Kenneth L. Hardin: I refuse to swim in the pool of poor politics

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 5, 2022

Although I’ve been in politics before, I won’t wade into that pool of water again. I found myself dealing with people who were afraid to venture out beyond the shallow end. They only wanted to play in the kiddie pool of political discourse, but I had graduated from that low depth, and refused to throw anyone masquerading as a man of the people a life preserver.

I made sure to emphasize I wasn’t a politician. I said from the beginning I was a servant-leader and set out to prove it throughout my term, and still seek to today. Instead of playing hide and go seek with people’s lives, I actually wanted to help them. Too many now sitting in high back comfortable chairs are more concerned with protecting the city instead of ensuring accountability. My ego, value and self-worth weren’t tied to a Council seat, and I strongly encouraged people not to vote for me if they didn’t like my approach. I sought to help ease the suffering of people, give a voice to those who felt invisible, fight for those who were often relegated to the margins, and unwoven into the fabric of this city. Once career politicians are elected, many are only interested in getting re-elected, and won’t say or do anything to jeopardize that. So, they do nothing to actually help the people who put them in office.

I already hear the push back from those who pretend they’re connected to the people they serve. They’ve skillfully surrounded themselves with folks who co-sign every ridiculous thing they say. They jump around like the little dog in the 1970s Saturday morning cartoon begging for acknowledgement and approval from the bigger bulldog. They walk in lock step two paces behind their political owner, holding a broken mirror up while convincing them to disregard the cracks in the view. When reality sets in and their lack of leadership manifests through continuous gun violence, murders, poor educational performance scores, a growing racial divide, mistrust of government departments, apathy at the polls and blunt criticism from constituents, it makes them take off the blinders and feign surprise that people actually see the emperor has no clothes. There are some who continually go for the shiny penny, fall for the political okey-doke and allow themselves to be led down a distractive path that leads to nowhere and nothingness. I’m not in that number.

I understand the importance of leadership because in a professional career that has spanned the military, law enforcement, healthcare, politics and business ownership, I’ve witnessed both the positive and negative sides of that coin. I’ve had the honor and pleasure of following some great leaders, and then there were times in my career where I wouldn’t have followed others to a water fountain after spending a week in the hottest part of Satan’s abode. It was drilled into me as a wide eyed 19-year-old military recruit decades ago that even if you didn’t respect the person, respect the title. Now that I’ve lived a little and have worn a bigger man’s clothes for a while, I don’t subscribe to that logic anymore. There are people who’ve soiled and sullied titles so bad with their abhorrent behavior, I have no respect for the former or the latter.

I recently reached out to 10 local elected officials for assistance with a deplorable racist and homophobic act at one of our high schools. Only one elected official gave me the courtesy of responding. One multi-term politician had my name and email address blocked although I’ve never sent them any correspondence previously. I won’t profess to know all the rules mandating professional behavior standards required for elected officials, but I’m sure they exist because I have the manuals. If you take all the ingredients needed to make a citizen’s constitutional rights pie to ensure they aren’t violated when baking it, and include equal parts the FOIA, the First Amendment, the ACLU, the UNC School of Government basics, various Civil Rights Divisions of the federal government, and add in a tablespoon of a few others, I’m certain an elected official can’t block a constituent from contacting them on a government taxpayer communications system because they may have been criticized in the past and got their feelings hurt.

I’ve never imbibed on the tainted Jim Jones-like jungle juice of politicians who say a lot but accomplish nothing, nor have I allowed myself to be hypnotized and placed in a stupor I couldn’t snap out of. I’ve effectively fought off psychological abduction and disallowed political captors’ misaligned priorities to seep into my consciousness and force an incongruent bond between ego and servitude. Until you show me an impressive résumé, I’ll remain forever a servant-leader.

Kenneth L. (Kenny) Hardin is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.