By JaCK BOBO
One of the most dominant forces on our scene today is that of “criticism.” You find it everywhere–in education, religion, business and commerce, entertainment, and countless other facets of our society. But nowhere is it more prevalent than in all the branches of our government.
Criticism or dissent is an important element of a democratic society. But is it possible, or even likely, that it can be overdone? Lyndon Johnson once observed, “We all invite criticism, but our needs are easily met.” Are there consequences for going beyond the “needs” of society for healthy debate? I firmly believe that there are adverse consequences to the slash and burn tactics of some of today’s critics.
Perhaps the most obvious consequence is the deterrent effect unbridled criticism has on the willingness of talented people to offer themselves for public service.
Some years ago one of our local universities conducted a study to determine who among our state’s citizens were the most credible. Interestingly, the single most credible citizen turned out to be a local merchant–far more credible than any of our political, professional or educational leaders. The merchant also happened to be one of our policyholders. When this research was made public he immediately became a target of both parties encouraging him to run for governor on their ticket.
He promptly and forcefully turned down all such overtures. In a way it was too bad because in all likelihood he would have been an excellent choice.
In discussing this with him on a later occasion I asked him why he had declined such an opportunity for public service. His answer was very simple; he said he was not prepared to have his name and reputation smeared and dragged through the mud of hardball politics. He said the price to pay was too high for either himself or his business. There is no question in my mind that this is a scenario that has been repeated many times over in all parts of the country.