Sometimes, as Tom Purcell notes below, observing government in action can be like watching a group of particularly ill-behaved kindergartners go at it, hammer and tong.
Whether it's childish tweets from our president or snarky comments from city council members on local social media, the public behavior our elected representatives exhibit has rapidly devolved over the last couple of years.
Gone, it seems, are the days that we could expect the men and women we ask to lead our various governments to refrain from ugly, pointless verbal squabbles or to stay above the fray. We should expect these people to be more reserved and thoughtful but, alas, such is not the case.
It's as if everyone has forgotten George Bernard Shaw's advice: "I learned long ago never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty and, besides, the pig likes it."
Too many people like it and indulge in slinging mud with reckless abandon.
That was exemplified during a recent exchange between a pair of Leander council members. Instead of a restrained give and take, they engaged in a shouting match on the dais.
“Both of you. Let’s be on the same page,” Council member Chris Czernek said sharply, in an effort to tamp the personality battle the two waged for all to see. One could almost hear him use the same tone of voice with his children (we're not suggesting Czernek's children are ill-behaved). He urged the council members to be less pointed and personal with their questions so they could have a healthier debate.
And, that's what we've lost. Healthy debate.
Too often, politicians, both left and right, stake out extreme positions and excoriate anyone who doesn't share that position. They use those positions as red meat to appease their supporters or as cudgels to paint their opponents in the most unflattering light possible.
It's difficult — if not down right impossible — to build a consensus when representatives at any level of government indulge in name-calling, or are too pointed and personal in a critique of another's position.
Of course, consensus is another of those quaint relics of a bygone era. The current "winner-take-all" philosophy eschews consensus. You either win or you lose. There is no in between.
Listen, we're printers, at heart. We can tell you with complete certainty that there are 256 shades of gray between absolute black and absolute white. Folks should be able to find common ground somewhere within that spectrum.
Indeed, to quote another great man, "I despise people who go to the gutter on either the right or the left and hurl rocks at those in the center."
That would be Texan Dwight D. Eisenhower who said that.
Government is, or should be, secular. We'd even say agnostic, but in this environment of prideful illiteracy and alternative facts, both of those words will likely be misunderstood.
It's past time for all of our elected representatives — at every level — to understand that the role of government has nothing to do with forcing a personal worldview on the governed. Its role is to build a society that allows each and every one of us the fruits of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, regardless of anyone's personal political, cultural or religious beliefs.