|courtesy of northwest history express|
It was in 1969 that I first flew without my parents. I wasn’t by myself. My younger cousin and I traveled together. This was in the days that air flights were still a pleasure. We were seated in wide seats that could have probably accommodated the two of us together. Food was plentiful and playing cards, magazines, and newspapers were handed out. I don’t remember accepting a newspaper but I do recall trying to surreptitiously read the headlines of my neighbor’s paper.
Embarrassed to be caught doing so I felt there was something voyeuristic about studying the story of Senator Edward Kennedy and his car accident in Chappaquiddick Bay which claimed the life of his twenty-eight-year-old colleague. Although not politically savvy I’d admired the senator ever since reading about him in my Weekly Reader in grammar school. I’d been impressed that he’d taken his large family across country in a covered wagon during the school year, convinced that this was giving them a better educational experience than they could have in the classroom. Now I was seeing a different side of him. At age fifteen I don’t think I realized that this side meant the end of his political career but it was. Although he was reelected as senator in his home state, his reputation across the nation was shot, whether he was or was not guilty. Apparently the general population wanted their leaders to have a high moral standard.
Yet just three years later America voted Richard Nixon in to serve his second term as president after the Watergate Scandal became public knowledge. Subsequently impeaching him only fixed some of the damage electing a crook had caused. I wonder if that’s when the downhill cycle really began in American politics. Or perhaps if it had never been on a high moral level but without cyberspace the public stayed more or less blissfully ignorant.
Now, from across the ocean I watch the American election news with a sense of shock. It seems as there is no party platforms, just looking for dirt on the other sides’ candidates. Unfortunately, the rest of the world isn’t immune to having disappointing politicians. Often in Israel I find myself voting against someone instead of for anyone.
Our Sages teach us that we get the rulers we deserve. In other words, as I understand it, if we’re not living ethical lives we can’t expect our leaders to be principled. Gracious flying on commercial airlines, once taken for granted, is now an anomaly. Honest politicians seem to be, also, however we don’t have to accept the status quo. Yom Kippur is behind us but it will be back again in less than fifty-two weeks. Now’s the time to begin working on ourselves so the next time there’s an election anywhere in the world we’ll have the possibility of having candidates we can feel proud to vote for.