Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
When I was in school all those many years ago, we had a class called “civics.” And it simply explained the structure of government, especially our government, and how the government worked. I acquired a small understanding of not only government, but of politics. I don’t believe civics is taught in school as a separate subject anymore. But it should be taught to every member of Congress, the Senate, and all members of the executive branch of our government.
As I recall, the working of our government is like laying a wooden floor. You have a piece of wood that doesn’t quite fit. You take a little off of one side and a little off the other so the board fits. In the meantime, you keep the integrity of the board, its grain and beauty you wanted in the floor in the first place. You have taken off a small portion of either side and kept the beauty of the wood.
Is there a lesson there for Congress? Oh my, yes!
It’s a pity they’re not smart enough to see it. We have doctors, lawyers, businessmen and women, and many other kinds of trained professionals in Congress. They don’t get it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s left or right, dumb is just plain old-fashioned dumb.
Congress started out being a part-time job, and the Senate appointed by the state legislatures was supposed to be our house of lords, wise, older, and more experienced gentlemen appointed to the post. It never did quite work the way it was intended. It all came crashing down when the southern senators, who had pretty much controlled the Senate, saw their control slipping away with the addition of new states. Most did not want to have anything to do with slavery.
A tree that is willow-like, one that will bend and not break, might live for hundreds of years while one that is stiff and brittle will lose itself to a strong wind.
Years ago while in the Air Force, I attended a lecture by an Army psychiatrist and he told the story of how “brainwashing” began. In the prisoner of war camps in North Korea, there were no barbed-wire fences and not many machine guns. The libraries all had books by American authors and in the discussions with English-speaking communist interrogators, the North Koreans and Chinese very quickly found out the American soldiers had no idea of how their government worked and why these American authors in their libraries were complaining about America. Frankly, I believe most congressmen and congresswomen today would face the same fate. I know American college students don’t have a bloody clue.
Civics … the act of governing with compromise and an eye on what is good for the country as a whole … not one political ideology, not one political party, but something that will put that plank board into place for the good of all.
Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality, writes for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.