By Jim Cunningham
Guest Columnist 

Confrontation essential to accountability


Last updated 1/31/2023 at Noon

In a recent editorial, Jim Cornelius offered up his views concerning our reluctance to hold to account those in powerful positions, as opposed to our willingness to take decisive action against those in positions of lessor status or importance. This phenomenon exists in the private sector as well as in a public forum.

Holding to account requires confrontation, and I have come to believe the failure to demand an accounting at any level, on a myriad of issues, rests more with our reluctance to confront, rather than our desire to stay a course to resolution.

Yeah, confrontation.

It can be intimidating, it puts us, often alone, in a position that may require us to defend a position, and it can take a big dose of intestinal fortitude to see it through.

But why do we draw a pretty broad line of demarcation between the powerful elite and those we perceive to be, well, “like us,” those of lesser importance, when we choose to confront? And why do we use those “like us” to set an example? Yeah, really “throw the book at ’em,” when they need to be held to account.

Why do we continuously employ a double standard?

Side-stepping the powerful elite vs. people “like us” should force a rational person into a pretty deep dive into their feelings about confrontation in order to determine why they routinely accept an irrational distinction between what is morally correct and what we know to be fundamentally wrong.

For many of us, the act of confronting is “uncomfortable” at best.

We worry more about a negative reaction to our attempt to confront rather than focusing on our need to draw attention to a legitimate concern; that’s a natural concern.

We think it’s somehow easier taking to task someone in our own peer group rather than taking on the elite.

It’s easier for us to stay in our lane, where we perceive we have control, rather than risk confronting the larger foe.

We suffer from what I call a David vs. Goliath illusion when facing the powerful.

By that I mean we think we aren’t capable or powerful enough to confront, hold to account, and carry the day against an overwhelming power or system.

So we let the opportunity pass.

Referring again to Jim Cornelius’ concerns vis-à-vis the powerful political elite vs. the rest of us; I don’t think the state of political affairs in this country is likely to change until we, the electorate in toto, are willing to accept the responsibility to confront and hold to account those in powerful positions who, through incompetence, the arrogance of hubris, or both, fail in protecting the health of our democracy.

They exist because we are apathetic in our approach to managing accountability.

From their point of view, we continue to give them carte blanche to govern in our stead as they see fit.

We tend to vote our pocket-books, and they deliver.

A chicken in every pot! But who questions, Where did that chicken come from and who paid for it?

The 18th-century Scottish judge Lord Alexander Tytler, professor of Universal History at the University of Edinburgh, remarked that the life span of a democracy is about 200 years. One can argue that our true democratic government emerged in 1787, when we hammered out our Constitution. Well, do the math; looks to me like we are pressing pretty hard against its life span envelope.

Ultimately it takes a well-informed electorate, standing together willing to confront the powerful political elite, and vote the bastards out, demanding an accounting for an ethically managed government. We can’t achieve it through riots or insurrections. Oh yeah, we’ve tried that at least seven times in the past, from Shays’ Rebellion in 1787 to January 6, 2021; it didn’t work.

Pogo, the late Walt Kelly’s opossum cartoon character, insightfully put it, “We have met the enemy and they is us!”Or, more to the point, upon leaving the Constitutional Convention in 1787 one Mrs. Powell approached Ben Franklin and asked, “What have you given us, Dr. Franklin?” “A republic,” he replied, “if you can keep it.”

Well…can we?


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