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franklin county times

What other papers are saying

By Staff
Poetic politics?
Political strategy is too often statistical and narrowly analytical, involving demographics, voting patterns and lists of issues. Political theory assumes that if people have enough information they will vote wisely.
Well … sometimes.
Politics may or may not be applesauce (at its best it's a noble profession requiring great skill) but it's essentially superficial. It's the art of the possible, and what is politically possible is determined by much deeper cultural and psychological currents of thought and feeling.
That's where the poetry comes in. To understand why people vote certain ways - or fail to vote - we need to go beyond politics and look for a deeper understanding of human behavior.
Those deeper insights are the province of poets, as well as psychologists, philosophers, historians, novelists, educators, students, progressive religious leaders and innovative thinkers in all of the humanities. They can look at voters and nonvoters not as statistics or demographics but as flesh- and-blood humans, motivated not merely by information and rational calculation but by sentiments, traditions, visceral feelings, intuitions, instincts, fears and hopes.
What can we learn from philosophers about ways to make ethical choices?
Historians might explain how various value systems have developed in the past and what the results have been. Writers of serious fiction can probe the psyches of individuals and their ethical implications in great depth.
Educators can describe how people learn cultural norms. Students unencumbered by conventional biases may be able to provide fresh approaches. Liberal religious leaders can redefine morality in a wider spiritual context.
The symbols can be as small as a flag billowing in the wind or as large as a landscape ("amber waves of grain … purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain"). They can be as expansive as the insights of Whitman: "The Americans, of all nations at any time upon the earth, have probably the fullest poetical nature. The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem."
If innovative thinkers in all fields can develop wider statements of moral values and prove them upon the pulses, morality could be reclaimed from the far right and politics would reach a new dimension.
The result could be a moral vision of the future to fire the imaginations and energies of Americans and inspired the respect and admiration of the world.
When that happens, the politicians will pick up the torch and go to the head of the parade.

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