Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Is it okay to "dis" the President? The Congressman and the Hockey Player

Congressman Doug Lamborn has announced that he will not attend the President's State of the Union Address tonight in protest. He says it will be little more than a campaign speech, so he will instead watch on television.

Tim Thomas, 2011 Stanley Cup MVP, skipped out on his invitation to the White House with the rest of his team. He was protesting what he believes is the erosion of freedom and constitutional government by the administration.

Are these men wrong to pass on invitations from our Commander in Chief to spotlight their political beliefs? Yes and no, in that order.

Doug Lamborn is a Congressman. The State of the Union is an annual address from one branch of government to the other two, as well as to the people. Yes, it has evolved into a mostly ceremonial presentation of what a great job the current administration thinks it's doing, but it is a government ritual and one that the Congressman should bite his lip and attend. If others were to follow his lead, future addresses by Presidents might only be attended by members of their own party. This does nothing to further productive debate and discourse.

Mr. Thomas, on the other hand, is a hockey player. As a private citizen he is under no obligation to attend a White House photo op, just because he was asked to. If you are genuinely disturbed by the direction the President is taking the country in, why would you show up to exchange pleasantries on camera for any reason? This is not North Korea. Individuals cannot be compelled to bow or even shake hands with a politician they'd rather not be associated with.

If you enter the field of politics, you put yourself in a position where you must deal with people with whom you disagree. You have to keep the lines of communication open to be effective for the people you represent. You don't have to be submissive, but you have to be present. If you're in most any other profession in America, you don't. Citizens don't worship elected officials here. We just agree not to throw eggs at them...mostly.