Truth be told, I don’t care much for fishing anymore. I don’t have the patience for it. The last time I went fishing with a rod and reel, I think the entire experience was over in about twenty minutes. As a young adult, I had already adopted many of the worst traits a “Type-A” personality could bring. Sitting still, staring out at a bobbing cork hoping something might eventually happen didn’t fit the pace of the “make something happen now” lifestyle I’ve maintained for well over 20 years that has since passed.
When I was much younger, I loved fishing. It was most often in the company of an older and wiser adult, usually my father, and was much more about the experience than the possibility of fresh catch for supper. Most of those who took me fishing were products of the depression era or its immediate aftermath, and as such, understood real values and had unequivocal views of right and wrong. In an activity that demands silence, words were high currency, and listening to pearls that were dropped on these outings was often worth more than what I would later be taught by a semester’s tuition payment.
My best fishing memory was when my dad had to pick me up from school about 10am one morning because I wasn’t feeling well. He had to drive to Fayetteville from his downtown Atlanta office to retrieve me, and wasn’t really feeling like going back downtown for the rest of the day. Instead, we had a late breakfast where he gauged that I wasn’t really feeling too bad, and then asked if I would rather spend the day home in bed or at the lake fishing. It wasn’t a hard choice, and we had a great day.
One of the lessons from that day, soon to be temporarily forgotten, was appreciating the value of silence. Dad explained after a long afternoon with few bites why it had, in fact, been a successful trip. “You get out here, and you have nothing to do but look at that water. And after you settle in, and understand that, you realize that there’s nothing around you but nature, and you’ve got all day to sort through whatever’s on your mind, and you can come home with it all sorted out.”
I’d love to say the last 48 or so days have allowed me to sort it all out. I think that’s a higher bar than Dad was trying to set that spring afternoon. I will have to admit, however, that this is the first time since commenting on Peach Pundit almost 4 years ago I’ve really put serious and dedicated thought into what we have here, what I have here, and how best to move forward. And truthfully, I probably have more questions now than answers, but sometimes, just understanding the question is progress.
As I discussed when I first revealed my real name about 18 months ago, Icarus was the moniker chosen to reflect parallels between my own failures due to arrogance and those the Republican party were making on the national scene just over 4 years ago. I’m glad to say that our national party has seemed to respond to their mistakes of the past, and I look forward to a new crop of Republicans like Austin Scott and Mike Keown joining Johnny Isakson and Lynn Westmoreland in the US Congress.
At the state level, however, there has been a wholesale refusal to admit that we have real problems on ethics, and frankly, governance. Our legislature responded to a scandal throughout its leadership ranks over trading sex for legislation by passing new ethics rules that don’t speak to legislators’ relationships with lobbyists. Our first Republican Governor since Reconstruction began his term by proposing a large tax hike on the third day, and is ending his term by extending tolls on GA 400, dismissing the thought of a government actually keeping its promises as “political populist.” Our legislature spent much of this time trying to figure out how to get someone else to raise money for long ignored transportation needs, and spent quite a while on a “Great Plan” to centralize tax collections in Atlanta, with revenue then later doled out to counties. And when counties objected over the long held conservative view of local control, the legislative leadership said “trust us”. Luckily, that albatross never passed, as Appropriations Chair Ben Harbin told the AJC last year, when counties were not receiving funds collected on their behalf by the state, causing them to lose federal matching funds:
“I know people are upset about it, but it’s not worth raising taxes over,” he said. “Even in good years, just because that’s the amount that fees raise, you still have to look at what is the amount of money they need to operate those programs. If you give them too much, they will find a way to spend it.”
The coup de grace, however, is what we now are proposing as Georgia Republican Rule 2.0, and it is straight from the Island of Misfit Pols. We have a Governor who’s only successful private business dealings are the ones which have been arranged by insider deals and/or paid for by campaign funds. We have a Lt. Governor from his same hometown who has assisted in protecting these deals, and occasionally likes to remove names off lists of Gubernatorial appointments to settle petty political scores. We have a candidate for labor commissioner that openly dates lobbyists and threatens state agencies who fire his girlfriends. And with Georgia crying for improvements in public education, we have a candidate for School Superintendent who the sitting Governor of the same party thought so much of that he instigated a ballot petition drive to have an independent run against him.
And yet, every one of those mentioned above is likely to win election by a healthy margin. It’s easy to see why those in charge are blinded by arrogance. At the moment, there is absolutely no reason to change behavior that is what we claim to be against, when it so clearly works to enrich and entertain those who are elected or are in their inner circle.
Shortly after the runoff election, I was lamenting the results with a trusted friend. He reminded me that I had told him a year ago that this election would define the Republican party in Georgia. He then wryly added “Unfortunately, we just defined us as the Illinois of the South.”
I would love to disagree, and on some levels do. Then, I see the urging, and in many cases, demanding, that those of us that have fought for real change in the way we govern Georgia since well before Republicans were in a majority suck it up and support this slate because “we don’t want Roy Barnes back.”
Granted, as a lifelong Republican – one who as a 30 year old spent over $20,000 of his own money to primary a Senator for voting with Roy Barnes too much – I don’t want Roy Barnes back.
As someone who values honest, open, and ethical government, someone who wants humility rather than hubris from his leaders, and someone who wants leaders who don’t just talk the talk, but walk the walk, I have yet to be given a reason to accept, much less support, Nathan Deal.
At this point, I can find one stark, tangible difference between the two men: Arrogance. Roy Barnes is openly apologizing for the mistakes he made because of his arrogance. Something I can relate to, and understand that it is hard to do. Nathan Deal and especially those who surround him seem to be reveling in it.
My old fishing partners would have advised me that it is not wise to step in front of a moving freight train and tell it to stop. I understand that my powers to do so are indeed quite limited. Those great folks from my past also taught me that doing what is right is often not the same as doing what is popular. Frankly, I expect this post to cause me quite a few problems with some of my political acquaintances. My friends will understand it. But after having to re-invent myself once already, the key point is one I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on:
I can live with it.