I recently watched a 1943 film recommended by a friend called “A Stranger in Town.” It told the story of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice taking a short hunting trip near a small town to get away for a bit. Although his trip was meant for pleasure, it soon became his task to expose the constant corruption in the town, where he was met with one corrupt politician after another.
This film seemed like an exact depiction of what we are seeing happen over and over in our own towns—"small-town politics” or “the good ol’ boy system” of corruption. We know all too well who is in whose back pocket, but we’ve grown too weak-hearted to call them out. After all, the local newspaper or media outlet is best friends with Johnny Wilson’s brother, and talking about corruption would make them mad.
If we want to see changes, we must start from the bottom-up. We need to get involved, attend city council meetings, pay attention to the things that are going on, and hold our elected officials accountable. Take the time to do your research, because if things aren’t on the up and up, I can assure you that information on those things won’t just drop in your lap. Corruption, unless uncovered, will go to the grave with the corruptor.
Think back to the day you turned 18. Not only did you become an adult, you also gained the right to vote. I remember going to the polls the first time and thinking what a privilege it was to be able to vote. It was time to do my research and educate myself in order to vote for the candidate that I knew to be the best for the position. I could now be a part of making a difference by allowing my voice to be heard.
But are we teaching our children to do their own research when it comes time for them to vote? We can’t just train them to mindlessly vote the way their parents and grandparents have voted in the past. Doing so allows the same corrupt politicians to move up the ladder, make politics a career rather than a service, and remain in their elected terms when past their prime.
To prevent this, we must stop worrying about ruffling feathers or hurting feelings, and instead have the hard conversations with those around us. Remember that our elected leaders are in office to serve the people and not their own special interests or those of their friends. Even if they don’t like the salary they get, they must focus on the oath they took and promised to uphold in office. They weren’t elected to pad their pockets or the pockets of their constituents.
I’d like to end with a quote from the Supreme Court Justice in the film that I mentioned earlier.
I am a citizen of this country. That is no little honor. Men have fought revolutions, have died to be called citizen. And as citizens, we carry burning responsibility.
It means when we elect men to public office we can’t do it as lightly as we flip a coin. It means that after we have elected them we can’t sit back and say, ‘Our job is done. What they do now does not concern us.’
That philosophy of indifference is what the enemies of a decent government would want. If we allow them to have their way, to grow strong and vicious, then the heroic struggle which welded thousands of lovely towns into great nations means nothing. Then we are not citizens, we are traitors.
The great liberties by which we live have been bought with blood. The kind of government we get is the kind of government we want. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people can mean any kind of government. It's our duty to make it one kind…free and uncorrupted.
I highly recommend you take the time to watch “A Stranger in Town." I pray it lights a fire under others as it has me, urging us to stand up and not just sit back and watch. We may not be able to always agree on everything, but desiring a free and non-corrupt government is something on which we can all stand together—united against any and all corruption. Otherwise, government will remain just the way it is…corrupt.
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