by Pettus Read
A real hot topic around the state these days is the discussion on ethics. In question seems to be what is going on down at the state legislature and how to make the passage of laws more ethical. Since the beginning of this country back in George Washington's days, folks have been trying to get laws for the people created more ethically at all levels of government. And, as long as humans are involved, I guess we will continue to look for a way to make ethics a primary goal of lawmaking.
Since all of this media frenzy on ethics began, one of my most disturbing concerns has been around the investigators using our beloved "Tennessee Waltz" state song as the code words to keep the investigation secret. Is not anything beyond reproach any longer? Could we not have used a title song from a rap or polka album rather than to make our state song a part of what is wrong in government?
Every time I hear the "Tennessee Waltz" played, I have a feeling of pride for my state and an appreciation for being lucky enough to have been born within its borders. However, during a Fourth of July celebration this past summer, the first song played by the community orchestra was the "Tennessee Waltz." Rather than thousands of those attending feeling my pride for my state, I heard laughter from many of those present. That really hurt. Personally, I feel those selecting the title from our state song were somewhat less than ethical in their decision to do so.
I recently attended one of the Governor's Ethics Committee meetings which was open to Tennessee's citizens to voice their opinions and thoughts on the subject of ethics in government. During the two and a half hour listening session, committee members heard a lot of suggestions on how to make things better. The room was full in Larry Hall on the campus of Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee. There were average citizens in attendance and many did speak out. And, of course there were many present who represented organizations. Some I had seen before on TV representing citizens for different causes and others who just said they were speaking for the citizens of Tennessee. I wondered about some of those who were speaking out for the citizens of Tennessee. Being a lifelong citizen of this state myself, I could not recall ever electing them to represent me. However, here they were telling their opinion on my behalf. I guess I missed their election somewhere along the way.
The thing that caught my attention most was the number of average citizens who came out on that sunny day to express their interest in government ethics. I bet more folks would have turned out for a free root canal than were in attendance as average "Joe Public" that day.
Do we really truly care about who runs our government and the condition of ethics in our lawmaking system? Or, do we just talk about it and let someone else speak for the citizenship who really does not know how we all feel. The latter may be more in line for the majority.
Several years ago, I heard a story about a traveling salesman who got his car stuck in the mud on a country road. Unable to get it out, he asked a farmer plowing nearby to use his mule to pull his car out.
The farmer hooked his mule to the car's bumper and shouted to the old mule, "Pull Bonnie, pull!"
Nothing happened. The farmer then shouted to the old mule, "Pull Sue, pull!"
Still nothing happened. The farmer then shouted, "Pull Sam, pull!" The old mule walked forward and pulled the car right out of the mud.
The salesman thanked the farmer and then asked him why he had called the old mule by the wrong name the first couple of times.
The farmer said, "You see, Sam is blind and he does a better job of pulling if he thinks he has some help."
That may be the answer to some of our ethics problems. Like Sam, if our elected leaders think they have some help out there from us "Joe Publics" they may just pull a little harder and do a better job if they only knew we really cared.
"Pull Joe Public, pull!"