This year, even more than most, it seems, “special interests” are the scourge of our political system.
One candidate speaks of “special interests and their dirty money” in a single breath.
Another candidate asserts that he “stands with us,” while his opponent “stands with them.” “Us” is practically surrounded by butterflies and buttercups, while “them” is clearly lower than pond scum.
Another says that he represents “the middle class” while his opponent represents “special interests.” That sounds like “the middle class” is a homogenous glob of protoplasm with no ambitions or aspirations.
Thus referred to, “the middle class” is perhaps best defined by the meaningless motto of yesteryear, “Whatever.”
On reflection, I have decided that just maybe I am a member of the great morally unwashed identified as “special interests.”
Before you drum me out of whatever mainstream organizations I may have snuck into, please consider the “special interests” with which I align myself.
You might even have a casual friend or a distant relative with similar interests.
I am a grandparent. I have five wonderful grandchildren ranging in age from 10 months to 10 years. Two were born in Lakeland, two in Ethiopia, and one in Gainesville. When they laugh, I laugh. When they are sick, I don’t feel so well myself. Liam, Calvin, Addisu, Asher and Meron are a special interest to me.
I want them to have good healthcare, a good education, and all the other advantages that we associate with being Americans.
That “American” label identifies me as a member of a special interest group.
It means different things to different people, but most of those things are pretty special to me.
As a dedicated Episcopalian, I have a special interest in Freedom of Religion.
My money is emblazoned with “In God we trust,” and if that offends you, I respect your choice not to share that trust. Checks and credit cards are acceptable.
As a retired journalist, I have a special interest in Freedom of the Press. We can be troublesome nuisances to the powerful, especially the powerful who consider themselves far superior to “the masses.”
“The masses.” That was a popular theme of my college days.
Our professors drilled into us that we were superior to “the masses,” and had a noblesse oblige to exercise that superiority to save them from themselves, and perhaps more important, to keep “us” from becoming like “them.”
It was an elitist position that rang hollow back then, and it offends me even more today.
A popular joke of yesteryear: “God must have loved the Common Man. Look how many of them He made.”
The counter-cry: “No mother ever said, ‘I am so proud of my son. He turned out to be such a Common Man.’”
I am a veteran of the armed forces.
I have a special interest in seeing the American military committed to battle only when the mission is clear, and the nation’s political leadership and general population have the resolve to see them through to victory.
American soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines, are not sent into battle to give it the old college try. They are sent into battle to win. Nothing else is worthy of their sacrifice.
Back to those grandchildren in whom I have such a special interest.
I have a special interest in their having the opportunity — not the guarantee, but the opportunity — to achieve success, in whatever way they define it.
Much of that opportunity lies in the resolve of my generation, and my children’s generation, to leave them an America that makes success possible.
For starters, I want to see my generation’s values made available to them to embrace, if they see fit to embrace them.
I want them to live in an economic climate free of a national debt of tens of trillions of dollars, a debt run up by a generation that could not figure out how to live within its means.
My grandchildren, and yours, are pretty bright kids. I suspect they can achieve the same successes our generation has achieved, unless we impose such a burden on them that this is no longer possible.
Sure enough, I have a special interest or two.
And I vote.
(S. L. Frisbie is retired. Though never an alarmist, he is beginning to wonder if America really can maintain its greatness on borrowed money and a paradigm that considers success as something to be taxed into failure, or ridiculed into oblivion.)