Like never before the presidential election looming over the American horizon has garnered the citizenry’s attention. Sadly, it has not been the candidates’ incisive grasp of the issues, or their ability to inspire hope and vigor that have held our attention. Rather, we stand amazed at the failure of the American political process – on both sides of the aisle – to produce a candidate with the requisite emotional maturity, integrity, intelligence, leadership ability and basic common sense necessary to both gain and occupy the office with the honor befitting our great nation.
Last week while traveling in France I toured a fort in the vaunted Maginot Line. Built in the 1930’s, this line of 45 underground concrete fortifications was tauted as the finest defensive barrier in the world. The success of static defensive strategies in World War I motivated the French to build what they thought would be an impenetrable wall against the threat of an armed invasion. And if the manner of waging war had remained static, it may very well have worked. But Adolph Hitler’s disregard for Belgian neutrality, and the speed and daring of the Nazi war machine changed everything. In the end, the Maginot Line just didn’t produce the results it was built to deliver.
It appears the same thing has happened to our political system. It just isn’t working.
When the founding fathers created our unique form of “one person, one vote” democracy, they believed every child could grow up to be president. But somewhere along the line, the system failed to keep up with the ways of the rich and powerful. The system worked well until someone figured out how to manipulate it for selfish interests rather than the national good.
Today only a few can grow up to be president, and they will need to curry money and favors almost from birth. They will need to develop an allegiance to pragmatism, an ability to lie to themselves and others, and a willingness to believe several wrongs can put you in a place to do some rights.
So, while good people in both parties continue to insist the system works, it is clear the process meant to sustain a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” has become a power vehicle for an elite group of amoral, power-hungry narcissists who spend their lives pleasing themselves while masquerading as public servants.
Something needs to change, and I recognize there may be no way to repair what time and selfishness have broken. But, while we can’t do everything we can do something. And what we can do, we should do. And what we should do, by the grace of God, let’s commit ourselves to do.
Here’s the deal: Elected officials at every level gain power as it is granted to them by the voters. And they only gain our votes by pandering to us. Sometimes they pander to our values, but mostly to our selfishness. To change the system we must first change ourselves. We must become better people. If we expect our leaders to have integrity, courage, and common sense, so must we. If we want morality, we must be moral. What we demand of our leaders we must first display in ourselves. If democracy by majority rule is to push our country in the best direction, the majority must be good people.
Yet, in the end we must realize the greatest power over our lives does not lie in the hands of government, but in the hands of Almighty God. Jesus said it best: Above all, pursue the kingdom of God and the things of righteousness, and the rest of life will take care of itself. After all, as the Maginot Line proved, nothing man-made can really protect us from the evil men do.
David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident. “Ethically Speaking” runs Saturdays in The Signal.