“A traveler hired an Ass to convey him to a distant place. The day being intensely hot, and the sun shining in its strength, the Traveler stopped to rest, and sought shelter from the heat under the Shadow of the Ass. As this afforded only protection for one, and as the Traveler and the owner of the Ass both claimed it, a violent dispute arose between them as to which of them had the right to the Shadow. The owner maintained that he had let the Ass only, and not his Shadow. The Traveler asserted that he had, with the hire of the Ass, hired his Shadow also. The quarrel proceeded from words to blows, and while the men fought, the Ass galloped off.
In quarreling about the shadow, we often lose the substance.” - Aesop
Politicians like to make everything about them, but to avoid the appearance of outright ambition, they cloak themselves in the symbols of the nation, especially that most revered symbol of any democracy — the people.
Politicians would like us to believe we all reside in the shadow of their symbolic greatness because, after all, their greatness is our greatness. Of course, there are partisans who will argue if the current President or Congress providing shade to the nation is a good or bad development, but American partisans all seem to agree that the shadows of the politically elected stand tall as symbols of the people. The fact that this symbolic shadow game functions as a clever ruse doesn’t seem to have yet crossed enough partisans’ minds.
Indeed, if we stand in the shadow of power at all, it is not merely that of a given President or Congress. No, where we stand the deep state looms large, and this Goliath has become quite skilled at using the shadow and show of electoral politics to conceal its true, informal power. While politicians pretend it’s all about them, the deep state remains entrenched as the true Selfish Giant behind the formal seats of the elected.
That said, allow me to amend my original statement. Politicians like to make everything about them except when it may reflect on them negatively. They are more than happy to take credit for anything good under the sun, but they eschew any responsibility when their name is to blame for some great calamity. Politicians and their supporters love to paint a picture of a lovely present and hopeful horizon no matter how ugly and bleak reality may be. Eternal detractors of a given politician, of course, do just the opposite. They lay every awful thing in the world at the feet of a politician or political party they love to hate. Even when nothing has yet come to pass, these malcontents can’t seem to taste the sugar in their coffee no matter how many spoonfuls find their way into their morning mugs. No, their cups are always full of envy and bitterness.
In truth, this is all just a waste of energy — or, at least, a case of misdirected energy. Politics is not fundamentally about self-aggrandizing politicians taking too much credit or an intransigent opposition ascribing too much blame. That is only the surface-level distraction; the puppet show projected on the wall for the public. Yet, when one tries to reveal the deep state and its informal network of power, this shadowy spectacle continually finds a way to turn the public deaf, dumb, and blind. The more the people get caught up in the drama and look to support or oppose some personality or party, the less they see who is doing the actual governing.
Why? Because our informal political system — the powerful head of which is the prestige media plus academia — encourages the people to feverishly bicker over this political shadow game while branding anyone who thinks outside the box as a conspiracy theorist, pariah, or kook. Such curated discord is a feature, not a bug, of American politics. It allows the public to let off steam against this leader or that party while never focusing their full scorn on informal power itself. This is how the deep state continues to stealthily affect the lives of millions, all while hidden in plain sight. The drama of electoral politics comes and goes but the Selfish Giant remains.
My approach, and I humbly suggest it to you, is to attempt to find internal independence from political factions and trends. Zoom out. Take a breath. Go into political self-exile, if you will. Become inner-directed and detached from the daily political news cycle. Try to view the entire political scene as an aloof stranger in a strange land might — curiously watching the political spectacle unfold while making sure one’s own integrity and safety are still held intact.
Indeed, a sort of mass measured indifference to the political gamesmanship and virtue-signaling of electoral politics would do all Americans a great service. There is too much at stake for us to be arguing over these political shadow puppets on the wall. For, in continuing to quarrel over these political shadows, we are ripe to lose the substance of a free society — our liberty.
Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and currently, the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 9 am-12 noon. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback please email email@example.com. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819news.com.
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