That helpless sensation when we read the political news originates in the misunderstanding that one person’s voice is lost in the cacophony that threatens to overwhelm all public discourse. The sensation is real; the underlying perception is not. On a local level, while legislators are beleaguered with fund raising and reelection, most of them remain sensitive to their constituency. If you truly want an education, spend a few dollars and attend a fund raiser: what is humorously labeled ‘a time’ in little Rhody. Access is cheap.
If specific legislation elicits more than a couple of phone calls or emails to a local legislator, their interest is piqued. When an issue prompts a dozen or twenty constituents to weigh in, the hallway whispers and nervous cell phone calls can pass a tipping point. The scramble to a safe harbor will alter a vote or relegate newly proposed, damaging law to a quiet death in committee. Threatened with a looming vote for which they will be accountable to the electorate, many politicians will opt to cut a coffee shop deal, avoiding a potentially exposed position.
Anyone who has testified at a public hearing of a state level House or Senate subcommittee probably has witnessed the arrogance of power or experienced the derision visited upon the citizen who dares to challenge those who hold it. Irrespective of the gauntlet, fear of public embarrassment, even humiliation, is not justification for lacking the courage to speak up. The correct response to the self satisfied incumbent is to give them pause with the united voices of a committed few.
In the Book of Judges, God directs Gideon to reduce his army of 22,000 to defend His people from the hoards of Midian, Amalek and the Kedemites. The first cut to 10,000 sent home all who were not experienced, courageous warriors, any who were afraid. The Lord told Gideon that even fewer were needed for His purpose. The final winnowing seems at first to be mysterious: He instructed Gideon to observe his troops after a long hot day, when they came to a source of water. Those that knelt to drink with their face in the water were sent home; those who scooped the water to their mouths and lapped it from their hand were retained for the battle. What is the significance of this screening?
With no informed theological basis I believe the criteria were these: those that lapped the water from their hand remained watchful and wary; they controlled their thirst to maintain vigilance against threats. Self control, intelligent observation, relentless watchfulness. All were warriors; only three hundred did what was necessary. The few remaining were sufficient. They still are.