A Man Of Convictions
A fourteen-year old boy was standing in his bedroom, gesticulating and loudly orating... to an empty room. His hands were waving, and a nonsensical diatrabe was being passionately delivered to the stuffed animals on his bed. The boy was emulating a man he had watched on television earlier in the day-- Paul Wellstone, the upset winner of one of Minnesota's seats in the U.S. Senate. To this point, the boy had not shown any particular interest in the art of politics.... But the way that Wellstone looked when he was speaking-- his zeal, the excitement in his voice-- this was not politics as usual. The boy wondered what it would be like to be this fervent about public issues, so he tried his hand at giving an acceptance speech in the same manner that Wellstone did. The boy enjoyed it.
Fast-forward four years. The boy, now a senior in high school, was waiting in his car outside the municipal airport in Austin, MN. Arriving any minute would be Senator Paul Wellstone and his wife Sheila, coming into town to stump for candidates at the District Convention in Austin. The boy was giddy with excitement-- one of the people who he looked up to most was actually going to be in the back seat of his car! It was quite an honor, one bestowed upon him by the powers-that-be of the local DFL leaders who knew of the boy's admiration for Wellstone. The boy had gotten quite involved in local politics over the past year-- attending conventions, campaigning door-to-door with local candidates, writing letters to the editor... Would a future in politics be out of the question? Not necessarily. After the ride, Wellstone thanks the boy for the safe ride. The boy goes home that day proudly sporting his new green Wellstone shirt.
Four more years. The boy is now a senior in college, majoring in Political Science. However, his taste for the political life has nearly left his mouth completely. While this was gradual, his internship at U.S. Representative Bill Luther's office pushed any desire for political involvment out of his life. Also, after studying about the influence of money in electoral politics, the boy preferred to spend his time reading political theorists like John Stuart Mill and John Locke-- it was better to read how things ought to be than how they actually were. The boy was still a proud Democrat, but his rabid involvement from high school had disappeared.
Four more years, present day. The boy sits on his couch in his home and sobs as a tribute to Wellstone is sung at an impromptu memorial service being broadcast on television. Wellstone's plane had crashed in northern Minnesota seven hours earlier. The boy had actually heard the news hours earlier but hadn't fully appreciated it until now. He had drifted even further away from politics in the years after college-- it would be difficult not to with Monica-gate, election-gate, and the various political scandals that seem to be a constant. The boy hadn't even fully studied the candidates even though the election was eleven days away-- however, as the said the prior day, "the only person I do know I'm voting for is Paul Wellstone."
Why was the boy crying? Bad things happen to good people all the time. While Wellstone did not have "dirt" associated with him like some politicians, he was far from perfect-- ego and thin skin were two of his downfalls. Wellstone and his opponent, Norm Coleman, were running a rather negative campaign as well. Maybe a bit of the boy's idealism died with Wellstone that day. Maybe for a bit the boy remembered his youthful excitement from twelve years ago and realized how long ago that was. Maybe for a bit the boy realized that he, too, is mortal.
Politics will continue. The boy read today about how Democrats and Republicans are getting their mudslingers ready for when Wellstone is buried-- then it will all start over again. The boy is again reminded of how the current state of electoral politics sickens him. And he realizes that the mold was broken after Paul Wellstone. No one will ever inspire the boy again to care about politics. Perhaps that's a product of the boy growing up; but perhaps that's a product of Paul Wellstone being one of the last few politicians not willing to "play the game" to stay in power. Wellstone passionately stuck with his convictions, didn't forget his friends, and voted with his heart.
He will be missed.