Tuesday, May 02, 2006
no, i can't hear you! i've got an agenda in my ear!
the janus project really came about from late hour chats between my brother-in-law and me over pretty much the gamut of what brother-in-laws might cover - careers. politics. movies. religion. cigars. theology. doctrine. beer. our kids. sports. our wives. the future. the past. whatever comes to mind. often thoughts linger, like the hazy cigar smoke that fills the dos flamingoes on a humidly still mississippi night. other times, ideas flit away as quickly as the third beer reflexes that can still miraculously catch a knocked over bottle before a single drop of nectar is spilled. often - our ideas make about as much sense as a paying $10.00 for a stoggie or $5.00 for an imported beer. we each have strong opinions. sometimes we disagree. often we agree but have a different way of arriving at the same end. more than i admit out loud, his ability to perform mental gymnastics far exceeds my abilities to follow along. without fail, i leave our conversations with food for thought - and not just a junk food, but steak and potatoes stuff. usually, i have to take a doggie-bag home with me.
several times by the light of day, my brother-in-law mentioned that some of these thoughts might be worth sharing with folks on a broader scale, and blogging provided a forum from which one could perch from one’s very own soap box or wander around the virtual wide, wide world and hear others’ mental ruminations. so - i jumped in. and i must admit, i’m hooked. i enjoy the idea of a free exchange of ideas and have been, for the most part, having a ball with the give and take in the blogosphere.
however - i am a bit disappointed in some encounters. most recently, i have been putting together a post on the illegal immigration issue, when i ran across another site that was engaging the same sort of stuff i was interested in discussing. however, in less than two post cycles, the tone of the dialogue became shrill and the exchange basically ground to a halt, at least as far as i was concerned. i felt as if there was much fertile ground to plow given the information in the comments, but in response to my comments, rarely were intellectual arguments proffered. so - instead of focusing on the issue of immigration in today’s blog, i thought it might be more instructive, at least for me, to think about the concept of statesmanship - an idea that is certainly rare in politics, but apparently is becoming an endangered species in civil discourse as well.
paraphrased from the old standbys - webster’s and the oed - statesmanship is exhibited by those who exercise political leadership wisely and without narrow partisanship and promotes the public good from the position of disinterest in oneself. lincoln said, “honest statesmanship is the wise employment of individual manners for the public good.” hubert humphrey said, “the essence of statesmanship is not a rigid adherence to the past, but a prudent and probing concern for the future.”
more often than not, i’m convinced that most folks who are not career politicians, regardless of their political ilk, genuinely are interested in the well being of others and our future. what saddens me is that the narrowness of the professional politicians and the shrillness of party politics has spilled over into our public discourse. we the people, CAN and SHOULD have dialogue and disagreements. but after we pull the lever at the ballot box, we should also be able to carry on our conversations via civilized discourse despite how the professionals conduct themselves in the public arena.