Politicizing Is a Good Thing

by Leanne Hoagland-Smith: Funny thing about words, they carry their own positive or negative connotations. For example, one of the diagnostic assessments I use with my clients includes the word "manipulate." This word, 99 times out of a 100, generates a negative response. Yet when we examine the origins of this word it means "hand" (manus – Latin) and "full" (pulus akin to Latin plere). What is negative about a handful? Nothing! The negativity is based upon personal experiences much of which is learned from others.

Manipulate, according to Webster’s Seventh Collegiate Dictionary, in the first two meanings is about operating with hands to managing or utilizing a skill well. Only in the next two meanings are the negative aspects defined. The synonym is "handle" which again has both positive and negative meanings. Yet, say this word, manipulate, to most people and the later negative definitions come first to mind.

Politicizing is another word that produces a lot of negative reaction. A local controversy here in Northwest Indiana generated this remark from one local politician "the process was too politicized" while a local mayor said he couldn't combat the "falsehoods, lies and innuendos" on his own (referring to the politicizing of this issue). Then in another article, a local citizen was identified by another politician as being "the first person to politicize this whole thing."

Whether it is a regional, state or federal issue, politicizing is a good thing. The reason I may what may be viewed as a controversial statement is because of the original meaning of the word politic. This word has both Greek and Latin origins and means "citizen." So when people are engaged in politicizing an issue, especially if they are voters, then their politicizing is a good thing.

Many politicians forget that they are elected by the people to run government for the people and not for their own continued accumulation of wealth and authority. The recent Anthony Weiner debacle reaffirms the hubris of elected officials.

I attended a luncheon for this local controversy and heard the keynote speaker who was pushing for adoption of this issue tell the audience that he and his team were able to compile reams of information ready for publication in less than 5 days. He said they worked quickly.

When he made this statement about the quickness of government, I scanned the audience and the non-verbal body language by three quarters of the 60 plus people present was indicating genuine disbelief. Yet, the official because of his arrogance did not read the audience. Since that meeting, this official continues to claim that local citizen are "politicizing" this issue.

The bottom line for this official is he is upset that he could not ram rod this issue down the throats of the voters.

Politicizing appears to be a bad thing
unless it is the politicians doing the politicizing.
When local voters politicize any issue, this reflects their involvement and in many cases suggests a higher degree of education regarding the issue. Usually many politicians do not want voters involved because an educated constituent is dangerous unless of course the voters support the politicians' self-serving agenda. Possibly this is why elected officials fear the Internet, conservative blogs and individuals such as Matt Drudge to Sarah Palin who have the unmitigated gall to challenge these “icons of truth, justice and the American way.”

So the next time you hear someone is “politicizing” an issue, take time to smile and remember that politics begins and ends with the citizens or as our founding father so eloquently stated

“We the People.”


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