There is such a rich collection of subject matter offered for consideration by the sudden resignation of (former) Lewis & Clark County Commissioner Derek Brown, it is hard to know where to begin. Should we wonder at his audacity to continue drawing a salary from tax payers despite abdicating his role as a “Public Servant” (his ironically named blog)? Perhaps we should marvel at his ability to point words like “naïveté” and “failure” at himself while simultaneously refusing to take responsibility for his immature and unprofessional conduct. Or maybe touch on all facets by simply examining the concept of commitment.
In modern parlance, words like “patriot” and “Christian” are hijacked and bastardized by fringe elements to describe people who advocate secession, misogyny and discrimination. Watch for “traditional” to start preceding “American” in the wake of President Obama’s recent triumph. It’s hard to imagine we are all reading from the same page. But simple words like “commitment” still mean what they once did.
When a person offers himself as a candidate for public office, he asks…fights…for a contract with the people that office serves. Often, certainly in Mr. Brown’s case, he disparages another person who also wants the chance to serve. To emerge victorious in a free, public election is an incredible challenge, therefore an enormous honor. It is the cornerstone of a democratic society and it is, quite literally, the people placing their trust in the candidate’s commitment to his declared intent and principles.
Enter Derek Brown. Five years ago, he insists the L&C County Commission is flawed, and none but He can fix it. He’s committed to the people of the county. Kind of a Hopey, Changey theme, if you will.
Today, L&C County taxpayers are left holding a tab; not just in tangible figures of the pay he seems to still feel entitled to, or the man-hours lost in the replacement process. In a free, democratic society, a great cost in faith is paid when those who court the public’s trust then violate it. We are now left only with Brown’s manifesto at the bitterly ironic Public Servant blog, with his assurances that despite being rigid and uncompromising in his approach, he accomplished nothing. Who would have guessed?
On the positive side, Mr. Brown gives us the opportunity to reflect on our language; to decide if we agree with the meaning of commitment, or still value the concept. It also brings to mind another word that has retained its meaning, if not its ability to gain purchase in the modern Republican psyche: “shame”.