Favorite

A fresh start 

For much of my adult life, I've tried to eat black-eyed peas and greens every New Year's Day, worrying that if I didn't, the year would be just awful. I've made resolutions. I've sworn off fast food. I've pledged to go to the gym three times a week. Out with the old. In with the new. It never works. This year, after getting sick during a post-Christmas trip to Branson, I stayed home while the rest of my family participated in New Year festivities with extended family. Instead of fretting over missed traditions, I napped and ate frozen pizza. You know what? It felt great.

Sometimes traditions do more harm than good. Sometimes trying to get a new start puts us back in the same old rut. As we enter 2018, I have a list of things we collectively need to leave behind in 2017. At the top of the list is the way we fall for the same old tired promise from politicians that they are the only person for the job and that we just cannot move forward without his or her (usually his) guidance. This attitude has led to the smug paternalism that is prevalent in our politics today.

When I was young, a beloved aunt and uncle often took me to the state Capitol during my summer visits to Little Rock. It was all so fancy, with the marble staircases and gold letterboxes and bronze doors. It was a place of wisdom and knowledge. So I thought. Either way, like many kids, I'm sure, each visit had me more and more convinced that only the smartest and most benevolent walked through those doors as public servants.

As an adult, I've found that those are certainly not the traits that get most people to the our capitol or any capitol, for that matter. Confidence. Bravado. Fundraising. Self-importance. Dunning-Kruger Effect. These all seem to pave the way for too many politicians these days. "Elect me," they say. "I can solve your problems." But that just is not the case.

I could start naming men and women I know who would do a wonderful job in the state Legislature and run out of column space before I really got started. Sure, politicians need new ideas and plans, but somewhere we lost the truth that the men and women in the Legislature or in Congress are really just ordinary people who represent our best interests while we work and take care of our families. Somehow, many of our politicians have come to believe that by merely being politicians, they possess an inherent wisdom that their constituents do not. This is glaringly obvious if you've ever been on the receiving end of a form letter from U.S. Rep. Steve Womack or U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton after expressing a concern about healthcare, net neutrality or tax reform. It's something I've heard over and over from the women in my district who tried to talk to state Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville) about guns on campus. Smug paternalism. And we stood by and let it get this way.

This year, I'm through writing letters and making phone calls to people who don't give a flip about what I have to say. A phone call on behalf of a candidate to a voter will go a lot further than another call to a congressional staffer. There is no convincing Womack or Cotton, or Collins for that matter, that any way but their way is worth pursuing. Instead, I'll spend my energy on helping men and women candidates, especially women candidates, get elected who are running not because they feel like they have all the answers but because they want to find the best path forward for and with their communities. Candidates who, instead of talking at us, talk to us. Instead of hiding behind telephone town halls, NRA-funded studies and meet and greets only accessible by ferry boats, they come home to their district every chance they get and really listen to the people they claim to represent.

2018 is a new start. We have a chance for a clean slate in many districts. We can end the ridiculous tradition of "politician knows best." We can fill our city halls and legislatures with men and women who mean it when they say they want to help. Men and women who, when faced with a viewpoint that is not their own, respond with respect instead of an outright dismissal or ridicule. And if all of this works, next year, I will again abandon my traditions on New Year's Day and, instead of black-eyed peas and greens, I may just treat myself to a movie and some nachos.

Favorite

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Autumn Tolbert

  • No sympathy for Sarah Huckabee Sanders

    Oh, to have the privilege to look at Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders through an objective lens. I sure can't, and I am to the point where if I hear one more progressive or even centrist Democrat claim they disagree with her policies then in the next sentence point out that she is "so good at her job" or she has taken on a "tough role," I may scream.
    • Sep 20, 2018
  • Attack fail

    If you did not follow the drama surrounding last week's attempt by the Republican Party of Texas to embarrass Sen. Ted Cruz's opponent, U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, you may have missed one of the biggest political blunders of this election season.
    • Sep 6, 2018
  • Dress code bias

    It's back-to-school time, and for many it is back to blaming girls for the bad behavior of boys. Last week, two news stories out of Texas demonstrated the institutional misogyny that girls often deal with in school.
    • Aug 23, 2018
  • More »

People who saved…

Readers also liked…

  • Erasing humanity

    During law school, when I clerked for my local public defender's office, I was often tasked with getting lunch for defendants during trials. This served two purposes: It kept the defendant near the attorneys during the break instead of down at the jail, and it helped build rapport in what was often a tough relationship.
    • Apr 13, 2017
  • Wrasslin' Trump

    I first thought the Sunday morning video clip of President Trump wrestling was something from one of the many parody accounts on Twitter.
    • Jul 6, 2017
  • Another Jesus

    If you follow the logic of Jason Rapert and his supporters, God is very pleased so many have donated money to rebuild a giant stone slab with some rules on it. A few minutes on Rapert's Facebook page (if he hasn't blocked you yet) also shows his supporters believe that Jesus wants us to lock up more people in prison, close our borders to those in need and let poor Americans fend for themselves for food and health care.
    • Jul 20, 2017

Latest in Autumn Tolbert

  • No sympathy for Sarah Huckabee Sanders

    Oh, to have the privilege to look at Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders through an objective lens. I sure can't, and I am to the point where if I hear one more progressive or even centrist Democrat claim they disagree with her policies then in the next sentence point out that she is "so good at her job" or she has taken on a "tough role," I may scream.
    • Sep 20, 2018
  • Attack fail

    If you did not follow the drama surrounding last week's attempt by the Republican Party of Texas to embarrass Sen. Ted Cruz's opponent, U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, you may have missed one of the biggest political blunders of this election season.
    • Sep 6, 2018
  • Dress code bias

    It's back-to-school time, and for many it is back to blaming girls for the bad behavior of boys. Last week, two news stories out of Texas demonstrated the institutional misogyny that girls often deal with in school.
    • Aug 23, 2018
  • More »

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Moving deck chairs

    • Outstanding commentary. Excellent points about the efficiency and cost savings of mega agencies. What a…

    • on September 22, 2018
  • Re: Character judgement

    • i guess i have different standards for 'reasonable doubt.' the kavanaugh train passed that station…

    • on September 21, 2018
  • Re: Character judgement

    • Amen, Gene, to all you wrote.

    • on September 21, 2018
 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation