Last week four men chosen by the Mecklenburg County Commissioners to serve on a bi-partisan panel to study and recommend new voting district boundaries decided instead to undermine the process of which they’d agreed to be a part. Without notice to either the county commissioners or their fellow panel members they made a hasty trip to Raleigh to meet with the leadership of the North Carolina General Assembly. Within hours a bill to bypass the public process already underway was brought to a vote in both houses and passed. And just that quickly, the rights of the citizens of Mecklenburg, Buncombe, and Gilpin Counties were usurped, literally stolen from us for political gain. Whether you lean right, left or somewhere in the middle – where most of us surely are – this action was a direct attack on your democracy, promulgated for unabashed political gain and power. When questioned about the tactic a sitting commissioner responded, “It’s politics.”
This comes on the heels of a highly partisan redistricting for the North Carolina legislature and the US House of Representatives, redistricting designed to effectively neuter one of the two political parties in North Carolina for the next ten years!
Now standing atop the hill beating its breast, this political party has just finished pushing through a substantially weakened public education system, the most damaging environmental bill in decades, an abortion counseling law counter to the wishes of most women, and legislation to make it more difficult to vote. Jobs don’t seem to matter. Safe food doesn’t seem to matter. Education doesn’t seem to matter. Democracy doesn’t seem to matter.
To these now-raucous lawmakers in Raleigh, to the four people who scurried off to the state capital in the dark of night, to those in Washington putting their pride and political motives ahead of the people they represent, let me remind you:
You don’t own this country. We all do. Three hundred seven million of us, and we all have a stake in its future. Yes, you have been elected – but to public service! Not political party service. Not service in behalf of your religion. Not service in behalf of Wall Street or massive multi-national corporations. Not service against those who don’t look or speak or walk the same way you do. Public service! That means working to make our county and state and country better, safer, more prosperous – where all individuals have a chance to participate in the American Dream.
In no conceivable way can that mean destroying public education, destroying the air we all breathe or destroying the water that comes from your kitchen sink. It must mean taking care of roads, airports, schools and access to medical care. It means taking care of our judicial system, our economy, and our collective investments. Sometimes that means making really hard choices among problems with no good solutions. It means building our country for the common good, not tearing it down and breaking it apart to give away to private interests. It is about making sure people have a voice, not drowning it out so only yours can be heard. It is about finding ways to make our country work for all, not just for you.
Your actions and public discourse suggest that you don’t pay close attention to history. If you did you would see that all this has happened before. And that never is there a positive or lasting outcome. When you swing the pendulum so hard as to knock ninety percent of the people out of the way, that pendulum always comes back – with a vengeance, and aimed directly at you. So it has always been.
If you desire to lead, then lead for the best interests of all – with integrity, vision, intelligence and compassion. Leave the bullying at the door. We’re bone-weary of political theater and rhetoric. We want people in leadership to lead … to tell the truth … to consider tomorrow and the people who will live there.
A man I once worked for used to say almost daily that “nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Right now we don’t care what you know – because we clearly see that you don’t care!