One of my favorite poems is “In the Land of Lotus Eaters” by the late Tony Hoagland. It combines, masterfully and beautifully, the congruent elements of necessity and horror we find in distraction.
As time progresses and I watch the world, “In the Land of Lotus Eaters” also makes me wonder if we’re failing to see — if we’re committed to not seeing — the horrific aspects of distraction. It’s as if we’ve all become the character, Sergeant Schultz, from the 1960s sitcom, Hogan’s Heroes. We seem to have become complacent enough to believe a garden can survive without tending, relationships can survive without nurturing, a republic can survive without vigilance and sacrifice.
As a late-blooming college student, I took a Political Science course. I also took a Public Policy course. The Public Policy course wasn’t offered in the Political Science Department as I expected it would be. Rather, it was offered in the Philosophy Department. There was a reason for that.
The reason is that political science is the realm of politics and power from domestic, international, and comparative perspectives. It entails the study and understanding of political ideas, ideologies, institutions, policies, processes, and behavior, as well as groups, classes, government, diplomacy, law, strategy, and war. Whether the officials elected to uphold the law — and to preserve and protect the citizenry under the law — actually do so is another matter
Public Policy, on the other hand, concerns itself with the allocation of scarce resources. It’s more art than science. And while it may be subject to the enactment of laws at some point, everything leading up to the derivation of those laws — to the allocation of those resources — is philosophical. As such, it requires our attention and our input. And it requires us to hold accountable for upholding the law and for protecting us those we elect to do so, especially if they don’t uphold the law or protect us.
And the archers shot their arrows with their eyes closed.
And the workers in the factory denied any knowledge
of what the weapons would be used for.
And the name of the one in charge was forgotten.
And the boat sailed on without a captain.
In the United States, we’re supposed to be the captains of the ship. The government is supposed to serve us. We elect representatives to do so. But we’ve become apathetic to all of that. If we don’t take back the rudder, we’ll continue to sail ever more aimlessly and perilously until we crash.
The folks responsible for the wreckage will be the ones in the mirror.