Editor's note: Pansy Ridgeway is the first woman mayor of Manning and served from 1970 to 1986. She was on city council from 1962-1970. She was president of the S.C. Municipal Association, chairwoman for Santee-Lynches Council Regional Council of Governments and won the S.C. Governor's Order of the Palmetto, the S.C. Farlow Award and the M.M. Sullivan Award. She is a graduate of Furman University. She is proud of her statewide friendships.
I am astonished with the conduct in today's political arena.
My 36 years in local government has always been marked by tolerance. Why? Because no one forgot who they were doing the work for - the people who voted them in. That statement seems so simple to me.
There are several basic tenets a political leader should live by - honesty, integrity and creating and defending laws that will benefit the individual and family and their town or country.
Those words seem to have become banal within our national arena. I do believe that on a state level, we must be ever vigilant to not be infected by the larger stage around us. These are words that imply action. It is inaction that prompted me to write this, and I am puzzled as to our leaders' core beliefs and how to define their own individual legacy.
You are elected to bring about change for the good. This means studying the problems in your own community and learning to listen carefully to all proposals. This is not what this generation of elected officials is doing, and yet it is so simple. It means that nuggets of good ideas will come from Democrats, Republicans and Independents, not just one group. Who has the monopoly on great ideas? Not politicians or one faith or one gender or one race.
It is a lack of moral compass to redefine districts for vote-stacking purposes, to vote a certain way because of media exposure or favors, and most of all - to not consider another's viewpoint before the decision is made. I cannot believe anyone reading this last sentence would disagree.
The current acceptable behavior is to be ugly in your speech so you get media coverage or, even worse, stand your ground and let the people suffer because that elected leader must show he is right at all costs. I believe in our system, and I do believe we can learn so much from past bodies of government.
A great example is how the late House Speaker Tip O'Neill could believe in his view while respecting the view of his president. They lived their political lives in a realistic fashion, held no grudges and could compromise over a drink after hours. It was never personal.
Today's rhetoric is now very personal, openly quite ugly and gives no room to back away and reach a compromise. Respect and decorum are antiquated words today. There is now a hissing - like the sound of snakes - and then a retreat to your own den. A Republican or Democrat would not consider now having an after-hours talk - they are the enemy. There needs to be more reaching across the aisle than ever.
The "ugly factor" has infiltrated the entire country and has us all disheartened and just plain demoralized in our daily lives. Even worse is what it is teaching our next generation. The lesson is: Do not believe in respect or live with shared dreams. This is an irresponsible act for all our children. They need to see how we act and come to decisions and that me is not the watchword.
How can a country become strong if its people abandon hope? We may never know if the current elected officials do not get their boots out of the mire and compromise within their parties and also across the aisles. Why is compromise such a dirty word now? The present sense of individual entitlement has caused an environment of intractability and the loss of respect for others. When our elected officials show kids that respect and dignity are not important, we are all headed down a road without any signposts.