Yes, an Unapologetic Rant on the Arrogance of Power

In 1969, Professor Larry Hybertson, a history professor at Eastern Nazarene College suggested I read J. William Fulbright’s Arrogance of Power. Hybertson knew of my interest in all things political and thought this young college sophomore might find Fulbright’s analysis of power instructive. He was right. Periodically, I dust off the old paperback and revisit its arguments. At the heart of Fulbright’s analysis is how elected leaders become enamored with themselves and with the trappings of power and use both to manipulate the American people into the illusion that elected officials can actually effect change.

I just returned from a meeting on the Hill with one of the “club” members of the United States Senate that takes arrogance of power to a whole new level of sophistry. Listening to him rant about what he could or he would do with his new power and how he intended to shut down the wheels of government by bridling in spending was both pathetic and laughable. Congress as an institution of government is becoming increasingly irrelevant to what actually is happening in America. In reality, as one wag put it, “it is a pompous pimple on the epidermis of history.”

I suggested to him that he might find himself better served by ignoring his own press releases and taking a journey with me to places and with people who wake up every morning questioning their capacity to survive. And yet, they figure it out and move forward. In the press of poverty, hunger and disease, they become entrepreneurs and inventors determined to find ways to feed and clothe their families.

This Congress is determined to slash the programs that make it easier for these communities to survive, and thus making their institution both increasingly stupid and callous. This Senator and his Congressional Colleagues will spend $1 billion a week to fund the War to Nowhere in Afghanistan under the pretense of protecting American interests. In the process they will ignore the real interests of the American people to feed and to clothe their families and to care for their neighbor. With unemployment hovering around 9% and 25% of America’s children living in poverty – hang up the pretense to power found in the cloak rooms of Congress and begin finding ways to empower our communities to not only survive but to thrive.

As we reflect on the 40th anniversary of the inauguration of John F. Kennedy – his words, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country” should be chiseled into the conscience of every member of Congress and become part of their oath of office. This is the time for serious people – and this Congress does not appear to be serious.

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