Politics – the process by which we select and judge those who represent us as we confront a dizzying array of complex problems – has throughout our history always had an “ugly” side. If you mix deeply felt beliefs into this process and the inclination to scrutinize the most detailed aspects of a politician’s life, one gets limitless fodder for mischief. As a result, candidates are subject to having the “scab” ripped off on a daily basis. It too often brings to center stage foibles that contort the political process to a level of rancor that belies dignity and respect. So much so in fact, that it masks our core American values of fairness and mutual respect for truth, honesty and being fair-minded.
Add the blogosphere, social media and search engines, and we have a cocktail that can too often mask the basic compass and focus of good people who deserve far better. Global connectivity has its costs – our lives are less private and more vulnerable to being exposed. And virtually every one of us has something we would rather keep to the confines of little known failures.
I, for example, attempted to steal a few magazines from McLean’s Grocery in Havre when I was 12. Needless to say, my father was horrified by the discovery of my failed attempt, especially when he learned that “Popular Mechanics” was not the target of my attempted larceny. At least, that is what he said when explaining why he would never tell my mother.
The motivation behind the recent resignation of Sen. John Walsh from his senatorial campaign is a more modern day and serious example. Some years ago, Walsh made an error in judgment while attending the Army War College. He has admitted to it, and as a result of the campaign turmoil it has generated, he has withdrawn from the race.
Our democratic process will move forward. But what do we do about a bruised and battered Sen. Walsh and his family? Let me suggest that no matter your frame of reference, be it Christian, Montanan, or just being a generally good person, it is time for us to recognize Walsh has engineered some incredibly meaningful accomplishments.
He selflessly served Montana and our nation as a National Guard member for 33 years, rising to serve as Montana’s adjutant general. With great courage and distinction he led our forces in battle in Iraq, where he was listed “by name” on Al Qaeda’s hit list. He has suffered the grievous and most sacred task of handing folded flags to the loved ones of fallen service members. He ably served as our lieutenant governor, and now as our U.S. senator.
He has sponsored meaningful legislation of which we can all be proud: suicide prevention for our veterans, protecting the North Fork for generations to come, and making college more affordable for our kids and grandkids.
We may not all agree with his every vote, but I suspect we all recognize that he was doing his level best to represent the people of Montana and our nation. Let’s salute Walsh and his family by celebrating their many accomplishments and the sacrifices of time and treasure they have made on our behalf. After all, we are Montanans and so are they. We are far more than “The Big Sky Country” – we must also be “The Big Heart Country.”
Don Loranger, major general (USAF, ret.), lives in Bigfork.
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