The Incredible Americans: Candidates Running for the Local County Commissions; Tax Collector’s Offices; State Senate; and School Boards.
Finally my faith in American democracy has been reaffirmed and even strengthened after having attended a local town meeting of prospective candidates running for different offices. While it may be chic to discuss world events and the plight of the moribund US Congress, nothing is more exhilarating to me than to watch a new generation of farmers, school teachers, CPAs, and small business men/women run for local offices in my town in northern Florida.
For decades I have held a spoken as well as an unspoken belief in one basic Sam Rayburn principle:
“All American politics is local.”
Last night I went to the city hall which was nothing more than a converted antique church and sat on a hard wooden bench to listen to more than a dozen different candidates---men, women, old, young, Hispanic, African American talk about one thing only:
How each and every one of them wanted to do the heavy lifting and take the risk of trying to represent me and the other hundreds of other citizens in our farming community. There was no evidence of the well-known braggadocio or narcissism so typical of our national candidates, instead I heard a very tempered series of presentations which began by explaining who they were; why they were running and what made them qualified for a particular job. Most of the candidates stated that they were ‘christian’ but did not elaborate on their beliefs, simply stating that they believed in the ‘Christian tradition’ of helping others and being part of a community. Many explained how they were born in the area and were extremely proud of the fact that their ancestors had been living there, not one generation but for two to six generations.
Clearly for a refugee like myself that was very much of a pleasant surprise to realize that for the most part, throughout the world’s wars, famines, and troubles, most of the candidates were born in our area; grew up in the area ; and when they served in the military or even went to graduate school, they came back to their roots. This was America at it’s finest.
The former teachers who wanted to run as a member of the school board did not boast about her/his achievements, but simply enumerated the numbers of years they had been teaching in different levels of the school systems and how they had learned the hard way to understand and deal with the inveterate problems of local public education. For the most part, each of the candidates reiterated one promising theme—take charge of our local community needs; and don’t let Tallahassee, the state capital, dictate the outcomes of the community. The sad part was the fact that the hall was populated by more candidates than citizens of my local unincorporated town. What that said to me was that our candidates at the local level were more interested in building a civil society along the principles of decency, equity, progress and efficiency.
As for the citizens of my town, they will reap what they sow: indifference and stagnation. That is AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY [Theodore Dreiser]! As for me, I became so exhilarated that I literally could not sleep that evening. But to have insomnia for an American Dream that to me is a great testimony to these INCREDIBLE AMERICANS.
God Bless them and this local democracy that blossoms at a time when cynicism, selfies, and twitter diminish the commitment to hard working volunteers who have nothing to lose but their time, effort and dreams. In the long run, local democracies will trump Washington DC and community involvement will supersede indifference and ennui. I urge you all to get involved at the local level: in education/job training, taxes, future development and water usage.