KIRBY: Political power a true short story

Be careful how you interpret the world.


– Erich Heller


I had lunch earlier this week with the Prime-Timers youth group at Abilene Baptist, and we were talking about vacations. One of those precocious youngsters asked me to name the most amazing place I’d ever been.

Nothing came quickly to mind, so I simply said “Stonehenge” the ancient British monument site where large stones buried in the ground long, long ago, form either a shrine or a primitive church, or a tourist attraction.

I quickly added, however, that I was disappointed at actually seeing this mysterious marvel up close and in person. It wasn’t as remarkable as I thought it would be.

I paused a moment, then added, “Few things are.”

That pretty much has been the biggest surprise of 40-plus years in the news business. Most places you hear about are not as pretty. Most events you cover are not as exciting. Most movie stars you interview aren’t all that glamorous. Professional athletes are not really that big.

And almost all politicians are short. (That got a laugh from the Prime-Timers.)

I blame TV.

It likes to make people look bigger and more important in hopes you will pay attention until a commercial can be squeezed in. But the truth is they are really like us, not that different. They put on their pants (or pant suits) one leg at a time.

Years ago one of my very old friends gave up the Lord’s work in journalism and moved to Washington, D.C., to take a job crafting the clever words that politicians like to hear themselves say. She worked for several elected lawmakers at our nation’s highest levels, and was always amazed.

“You would not believe how dumb they are,” she said with honest but consistent astonishment.

“Sure, I would,” I told her.

The world is full of experts who are paid well to be quoted at length, and are often proved wrong.

For example, I don’t remember anyone predicting the 2016 presidential outcome … or that the Atlanta Falcons would go to the Super Bowl.

“They’re not that much different from the rest of us,” I told both her and the Prime-Timers. “They just think they are.”

Maybe it’s always been so.

Woodrow Wilson, the former Augustan, liked to tell the story of making a speech after he’d won the White House in 1912.

While addressing the crowd that had gathered, Wilson said he noticed a boy elbowing his way through the larger adults until he emerged right in front of the new president.

“Where is it? Where is it?” the boy demanded, looking around excitedly at the circle of men surrounding the president.

Wilson stopped his speech, smiled and said, “Well, my boy, I guess I’m it.”

“Shucks,” the young man said with disappointment, “I thought it was a dogfight.”


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