Politicians Should Be ‘Carefully Taught’

Mike & Genie Ryan
Albuquerque Journal
July 31, 2010

Remember the old song about prejudice, “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught” from South Pacific? As songs can often do, it illustrated a lesson in a much more satisfying and memorable way than a thousand words can.

We would like to believe — and we do — that prejudice toward other races and ethnic groups is declining since that song was written, not eliminated, but getting better. We wonder, though, about other not-so-good characteristics that are being “carefully taught” today and seeping into our society.

We believe too many of our politicians are not as ethical as we would expect them to be. Whether we’re talking about New York Rep. Charlie Rangel and his ethical gyrations or our own politicians who passed rules affecting New Mexico legislative districts that resulted in eliminating the secret ballot for a few voters in a few state precincts, we’ve got some problems. Obviously, the unintended consequence of legislation aimed at providing information for redistricting became a different problem when it was implemented. Not a good way to go. Too often we have had to deal with extensive gerrymandering when it comes time for redistricting; we sure don’t need to add another problem to the process.

We tend to believe that ethically challenged politicians had to be “carefully taught.” Most of them sincerely ran for public office wanting to serve their constituents, but somewhere along the line some were taught, whether through their own observations or direct dialogue, that it was more important to serve their friends or political party, not the constituents who elected them.

In the last few years in New Mexico we’ve seen far too many public officials — for obvious reasons we’re not going to call them public servants — get caught taking public money for their own. Again, we believe they were taught — maybe by watching others or giving in to temptation— that stealing was acceptable in certain situations or for certain people, mainly themselves. Many were just not strong enough to stand up for the values they learned as children.

We may not always agree with the public officials in Rio Rancho, but we will commend them because thus far none have been accused of pilfering taxpayers’ money or taking kickbacks. Keep up the good work; we trust your fairness and integrity will work in our favor when it is time to redistrict in Rio Rancho.

If you look at the various districts in our local area, we won’t swear there hasn’t been some gerrymandering in the past, but we will keep the faith that those slimy actions are part of the olden days, not part of today. We want our public officials in Rio Rancho carefully taught to put their constituents first for the good of the city.

But we also must be certain that as citizens we do what is right, not just what we selfishly want. Residents, city employees, vendors and all others associated with Rio Rancho must keep in mind that in these times of tight money, decisions that are best for the city may not be what we personally want. If we have been carefully taught to look at the big picture, consider the good of the whole, things will look a lot different than if we are just looking out for ourselves.

Most of us don’t always want to be that selfless, but we must be. When we want to throw those rascals out who are running our government, it is often because we believe they are looking out for themselves, taking what they can, and making decisions based on the next election rather than what’s best for the country. If that’s true, then we must throw out those who are not serving us well.

Let’s make sure we’re all being carefully taught — even if we have to teach ourselves — to publicly and privately make decisions for the greater good and to stand up for what is right.