The Velveteen Rabbit was one of my all-time favourite stories as a child. Click on the link if you’ve never read the story (or want to read again!)
About a week ago Canada held another election. Unlike the US, elections here aren’t held on a predetermined schedule. They must happen every four years but can be called earlier if the current party in power loses a no confidence motion. Over the last several weeks local, municipal candidates have been attempting to convince us that they have the best ideas for our future. Several local candidates have dropped off shiny brochures at my apartment fill with glowingly vague recommendations from their business and public service associates. At the end of the brochure I’ve learned only two concrete things about each candidate: the address of his or her election website and for which office or ward he or she is campaigning.
Everything else is buzzwords and praise that could, in many cases, just as easily be applied to you or me.
Like politicians everywhere, our politicians excel at making themselves look good and telling us what (they think) we want to hear. Canadian politics tend to be less bloodthirsty than the three-ring circus that comes to town in the US, but we still have our share of shady deals, broken promises and government officials who do foolish things.
Every election I look for the velveteen politicians – that is, people who are real. With rare exceptions, velveteen people seem to stay far, far away from politics. This is a real shame.
Elected officials, of course, cannot become close, personal friends with every single one of their constituents. To argue otherwise would dull the definition of friend in the first place. There’s something strange about the ways in which many of the men and women in politics present their personal and professional lives, though, as if the only way to be accepted as a leader is if they maintain the illusion of everything’s fine even when it isn’t.
What would local, state/provincial, and national politics look like if the people running for office were able to reveal their true selves, if they weren’t afraid to mention past mistakes and regrets, areas of running a government in which they don’t have much experience, or even the parts of their lives that politicians (especially in the US) often sweep under the rug or bury in the backyard?
Would this newfound honesty bleed over into how they presented their views? Could we finally get rid of doublespeak/euphemisms like family values, support the troops, or economic uncertainty? Do you think that they would become more comfortable stepping outside of cotton-candy promises and begin sharing concrete ideas for how they want to change the landscape of their communities?