This is related to David Brooks’ “personalism” column I brought up the other day.
More than that, it’s an evocation of a theme I frequently bring up in my quixotic effort to foster a sort of politics that isn’t about the partisan lie that breaks everything down to an absolutist battle between angels and devils, black and white. You can find some of my future references to this by searching this blog for the phrase, “politicians are people.”
And yeah, I know it sounds dumb every time I say it, but try to bear with me anyway, because while I may seem to be saying something everybody knows, too few of us act like we know it.
I don’t know state Rep. Katie Arrington. If I’ve met her, I don’t recall. I haven’t had direct dealings with her — again, that I recall. I don’t seem to have mentioned her in the 13 years that I’ve been blogging. She follows me on Twitter, but I don’t follow her (something I may amend after I’ve posted this).
Before this morning, therefore, all I really knew about her was that she was the woman Donald Trump backed against Mark Sanford. Which was not exactly something to recommend her to me. Here was Sanford doing something I approved of for the first time in years — standing up to Trump — and she took him down for it.
In other words, I was aware of her about on the level of the description in this headline this morning on my Washington Post app:
But now, suddenly, we are reminded that this symbol of the cause keeping the GOP in line behind Trump is a human being, and one whom people who know her care about. Not just her family or friends, not just Trump supporters and not just Republicans.
The first sign of this for me was from my own representative, Micah Caskey:
Katie will fight her way back to a full recovery, I have no doubt, but I pray that her suffering is minimal and her family is comforted during these stressful days.
— Micah Caskey 🇺🇸 (@MicahCaskey) June 23, 2018
Now lest you think, aw, he’s a Republican and is kowtowing to the Trump crowd, note that his last Tweet before that was this:
— Micah Caskey 🇺🇸 (@MicahCaskey) June 22, 2018
No, no one should be surprised that Micah Caskey, whom I regard as an excellent representative in almost every way, would reach out with compassion to a colleague at such a time. It has nothing to do with political alliances.
That is supported by such tweets as these:
I am just learning that our House colleague Katie Arrington and her friend we’re involved in a serious car accident last night. Our prayers go out to her and her family.
— Mandy Powers Norrell (@MPowersNorrell) June 23, 2018
.@kirklandtsmith and I join @MPowersNorrell @beth4house @schousespeaker & so many others in lifting our colleague @karringtonsc & her family up in prayer as she recovers from this serious car accident. https://t.co/02MNRT8IXl
— James Smith (@JamesSmithSC) June 23, 2018
— Rep Beth Bernstein (@beth4house) June 23, 2018
Our thoughts and prayers this morning go to Katie Arrington, her family and those involved in last night’s automobile accident. https://t.co/sV4E90CIj8
— Mark Sanford (@RepSanfordSC) June 23, 2018
Yeah, go ahead you scoffers and dismiss all that as empty, insincere posturing by politicians. But here’s the thing: I know these people, even though I don’t know Rep. Arrington. And here’s another thing: They didn’t have to do this on a Saturday morning. No one was sticking a microphone in their faces and demanding that they take a position.
And in their concern, I realize she’d not just a headline or a campaign or a position. She’s someone they’ve worked with face-to-face, day after day. She’s someone they’ve encountered as a real person.
And through the concern of people I do know as people, I am brought to a fuller understanding of Katie Arrington as a complete, three-dimensional human being, someone who exists fully and independently of the headlines about her.
And having my awareness of her thus deepened, I hope and pray for her full recovery, and that of her friend who was injured, and that the family of the driver who was killed be comforted in their loss.
Yeah, I know that on a certain level what I’m saying sounds idiotic. Of course people show their concern, sincerely or insincerely, when someone they know is seriously hurt. This proves nothing. But try to see what I’m trying to point out: that most of the time, most people don’t see these people as fully-realized human beings, but rather as caricatures. And if our system of deliberative democracy is ever to have a chance to recover and be functional, we have to see through that, and see people as whole, so we can deal with them effectively and constructively.
Dumb as it sounds, I’m going to keep saying it, because on a critical level where we need to be interacting productively, too few of us act as though we truly realize it: Politicians are people.
And this one is hurting right now…