Life, knowledge, lessons, even imagination are all based on relationships. In fact, relationships are the essence of our being and being here. Stop and think about it for a moment: yin and yang, man and woman, people and the environment, weather and water, up and down, right and left, coming and leaving or coming and staying. It’s all people and people, people and things, or things and things.

Relationships.

And for every relationship, there are rules of engagement, either natural or man-made. What does that mean? It signifies that there are codes or protocols of conduct expected, anticipated and monitored. Remember the little huff-up about first lady Michelle Obama putting her arm around Queen Elizabeth? Give a little hmmm to going from freezing to too hot, and the negative impact it will usually have on your body. Ever eaten ice cream or slurped a Slurpee too quickly?

Remember the headache? Rules of engagement, all.

Those who don’t know, or who don’t bother about following the rules of engagement that they do know, rarely succeed in the political game beyond mediocrity. African Americans need to put a little extra effort in learning and applying the rules of political engagement in the American system. Continued disregard and disrespect within and by the political system for being Black is and will be the consequences of not adhering to that truism.

Politics is about relationships, and relationships are about politics. In the rough and tumble of House or Senate, procedural fights and floor action, friends and allies today are opponents the next in the never-ending dynamic of interest-peddling, purchasing and sometimes proper rendering.

When we discuss the current campaign for the presidency, it is to be noted that Romney has no legislative experience of past relationships that can be used if he wins in November. Lyndon Johnson demonstrated the power of such relationships by getting most of Kennedy’s Great Society programs passed by invoking those relationships.

A Ryan vice presidency may help in that regard, unless the “nabobs of negativity” who beset President Obama continue their stubborn ways no matter who the next president is.

We should pay special attention to the relationships at issue in the coming days of this campaign and the eventual national vote. In politics and in life, we are often told to follow the money to get the real skinny on what’s going on and who’s doing what to whom. Just as important, however, and often much more important is the need to follow the relationships, which are frequently not along partisan party lines. We need to follow both the money and the relationships.

Steve Young, the Hall of Fame quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers (after Joe Montana ) once did a popular commercial that ended with brutal and violent clashes of football bodies on bodies, as he dead-panned into the camera: “Football is a nasty sport. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Anybody can get hurt anytime, so it’s best to be prepared and keep your head in the game.”

That is the exact thing that can be said about politics. Keep your relationships close, and your non-relationships closer. You never know when you’ll need them.

Stay vigilant. This will be a wild ride and there will be casualties and fractured relationships. But in the end, America will triumph.

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.


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