by Marion Marks
Tomorrow at sundown the celebration of Chanukah begins as Jews and free people around the world celebrate the symbol of light and openness in a holiday considered the victory of an oppressed people over tyranny. The symbolism is generally acknowledgment for a battle won and lighting candles for eight days stands for the Temple light that remained burning from a small jug of oil. Modern symbolism is generally in giving and receiving of presents as opposed to the celebration of the light.
That Temple light, symbolized by a menorah, remained on when a small amount of oil burned well past the expected expiration. Light today stands for transparency in our lives that often drifts under the radar because of darkness or those who seek to hide misdeeds, when we need enlightenment the most.
Western civilizations normally are held up as beacons of freedom and light, Americans embody this in the Bill of Rights. These rights should enlighten citizens and spread to those enslaved or distressed outside our borders. It is American tradition to rail against abuse anywhere it exists, but today we seem slow to react.
We seem trapped in our secure bunkers, behind metal detectors and barriers, often hiding behind legal curtains, protecting government activities that seem to fly below the radar. We call it “national security” or “public safety” when it’s especially necessary to cleanse abuses with light and justice.
Certainly there are security matters that require protection. However, the terms and protections are too often used to protect those who abuse power and office the most. Officials not responsible for national safety or who do not need records kept in secret, are not immune from public records requests. Yet we struggle daily to get responses when we request public records. Transparency has been the symbol of American government upon which our country is based. Democracy markets itself as the harbor for free people and open government.
This season, if you learn anything about Chanukah or Christmas lights, you should know that one of the most important symbols behind the lighting of candles is we can’t go forward without light. Open minds, open discussion and open government solve issues only when light is shed and records are opened. As a nation we cannot solve problems when we shut down or cover up.
Any time you hear of officials or agencies slow to react to records requests, demand greater transparency. Too much money is spent and too many bad decisions are made because public acts evades scrutiny. Washington failed miserably to resolve their transparency issues this week. But, government with nothing to hide should welcome the light if transparency.