'A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm'
I somehow knew, given the year, that this essay would have been difficult, and perhaps impossible, to avoid. Given circumstances both near and somewhat far removed, I had to write of things political.
It was Aristotle, somewhat of a more substantial personality that most politicians, who said, 'Political society exists for the sake of noble actions, and not of mere companionship.'
It is with this sentiment that I watched as my sister's two sons dipped their politically young toes into the oft-times murky waters of municipal politics in New Brunswick. Both are running wonderfully positive campaigns - one for a councillor's seat and one, ambitiously, for the incumbent mayor's chair of Saint John.
I want to believe, certainly as one who loves the give and take of politics when done right, and most certainly as an uncle, that they are in it for 'the sake of noble actions.'
On another equally intriguing political front, and one that has a substantially greater worldly impact, is the politics of the American experience.
There is never a season to campaign for the presidency since the incumbent is obliged to start running for his/her second term immediately upon winning the first. Again, I admit to having a bias in that race as well.
My Oklahoma sister, whom I love and adore, tends to be a wee bit more (socially and politically) conservative than I. Her political roots were planted in the American southwest, an area of conservative values entrenched in an agrarian society and nourished by deep evangelical religious ethics.
Fair enough. And for that she has my unqualified respect. But it has never ceased to amaze me that in the United States religion and politics are strange bedfellows.
I will not try to philosophize American political history. Certainly it has now become a blood sport and a scary one at that. The (ultra) right wing has attempted to impose social conservatism as a political standard and seems to tolerate nothing that does not reflect libertarianism.
Time and time again Canadians have showed a tendency to avoid the rigid fundamentalism of the extreme right.
I once was asked how I could be a progressive, red Tory and at the same time espouse a Kennedy liberalism. I haven't found an answer yet, though it seems as if they are not mutually exclusive. After all, isn't the knowledge of human nature the alpha and omega of political education?
No discussion of politics can be complete without mention of municipal politics. The late Tip O'Neill, my second favourite Democrat, once opined that all politics is local. It would appear as if I have espoused that sentiment more than ever this year.
Nova Scotia goes to the polls this year. And if all politics are indeed local, the principal motivation of local politicians (or would-be politicians) should be to make one's community a better place.
The great playwright Henrik Ibsen once remarked, 'A community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.'
There are, fairly or not, a thousand and one impressions about the sometimes bewildering machinations of local political councils. I must believe, however, that each and every one of those who put their name forward and serve, often thanklessly, do it for the greater good.
That there is a give and take in local political deliberations can't be denied. And as with anything, perhaps perception is reality. Perhaps there is a rigid moral dogma that often impedes discussions. Perhaps there are conflicts of personality. Democracy isn't perfect.
From one end of Nova Scotia to the other, people will step up to the plate this October and be prepared to 'take the helm.' They will be your neighbours and friends from all political stripes and philosophical bent. Good on them, I say.
In fact, I so firmly believe in what Aristotle and Ibsen said that I find myself really intrigued by the thought of ... Oh, never mind. This year's perfect storm of all things political - let the games begin.
Danny Joseph is a retired educator and a lifelong resident of Truro.