COMMENTARY: Beating our swords into plowshares

by Sep 6, 2019OPINIONS





We have another election cycle behind us. The people have spoken. And, whether you spoke with your vote, or with your absence from the voting process, you contributed to the results. 

I hope that we have turned the corner on some of the negative campaigning that occurred in the past. Except for some polarized pockets of people, this campaign season has been the most civil, disciplined, and respectable that I have seen in several election cycles. 

The extreme polar political views did not rule the day in the election process. Watercooler discussions were reasoned and tempered with people focusing on issues instead of personalities. While people may have been rabid supporters of a candidate or an idea, most of the discussion seemed to lean toward the needs of the people and who might best address them. 

As with any political contest, there will be those who disagree with the outcome. We had an outstanding slate of candidates including both the tried and true veterans and the bright and hopeful newcomers. All had good answers for various questions posed to them regarding the future of the Tribe. In many cases, there was not a prescribed “right answer” to the community’s problems. It was a matter of comparing what the voters’ thoughts about the right solution were as compared to the candidates’ proposed solutions. 

While someone must take a personal loss in elections, among our candidates, there are no losers. Each candidate who participated brought something to the table. If nothing else, they brought out the best in those who will be challenged to lead and have given them a fresh perspective to consider. The best sporting events are the ones where the contestants bring their unique strengths to the arena, forcing the opposing combatants to bring their best game to the contest. And so, it was with this election. 

There was unique civility to this election cycle. Some of the comments made in previous elections by candidates and high-profile community members were very destructive and detrimental to the process of seating our officials to high office and the health of the community. There seemed to be a calmer, more reasoned approach to politics in the 2019 cycle. That is better for all of us. If going through this process over the years brings any positives, relearning to treat each other “the Cherokee way” would be a significant positive to keep. Hopefully, we are more respectful in our presentation of our differences. 

Political contests resemble war in many ways, requiring resources, strategies, labor, and propaganda. For a candidate, communications and information are the “swords” of battle, accentuating their strengths and capitalizing on weaknesses, real or perceived. Some wounds are inflicted with righteous thoughts and words; others are contrived with no validity only meant to tear down the opposition and distract the voting public. High energy and resources are spent in the heat of battle, a.k.a. campaigning. The word “campaign” is actually war terminology – “a series of military operations to achieve a particular objective, confined to a particular area, or involving a specific type of battle.” 

Indeed, during and after our elections, many of us are “shell-shocked” by the process. “Ok, we did it. But, what did we do?” We all go at the process with hopes of a brighter future, but we won’t know for sure until the consequences of our actions are played out over the next couple to four years and beyond. We hope and pray that the choices we made are the best ones; for ourselves, our families, and for the community.

Our opportunity- our task- now is to take all that energy that we poured into the election process and apply it to the work before us. Bickering, gossiping, and back-biting about what should have or could have been will be wasted energy moving forward. In reality, those are the very things that will move us backwards. 

I congratulate all who will be seated in the positions of high service for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for the next two- and four-year terms. The people have genuinely spoken, and those chosen have been duly elected to carry out the vision of the people and “faithfully execute the duties of (their offices) of the Eastern Band of Cherokees and to the best of (their) ability preserve, protect, and defend the charter and governing document, and laws ratified by the enrolled members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians…In all measures which may come before (them), (they) will conduct themselves as in their judgment shall appear most “conducive” to the interest and prosperity of the Eastern Band of Cherokees”.

I appreciate all the candidates who stepped forward, willing to be a servant of and for the community. Your job is not done. You and the rest of this community should and must hold our public servant leadership accountable to the community. Our old enemy, called apathy, still has a grip on our nation. There are many challenges ahead. The leaders of our community will need our voices to be loud and clear. The swords we used to campaign now need to be turned into plowshares for the work of governance ahead. Tools of battle used to compete now need to be brought together for the common good. 

Wounds will be hard to heal only if we choose to keep opening them. I hope and pray for our Tribe’s sake that we will be energized, motivated, and dedicated to doing what is “most conducive to the interest and prosperity of the Eastern Band of Cherokees”. It is an oath we all should take. We may disagree on the way or path, but we must do so in unity – no personal agendas, no character assassination, no hatred. Debate the differences and commit to putting the community’s interest first and foremost. 

For the good of all, let’s beat our swords into plowshares. The campaign is over.