January 21, 2015, Prescott- I am a member of the Baha’i Faith, as many of you know. The Baha’i concept of service is one of humility and reverence for the human spirit. It was modeled by the eldest son of our Faith’s Founder, Baha’u’llah. This eldest son is known to posterity by His title, ‘Abdu’l-Baha. The title is Arabic, and translates as “Servant of the Light”, in English. Although ‘Abdu’l-Baha was, and is, revered by all Baha’is, in His lifetime, He walked a humble path of service to others. For example, He organized and saw the establishment of a series of storehouses in the Galilee, during and immediately after World War I. He visited North America and Europe, during the period, 1911-13, and would often prepare meals for His visitors, in the course of His travels.
I will have more to say about ‘Abdu’l-Baha, in later posts. The above anecdotes, though, form the backdrop for my own view of what public service is. The person working with the public is in a position of trust. The teacher is responsible for the education, welfare and safety of all students with whom she comes in contact, during the day. The bus driver, both school and public transit, is responsible for the safe transport of paying and subsidized riders, for the duration of their travel in his vehicle, as well as safe ingress and egress. The health care worker, be he or she a physician, nurse, pharmacist or medical technician, is responsible for the well-being of any patient in a care situation, within his or her purview.
Most such public servants know these responsibilities, and take them to heart. So, too, there are a large number of people serving in the social welfare field who do their jobs with the best interests of their clients in mind. There are, unfortunately, a disconcerting number who view the people coming to their offices as wards, as people to be pushed around, browbeaten and treated in an undignified manner- because they are down on their luck.
It’s time to take the “Kick Me” signs off. I received word today, from a credible source, that one of the local offices purporting to help veterans is engaging in browbeating and intimidating the homeless, and refusing service to those who stand up for themselves in a respectful manner. It is past time for the veterans of our Armed Forces to be treated as full human beings, and not just in the VA Hospitals, where slow, but considerable, progress is being made in that regard. Anyone who hangs out their shingle as a Veterans’ Resource Center has no business refusing service to someone for not going along with psychological gamesmanship, or not wanting to indulge a caseworker’s quirky behaviour, or for just being homeless.
I mention all this because I am tired. I am sick to death of the patronizing, bullying, gamesmanship and dereliction of duty that I have witnessed from various government officials, both elected and appointed, at the Federal, state and municipal levels, over the past eight years. From the hired thugs who threatened to beat a man for stopping to eat an apple, on a sidewalk in Washington, in 2007, to a mayor and several councilmen of a small city, who personalized a conflict with a constituent, over the past year or so, there is an increasing air of arrogance, and “Feed my ego” seems the name of the game.
I serve in a few capacities. I am not the greatest Chaplain the American Legion has ever seen, and at least one member of the Auxiliary can’t wait to see me go, but I approach my fellow members in a spirit of service. I take any posting as a Substitute Teacher seriously, and am well-regarded by students and colleagues, precisely because their well-being and quality experiences trump any desire I might have to be revered or obeyed. I take any work I do with the Red Cross seriously, or any recommendations I make to people, regarding use of Essential Oils, because there are lives and healthful situations at stake. Because of the way I was raised, ego gratification is not an option.
It ought not be an option for anyone in public service.