the gazebo on the Saline County Courthouse lawn. No traffic filled the streets. An occasional runner would pass by, headphones on and feet pounding the sidewalk. A slight glow began to appear on the horizon to the east. Light invaded the cracks and crevices of the morning and, to my surprise, I found I was not alone as previously I had thought.
A trail of ants marched in quick step along a path set by one of their brethren who had passed this way earlier. Those that followed never strayed from the path, apparently believing that the course they were on was wise and proper.
As time passed, cars became more common. I imagined the drivers of the vehicles were on their way to work and I wondered how their day had gone thus far. Did they have the same opportunity as I had to observe the morning and the moment in time, or were they like the trail of ants in continual motion next to my foot on the decking of the gazebo? Were they in a good mood? Did they have a personal crisis that weighed heavily upon them on this beautiful morning?
I decided they were having a good morning, but their personal pain or anguish would be known only to them as they pass all of us in their day-to-day activities.
I watched the streetlights change from green to yellow to red, even though no cars were there to heed the directive. Shortly, I watched as my son drove through the intersection on his way to school. All was in order. Life was good.
Perhaps it was the setting of being on the courthouse lawn that caused my mind to wander to politics. Maybe it was the ghosts of elections past when candidates and residents gathered on the lawn on election night to get first-hand results of races on the ballot.
I thought about how, as a society, we have evolved along the path from representative government to political wheeling and dealing. The broadness and generality of this thought was not far from my ability to reason, but the line of ants marching on the path set before them without thinking seemed fitting to the analogy at hand.
I respect all candidates, elected officials and residents who decide to enter the fray of what is, without a doubt, a dirty business process. Regardless of party or opinion, they have my gratitude for stepping forward. However, this does not mean I agree with everything they say or do. It does mean that I can disagree without being disagreeable. It is this point of action that becomes lost most often in today's political atmosphere.
I think of that long ago lead ant that set the path for those that followed.
Where did it become accepting in American history to run a campaign based upon the flaws of an opponent rather than on the accomplishments of the candidate? Why do attacks ads work? Why do we parse words and spin them in so many directions that the original context is lost?
Then, just as the first golden ray of sunshine crested the Vote Here building, the answer hit me.
All these tactics are used because they work. They get the politician elected and isn't that the reason for running in the first place? To win?
I shook off the inherent pessimism of this revelation, resisting the urge to cross over to the dark side and join the rank and file, just as the ants near my foot had done.
I realized the mindset of "winning an election" held with it a connotation that with winning comes a prize. With a prize comes ownership. With ownership comes entitlement.
No elected official owns the seat they hold. The acceptance of this mindset carries with it a subsequent bout of amnesia in which the "winner" forgets the office holder works for the constituents and not the other way around.
I realized that it isn't the informed voter who is targeted in political campaigns. It is the uninformed who hold the prize. The uninformed accept fact without support. They pass along the misinformation to others who in turn do the same.
Again, let me emphasize that not all candidates engage in such tactics. Those that don't, have my respect. They are confident enough in their abilities. They are representatives, not politicians.
All around the county, meetings are held to strategize and plot a course of action, just like the ants.
What most people in the political bubble don't understand is that their bubble isn't nearly as big or as important as they imagine them to be. They don't realize that the average voter doesn't care about signs that have been vandalized, destroyed or removed.
Voters decide to cast a vote based upon how much they trust a candidate. Plain and simple. No amount of strategy, sign placements or negative ads can change this simple concept.
However, once that trust is broken, the consequences are swift and strong.
Just like the ant that ventured onto my leg that fine morning and decided it would be a good idea to bite me, the consequences for that particular ant and all that followed it was immediate. The path was destroyed and the ants that counted on the stream in front of them scrambled for survival instead of helping their comrade.
I rose from my seat in the gazebo, smiled and went on my way. I towered above the destruction below my feet.
The morning air was crisp. Flowers were still in bloom. I decided to wander over to a local business for a nice, hot cup of coffee.
All was right with the world.

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