Keep an eye on the big picture

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 12, 2004

The wheels of democracy have turned, pulling the Republican Party into the White House for the next four years. It was a hard-fought battle with mud-slinging on both sides. Now it is time to shake off the dirt and get down to the

business of government. For citizens like me , who hold no office, that means

watching the successful candidates to make sure they deliver on promises and

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fairly represent us all. Even with our carefully crafted system of checks and balances, it is the citizenry who keep the big guys honest.

I will watch carefully to see if the middle class becomes better off or

further disenfranchised, if senior citizens continue to struggle to maintain in an

inflationary environment or reap better benefits. I will observe what leaders

are doing to keep us safe at home and our troops safe in battle. I will

especially watch to see if special interest groups, who supported the party in the

campaign, get special consideration in the letting of contracts and the

passing of legislation.

I have always liked the story of the blind men and the elephant.

Five blind men were asked to describe an elephant.

One man grabbed the elephant’s tail and declared an elephant was like a rope.

The second blind man, who ran his

hands along the elephant’s trunk, laughed at that description and said the elephant was like a snake.

Blind man number three, standing beside him, pressed

his hand on the elephant’s tusk, so he argued that the animal was like a spear.

The fourth blind man, with his arms wrapped around one of the elephant’s

legs, compared the elephant to a tree trunk.

The fifth man, carefully feeling his

way down the elephant’s broad side, insisted the elephant was like a wall.

Consider each of these fictitious men to be a special interest group. They

are so focused on their narrow field of experience and need that they do not

reach out to get all the information for themselves because better understanding might undermine their position. They do not move, so they have only one perspective. They do not listen to what others have to say, so they rob themselves

of a true vision.

It is the common man who has the best view of the elephant.

He can see the danger in the

tusks and the potential to harness the strength of the animal’s powerful legs and trunk. He can also anticipate that when the elephant lifts its tail someone better stand ready with a shovel.

He is in the best position to shout &uot;You all have just a little piece of what makes this a great animal. It is not a rope ,or a spear, or a snake but an elephant, a sum of what each

of you perceive and then a lot more.&uot;

That will be our job for the next four years. We must be a chorus for clear vision in service to American ideals, the very ideals our citizens exemplified as they stood in line to cast their ballots.

Beverly Outlaw lives in Suffolk and writes an occasional column for the News-Herald. She can be reached at