Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ghosts of Politics Past

With all the political hullabaloo dancing across the airwaves like sparks from a downed power line, I've been thinking a great deal about how the past affects who a person becomes. For every jump in popularity this political season, another skeleton emerges to wreak havoc on the career of a Presidential hopeful.

Herman Cain is now famous for two things:
Pizza and Sex Scandals
Illegitimate children, sexual impropriety, cults, and racism coalesce like banshees. Upon hearing about the scandalous histories of our beloved candidates, we become fair-weather fans, denying any support or association. Why is America so afraid of conflict that we would rather stop returning the phone calls of our charming candidates than confront them about their flaws? Only upon addressing the misgivings can we decide to except someone for who they are or move on from them. And beyond the aversion to open communication is the question of how both ancient and fresh transgressions affect how a candidate may perform as the leader of our country? What do the drunken facebook pictures and NRA cards of our past mean for the ideals of our present and the actions of our future?

Ten years ago, I was a much different person than I am today. Looking back, I dare say that I would not even recognize the person who bore my name. Living in rural Southeast Iowa, I was a member of the Future Farmers of America all throughout my high school career. Thanks to some zealous recruitment by a family friend, I was a card carrying, registered Republican at sixteen, doling out local candidate information at the Lee County fair. I hung out with mostly crude, gun-toting, confederate flag waving, Truck-driving rednecks while in the Boy Scouts of America. Ten years ago, the most ethnic diversity I had come into contact with was the guy in my high school who had a black father and a white mother. I was as uncultured and white bread as they came.

Yeah, I owned a blue corduroy jacket.
In fact, I had two.

To clarify, I am not ashamed of the associations that I was a part of when I was younger. I am merely pointing out examples of things from my past that could possibly be misinterpreted or seen as antithetical to my current views and opinions on the world.

Is it possible that something my former self said or wrote a decade ago would be seen today as ignorant, offensive, or otherwise inappropriate? It is altogether possible. Is it likely that evidence of impropriety is lurking in the mists of my past, waiting to rear it's scandalous head and shame my current identity? I wouldn't rule it out.

While all of us have moments in our lives that do not cast us in the most flattering light, rarely do those moments define our entire existence. We survive the trepidations, attempt to take away some sort of lesson from the experiences, and try to be better people. While some people are the same as they were ten, twenty, or fifty years prior, most have evolved.

So when the dirt starts flying at your favorite pick for the GOP nomination, or your local alderman, don't be so quick to condemn. Seek first to understand, then decide whether or not the offenses of that candidates past define their future.


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