Have You Seen the Wizard?

By: Karen Sands

I often wonder…how would I bring up my grandkids today? Certainly differently than their parents when they were growing up in the 1970s and 80s. I parented them with optimism because the future showed so much promise and possibility. Only later on did I come to realize that I did my kids a disservice by not preparing them for the derailing truth that we citizens can’t always trust what our elected representatives say, much less those we trust the most.

As (grand)parents, we want to protect our kids’ innocence and teach newer generations to emulate leaders and ideal citizens…those who know what’s real and what’s not, who will stand up for what’s “right” and just, freedom, equality and opportunity for all – the basic tenets of the American way…

I clearly remember the day my son told me “I’ve seen the Wizard [of Oz]!” I knew instantly that his innocence was gone. Even as he brings up his young family now, he too carries the torch of hope and possibility for them but knows not to trust wizards.

And so it goes, we keep keepin’ on. Until one day when the Wizard is thrown out of the magical castle for being a fraud! It’s time we cleaned out all of our castles and towers. Don’t you agree?

A few weeks ago New York Senate’s Dean Skelos and his son were arrested on corruption charges.

In another notable failure of integrity and leadership, look to J. Dennis Hastert, the former elected official who, for eight years, held the title of Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (third in line to the presidency, I might add). This current Washington Lobbyist was said to be an upstanding role model, yet has just been indicted by federal prosecutors on charges that he violated banking laws (and lied to authorities) in order to pay $3.5 million to an unnamed person to cover up “past misconduct.” Though innocent until proven guilty, reports suggest this was hush money paid to a man Mr. Hastert is alleged to have sexually abused decades ago.

Then there’s the unraveling FIFA disaster and the final shoe dropping with FIFA president Sepp Blatter resigning as its head after a 17-year career. That career has ended in infamy due to a U.S. Justice Department corruption investigation for wire fraud, racketeering, and money laundering.

The congressional castle is truly turning my stomach these days. It’s past time to vote out all the self-serving wizards choosing hatred and power abuses above actual leadership and democratic representation.

In late December, before heading into surgery, I heard the tiny news snippet that twisted up my insides: how at the 11th hour the Arizona senators had slipped a mickey in our holiday drinks so those in congress and the country wouldn’t even notice their trickery.

Arizona has the second-largest Native American population in the U.S. with 22 sovereign Native American communities inhabiting nearly a quarter of the state’s land. As the longest currently serving member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Arizona Senator John McCain is said (on his own website) to have “tirelessly supported the bedrock principles of tribal sovereignty and Indian self-governance and self-determination.”

If I took those words at face value, I would automatically believe that this elected politician was an admirable American role model. A leader enabling the “American Dream.” A hero rectifying the wrongs done to a people who were the country’s original citizens who taught the “founding immigrants” how to survive and thrive on this land before being systematically undermined and devalued by those very same newcomers they had welcomed.

But actions speak louder than words.

As it turns out, Mr. McCain is one of several politicians whose behaviors have included sneaky actions that continue stripping Native Americans of sacred lands, areas of our planet they have sustained for centuries with reverence and care. Lydia Millet shares the latest abomination in her NY Times opinion article, “Selling Off Apache Holy Land.”

In December 2014, Congress promised to hand the title for land in Arizona to a private, Australian-British mining concern owned by the company Rio Tinto, who has coveted the area for the high-value ores beneath the land. “A fine-print rider trading away the Indian holy land was added at the last minute to the must-pass military spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act. By doing this, Congress has handed over a sacred Native American site to a foreign-owned company for what may be the first time in our nation’s history.” Who slipped the giveaway language into the bill? Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona. At the 11th hour.

Millet further suggests “It’s worth noting that Rio Tinto affiliates have been McCain campaign contributors, and that Mr. Flake, before he made it to Congress, was a paid lobbyist for Rio Tinto Rössing Uranium” (a huge uranium mine in Namibia of which, according to The Huffington Post, Tehran owns a 15 percent stake). And, apparently, Rio Tinto “has been called out in the past for environmental devastation.” Taking local citizens’ lands and livelihood to personally benefit from a foreign-owned company with ties to Iran? Degrading the environment, which has unhealthy repercussions for us all?

I’m outraged, horrified, and ashamed. Who are these elected representatives representing?

One last word on words… corrupt political-speak isn’t the only way in which falsehoods are propagated. In my work transforming how we approach aging, I often address the language we use to describe being and growing older (e.g.: past blog posts Language Matters, Deactivate Office Ageism, and Words are Power). It’s important that our actions match our words. Just as essential is knowing that what we say and how we say it matters.

I’m stymied about what to do to reverse the rider other than venting and spreading the word. Do you have any ideas on how we can make this happen?

We know it’s not all bad news…what examples of integrity (and situations in which carefully chosen words were followed by matching actions) have you recently witnessed or been a part of? 

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This article was written by guest contributor Karen Sands. Karen is a blogger, journalist and author. Her focus is on women like you, or as she says the "ageless generation". Check out her website for more articles. You can also follow her on Facebook,Twitter, and Pinterest