I have always been an idealist. If you look up Pollyanna in the dictionary, you'll probably see my picture.
I've also been naive, at least about some things. It just never occurred to me that people could have a motive other than doing the right thing. And I usually assumed that things were as they appeared, just because that's usually the way I operated, so didn't everybody? And if someone said something, didn't they really mean it?
Then, some years ago, I began to get seriously involved in politics. As in, volunteering for campaigns, activism, donating, and then blogging and writing and building opinion web sites and the whole thing. I made some good friends along the way, and began to ask them for the "insider viewpoint" on events and people.
We had a situation locally where a pro-union bill came before a legislative body, and one elected Democratic official not known for being especially union-friendly came out as a major sponsor. He made some strong comments to the press, garnered lots of favorable attention as a result. I asked one of my more astute friends what was going on, and he reminded me that this elected official was beginning to run for a certain office, and one of his opponents was another Democrat who tried to walk a line between unions and business. My friend noted that the first official was trying to make it so the second one had to take a stand, and either piss off his business supporters or give up any hope of getting union support.
My friend continued, "We're being played." When I asked him if the reality could be that cynical, he said something I've never forgotten:
Bruce, in politics there is usually a stated reason for something, and then there's the real reason. Your job is to keep your eyes open and look around for the real reason. Who benefits? Who gets hurt? Where's the money? Who is meeting, and with whom?
So, even as we look at the NSA controversy and other issues and decisions, I think we need to constantly be on the lookout, asking ourselves: Are we being played?
More below the circuitous path.