I lived in Louisiana for a while and came to appreciate the Cajun view of politics. It’s like LSU football – everybody in the state follows it, everybody talks about it but only a very small number are willing to suit up and face couple of thousand pounds of opposing athletes. It’s much safer to stay away from the action and stick to talking about it instead.
I mention this because in moving books and videos around I have come across several dealing with Huey Long, Louisiana governor, senator and potential threat to FDR. Long was impeached in almost every office he held, but to him this was not an obstacle. He proudly incorporated those events into his speeches, partly to demonstrate that he was different. Today he’s a legend; when he was alive he was, shall we say, a character.
We see a lot of characters in politics these days. I’ll let you pick your favorite (or least favorite) on your own. It’s easy to imagine how much more peaceful things might be without such eccentric individuals invading the halls of Congress, the local city council or even the PTA. However, it struck me that some of the more colorful characters we see may actually be quite necessary to the progress this nation has enjoyed.
Military members are sometimes been exposed to people with opinions that are quite disrespectful to the military. However members of the military, having sworn an oath to the Constitution, fight for the rights of all to enjoy their constitutional freedoms, including freedom of speech. It’s easy to want to protect the rights of those with whom we agree, but it is more important to protect the rights of free expression for those who hold opposing opinions. It is the ability to expose ourselves to different, even outrageous new ideas that has made a major impact on the American experience. We don’t have to agree with these people or their ideas but it is the willingness to let them express their ideas that makes a difference.
Huey Long was different, it’s true. However, so were Thomas Paine and Samuel Adams. The radical ideas of John Adams we accepted (albeit slowly) and ultimately we declared our independence from Great Britain. On the other hand, there were many with whom the majority couldn’t identify. Today we recoil at the idea of slavery yet American icons such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were slaveholders. It is the American desire to engage in debate concerning new and outrageous ideas that has taken us from where we started to where we are now. It is only logical to assume that it will continue to carry us forward.
The bottom line is that the system works, and I don’t see anything that makes me think that that will change. Interesting characters and all.