Tomorrow will mark one year since Tom Schweich committed suicide. We continue to remember Tom, reflect on his honorable service, and also share our good thoughts and prayers with his family and his loved ones.
Every suicide is tragic. Family members lose a loved one; and in Tom’s case the people of Missouri also lost a hardworking, honest public servant.
In the days before his suicide, Tom was subject to ruthless attacks by one of his political opponents. Here’s the text of a radio ad that they were running:
“…Tom Schweich, like him? No. Is he a weak candidate for Governor? Absolutely, just look at him. He could be easily confused for the deputy Sheriff of Mayberry, but more importantly he could be manipulated. That’s why Senator Claire McCaskill and President Obama enlisted my help to meddle in another Republican primary with Schweich as our pawn. You see, Schweich and McCaskill are tied at the hip. Schweich even gave money to McCaskill’s campaign. Schweich is an obviously weaker opponent against Democrat Chris Koster. Once Schweich obtains the Republican nomination we will quickly squash him like the little bug he is and put our candidate Chris Koster in the Governors’ mansion.”
Tom was attacked for looking funny? People don’t like him? They are going to squash him like a bug?
It’s disgusting. It’s shameful.
And yet. Still, today, people refuse to take responsibility for what they did a year ago. Still today, anonymous people and their political allies launch the most vile attacks against political opponents, and justify it by flippantly saying, “well, it’s just politics.”
There is, obviously, something wrong with politics, and there is something particularly, deeply, disturbingly, wrong here in Missouri.
I’ve never been in politics before, but even in the brief time that I’ve been running for Governor, I’ve been exposed to some of the worst people I’ve ever known. Liars, cowards, sociopaths. They are often deeply broken and disturbed people, who—like criminals who prey on the innocent—take their pleasure and make their living by victimizing honest people. They are drawn to politics as vultures flock to rotting meat—and they feed off the carcasses of vice. Every lie makes them money. Every fake website, fake Facebook account that spouts falsehoods makes them cash. They pay kids to follow you (and your spouse) around with a camera, and they often pay those same kids to shout questions at you—and in this they profit. They engage in the lowest of tactics, the most slanderous lies—and all the while their bank balances rise.
They stand in such stark contrast to the honest people who make up most of Missouri, that it takes a leap of imagination for normal people to even understand how crooked many people in the business of politics are. They are corrupt in ways that I didn’t know people could be corrupt.
At Lincoln Days last year, Tom was being followed by a “tracker,” a kid paid to stick a camera in his face wherever he went. At the same time, his opponents were broadcasting the horrible radio ads to tens of thousands of people. And, at the same time, Tom believed there was a vicious campaign underway to slur his name by secretly insulting a religion. And that’s just the obvious stuff that was happening.
It’s hard for a normal person to imagine that that is supposed to be a normal day in politics.
It’s natural to get angry about this. I was once angry about it myself. People attack you, and then hide, “well, it wasn’t me, it was people I hired”—behind excuses so lame they’re almost comical. And if the lies once made me angry, the cowardice behind it all is just disappointing.
So what do we do? Do we throw up our hands and say, “It’s just politics?” Do we fight fire with fire, and begin to lie and cheat and engage in anonymous attacks, and in the process of trying to beat the wicked become them? Obviously we shouldn’t do either, and we don’t have to.
In Resilience, I wrote to a buddy of mine who was struggling. I was writing about what can be changed and what must be accepted, and I quoted him something along these lines:
You can’t say that there shouldn’t be snakes in the world. There are snakes. You have to live with that. But if you see a snake in your kid’s bed, you kill it. That’s not saying no to snakes, it’s saying no to that situation. So you accept what must be accepted, without allowing your acceptance to justify inaction in the face of evil.
I’ve come to two conclusions. The first is that the most vicious punishment for the pathetic people who lower themselves like slime to slander, is that they have to live with themselves. They can hire people to praise them, slip cash to people who will tell ‘em—like drug dealers pushing dope on kids—it’s ok, everybody does it. They can spend money to have other people tell them comforting lies. But I believe that, deep down, they know the truth about themselves, and they see it staring back at them in the rotted, bloated, self-serving soul in the mirror. And even if they don’t see it, I believe that a just God does.
The second conclusion has to do with our duty: we can, we must—and we will—kill the snakes.