Tuesday, February 01, 2011


Some years ago, I had an opportunity thrust upon me which has forever flavored my sense of the political process.

By some sort of default, I was suddenly a local representative to attend something called Buckeye Boys State (BBS), in which high school aged students came together, converged on Ohio University in Athens, Ohio (in the year I attended) as some sort of way for young people to gain some experience, some taste of the political realm. I can't recall how I got there. Since I don't remember my parents taking me, it must have been by bus, as intra- and interstate travel seemed to go at the time.

There was a Buckeye Girls State, too, so this was about separation of the sexes, not inequality of opportunity. The idea of sending a mixed-sex group of adolescents to some university campus for a week was not going to happen at that time.

So there I was, thrust into this, not really understanding it since I'm not sure I ever paid attention to anything about BBS before or after. It immediately became apparent that what we were there for, what we were supposed to do, was to set up a pseudo-legislative/executive body, and afterward make some attempt to fix the world as we saw it, at least on a state level -- we were charged with creating a state government. Since we were only there a week, the timetable was short.

So immediately it became apparent that certain individuals were primed, one might say pumped, for this. Immediately campaigning was going on, some identifying themselves as candidates for governor and other elected offices, and the guys vying for governor had their cronies to assist the process. There were two parties to which one might be assigned. I can't recall the other, but I was in the Federalist party (aside from the name, there was no assignment of ideology). So we had a party convention, selected candidates, I picked out some low-level office to run for, made some weak campaigning attempt, and lost the election.

After that, I managed some governmental appointment that in a week's time had no meaning, since it had no particular duties.

What I can still recall is the sense that I got of the political process, in which promises were made as if one were broadcasting wheat in a field of asphalt, more promises than could ever be kept as a whole since many were contradictory, but somehow people captured these promises, thinking that the promises they got personally were going to be kept. So in return for backing some particular governor candidate you were going to get support for someone/something else, but of course it didn't happen.

Then, as now, I see this as how government works. Those with influence can manage to convince others that if you do this for me, I will do that for you, but they have already made some other conflicting promise to someone else.

This probably wasn't the intended result (or maybe it was), but forever I will think of politicians in this way. Once you decide that for whatever reason you wish to pursue politics, you must work in this realm, in which handshakes, and tacit agreements, and understandings aren't really any of those, and not binding in any way.

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