Sunday, August 23, 2009

Smile, Mr. Mayor

Standing in line at Quik Trip a few days ago, I saw Mayor Funkhouser negotiating his way out of the crowded store. At the door, he paused to hold the door open for someone on their way into the store. He had a fairly intense look on his face, as if he almost missed the opportunity to hold the door for another and would've chastised himself had he missed it. I had to suppress the urge to vocally cheer him on. Instead, I smiled at him. More of a grin, really. And when he saw me, he smiled back.

I mention this because despite everything - the fact that I didn't vote for him, never thought he had the political skills to pull off his admirable goals, and have been gravely disappointed by his inability or unwillingness to establish boundaries between his role as public servant and his role as husband - I was so eager to applaud the man for something, I was happy to see him holding the door for a stranger at QT.

I'm painfully aware that the catalyst for this post is borderline "Tom Friedman chats up his cabby" territory. I initially took the more Friedmanesque route of extrapolating the world out from Funkhouser's simple and courteous desire to make someone's day a little easier by holding the door for them. Upon reflection, I realized that analyzing the incident in terms of my response - I want this man to succeed - was a more productive, and less wankerific, use of my time.

I'm not sure I would've caught this if not for a Funk/Squitiro encounter that occurred several weeks ago. A friend of mine ran into them at a store in Brookside. She reported that Squitiro looked quite beleaguered, and she was inspired by basic sympathy to smile at Gloria. When my friend told me this, I teased her that she should watch for her appearance in the next newsletter since that smile would probably be translated in Squitiro's mind as "supportive citizen gushing with support for the Mayor's every move."

Contrasting my response from a distance with my response up close, I am forced to acknowledge that a part of me hopes against hope that Funkhouser somehow manages to pull this off. That the "Orange Revolution" will be remembered for something other than tarnishing the brand of "outsider" as incompetent. This is a strange realization for me because my cynicism about Funkhouser during the mayoral race was basically unmatched by my peers. Oh, I know my betters in the ruling class held Funk in cynical regard. But the man's campaign was basically designed to appeal to good government (derisively titled "goo-goo") types like me, and I didn't buy it for a second. I didn't doubt his sincerity. I doubted his skill. I doubted his mastery of the field of play. I doubted his awareness of and commitment to politics. And I'll be damned if I wasn't right.

Now so many of the people who bought the campaign speak of their disappointment in him and have abandoned hope for change. But here I remain, with this ounce of crushing hope that in the end I will be wrong. Funkhouser didn't get my vote, but he got a little piece of my liberal heart and he's been doing terrible things with it. And cynicism is once again revealed as the armor of the idealist.

I'm filing this post under "free political advice," but I have no clue at this point what advice could realistically be given that Funkhouser would be willing to follow (see Gloria) and that would result in the rehabilitation of his bully pulpit. In many ways, Funk hasn't lost the narrative, as his speech to the Downtown Rotary Club demonstrates. I guess I should say- he hasn't lost the point, but he has done more than his share to prevent it from being the main narrative.

I suppose my advice is more of a wish. I wish the Mayor could see that his "ten priorities" remain uncontroversially good in the eyes of the average citizen. I wish he could see that not all criticism is an attack on those goals. I wish he could better see the common ground that exists to advance those goals. I wish he made me smile more often.

1 comment:

  1. Unfortunately Funkhouser is too far gone. Like the rest of his fellow humans, Funk is a contradiction. But he has made way to many high and low profile mistakes.

    To begin with, he fundamentally doesn't recognize the error of his ways.

    To end with, he has legitimately, simultaneously, alienated the money people and the goo-goo folks.

    The only ones left supporting him are the same ones who store water in their basements, angry at the world for a variety of things.