Politicians cry 'wolf' until we no longer believe them Citizens quickly losing confidence in elected officials


May 24, 1992|By Sharon Hornberger

When I was a little girl, I was told a story at my mother's knee. The story was about a little boy, who was a shepherd.

His duty was to guard the family flock, the only valuable commodity the family possessed. You probably heard this same story and may even have told it to your children.

One night the boy falls asleep. During the night, a lamb wonders away from the flock and is lost. Rather than tell his father he was careless, the boy tells an elaborate story of a wolf attacking the flock and stealing a lamb.

The father is a caring and loving parent. He trusts his son and, more important, believes his son and holds the son harmless in the event.

Another night comes and again the boy falls asleep; another lamb is lost and the family loses more money. But, again the boy is believed by his loving, caring, forgiving parents, who again accept the wolf story. The father's confidence in his son is not shaken.

Then, a third night comes. The boy is asleep, not performing his duty. This time, the wolf really attacks. The frightened flock awakens the boy. He cries, "Wolf, wolf!"

The father no longer believes the boy. There is no forgiveness, no help. The boy is devoured by the wolf.

Our elected officials at both the county and state level are a lot like the shepherd boy. We, the citizens, are like the father.

We, the citizens, want to believe our elected officials. We want to have confidence in them, in their public statements and their campaign promises. But, just how many times can we believe that cry of "wolf, wolf?"

We believed that county budget dollars were so tight that every county employee would have to take a fair share of furlough days.

We wanted to believe that this action was necessary and that any interruption to county services would be shared by all county employees.

But wait, now we are told that times are not so bad, and county employees will have their full pay restored. The commissioners have cried "wolf."

Worse yet, will they cry "furlough, furlough" next year as they approach the middle of the fiscal year? Will employees see reductions in their pay?

Will they not have every right to believe, or worse, expect, that at some point their pay will be restored?

What about unmet campaign promises? Is that not a form of crying wolf?

When a county commissioner campaigns to keep Carroll country, don't we have the expectation that development will be slowed and, more importantly, that our county will have an effective reforestation plan?

The cry of "wolf" is in the air.

The confidence of the citizens is being taxed and tested. How long can we be expected to believe the statements made by elected officials?

How often can we be expected to determine when the statements are true and when they are a cry of wolf?

How long before all confidence is lost and we -- the caring, loving, forgiving and believing parents -- let the wolf devour the boy shepherd?

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