“Genuine politics – politics worthy of the name, and the only politics I am willing to devote myself to – is simply a matter of serving those around us: serving the community, and serving those who will come after us. It's deepest roots are moral because it is a responsibility … [T]here is only one way to strive for decency, reason, responsibility, sincerity, civility, and tolerance, and that is decently, reasonably, responsibly, sincerely, civilly, and tolerantly. I’m aware that, in everyday politics, this is not seen as the most practical way of going about it.”
We have all watched political conversations degenerate into angry quarrels, pointless personal attacks and antagonistic power contests. We have all seen people sink into screaming matches, shaming and blaming, and personal viciousness, often over the loftiest ideas, deepest passions and most profound political principles. We all know that these tirades can easily descend into senseless violence and appalling acts of brutality. And we have all participated in these arguments, fanned the flames, or stood passively by and done nothing.
Yet political conversations matter; they concern our future, our values and integrity, our ethics and morality, our beliefs and behaviors, not only as individuals and nation states, but as human beings who are responsible for the world our grandchildren, and our grandchildren’s grandchildren, will inherit. As the Greek statesman Pericles remarked nearly 2500 years ago, “Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.”
Successful political decision-making requires not silence or pointless rage, but dialogue; not apathy or aggression, but collaborative negotiation; not passivity or accommodation, but courageous, constructive, creative contention. Silence in the face of critical issues signifies not merely the absence of speech, but the loss of learning and integrity, and therefore of self, of values, of citizenship, of democracy, of community, of humanity. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. presciently warned, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”