Monthly Archives: February 2010

A Fresh Face for NC

As a relatively new blogger, I was excited to get an invitation to participate in a blogger’s conference call helping to kick off the candidacy of Renee Ellmers, who is running for Bob Etheridge’s seat in the House of Representatives.

Honestly, I am normally a bit skeptical of these kinds of events, but since it isn’t everyday that a small time blogger such as myself gets invited to one of these, I took the opportunity to participate. As I began looking into who Renee Ellmers is, I became more interested in hearing about her candidacy.

Without regurgitating her bio (you can check out her website here), the part of her story that interested me the most is that she is not your typical politician, nor is she coming out of the typical politician “farm team” (that being a lawyer). She is a nurse by training and vocation, and up until recently has had no interest in running for public office. In what I suspect will be a story repeated throughout this country, Renee decided to get involved in running for office after the contentious debate over healthcare during the summer of 2009.

Renee’s candidacy is exciting to see for two reasons. One is that she is running to unseat a long-term Democrat incumbent in Bob Etheridge. Two, Renee’s candidacy is more of  what our Founders had in mind when they created a sense of civic virtue. Our Founders never intended for public service to be a career. Most of them saw public service as an obligation that one fulfilled, not a vocation in which you served long enough to draw a pension.

George Washington, I think, best embodies the ideal in this case. He was more than willing to serve his country, but he was always looking forward to returning home to his vocation of planter. He never saw himself as a politician or career public servant. He viewed his public service, both as a general and as President, as an obligation he owed to the country, and never saw his public office as something he was owed.

Obviously, I am not comparing Renee Ellmers to George Washington, but her story is one that I think he would recognize. She sees the country at a crossroads, and is very concerned about its direction and especially its impact on the next generation. As she put it on the conference call, being a mom is what really got her to run for public office. It seems that Renee sees holding public office is a way for her to help her country, and I suspect that, if she wins, she will always have one eye on returning to the medical practice that she and her husband run in Dunn, NC. If we can get a few more people like Renee in office, and a few more of the career politicians out, I suspect our government, and our lives will be the better for it.

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What the Austin Incident might tell us

The incident on Thursday in Austin where a man crazy man flew his airplane into an office building that housed the local IRS office has given me a lot to think about. I struggled whether to touch on this subject or not, since what I want to say could be construed as I support or am defending this guy’s actions. So let me say up front that I do not. One of the great things about our country is that we have largely avoided political violence as a part of our national experience. Yes, there are some exceptions – but for the vast majority of time, while we may be loud and a bit rowdy at times in our political discourse, it stays largely within the battlefield of ideas.

So, for those of you hard of hearing (so to speak), let me reiterate it: Stack was absolutely wrong in what he did, and all right thinking people should condemn it. Having said that, here comes the (potentially) controversial part of what I have been thinking. There is a link between the incident in Austin and an increasingly intrusionary governemnt apparatus. Let me expand on that.

Stack’s complaint (or one of…his “manifesto” wasn’t exactly coherant) was with a government that seemed to have little disregard for his plight. Anyone who has ever dealt with the IRS, or heck even the local DMV, can relate to that one. He say the government as something that simultaneously was more intrusive into his life and at the same time less and less concerned about his welfare. The leftist rantings aside (oh yeah, read the manifesto…the Federalist Papers it ain’t). Unfortunately, you combine the sense of frustration and inattention he felt with his craziness, and Stack comes up with his murderous idea.

Now I am certainly not saying that the people working in that building deserved what they got, no more than I believe the people working in the World Trade Center towers deserved what they experienced on 9/11 (you hear me Ward?).  What I am saying is that this incident serves as a signpost to us. Incidents like what happened in Austin are part of the reason why the Founding Fathers sought to design a limited government. Most of them understood political violence, the Revolution notwithstanding. The years leading up to the Revolution was filled with attacks on officials, tar and featherings (and worse), and other acts that  came about, in part, because of people’s frustration and anger at a distant, impersonal, and seemingly draconian government (sound familiar). In their view, a government that left people alone as much as possible was also a government that would not become a target of the people’s ire.

Fast forward to the present, with government at all levels increasingly telling us how to live, what to eat, what to drive, what temperature to set our thermostats to, what pressure we should have in our tires…is it all that surprising that crazy finds government to be the biggest target out there?

In the end, outside of the human tragedy, it is also a worrisome sign. Think of it as a proverbial canary in the coal mine. If the canary died, the miners knew to get the heck out of the mine because they too would soon be overcome. While you can always argue that these kind of acts are singular events perpetrated by the crazy and the fringe, maybe they are also a kind of warning. Maybe I am wrong, but it is something that ought to be thought about at least.

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