By Frank Wessling
News in the early weeks of this year was dominated by high-flying political talk. The men – and for a short time the lone woman – seeking the presidency offered their personal models of reality for us to choose. Then actual reality intruded. The reaction was predictable but so very interesting in the context of this election year.
After a constant drumbeat of complaint about the evils of “government,” suddenly the political divisions closed in solidarity against less government. Republicans of every faction stand together with Democrats to protect their local military bases and contractors.
In the jargon of business, the Department of Defense is planning to downsize. And, as happens with businesses, that means fewer jobs, people out of work, family security made precarious and less money circulating in affected communities. When a business closes, it’s a private decision we accept because we accept business logic. When a government decision produces similar effects we feel no such need to surrender. This is politics, where emotion is most often stronger than logic.
We see this in at least one corner of the Davenport Diocese. The Rock Island Arsenal, which takes up a Mississippi River island between Davenport and Rock Island, Ill., and employs more than 7,000 people, might be affected by military base closings and realignment. As always when the news veers in that direction, local people drop all concern about their taxes and the evils of “government” in the abstract. We join forces against a loss of real, tangible government money and jobs.
While in such a community-minded mood we should stop and reflect on the real nature of politics and government. They are not something separate, out there, operating independently of our own habits and dreams. They are the ties that bind us into a community and allow us to live as friends, not enemies.
They are the way we merge and meld millions of personal goods into a common good. The alternative to government is anarchy and chaos.
And if a community prides itself on self-government, then everyone in it must try to see an expansive “self.” In that field of vision, the Christian especially will clearly see the weakest and most vulnerable members and be a voice with them.