Kites and Public Policy
by Christopher Dodson,
Executive Director, North Dakota Catholic Conference
April 2003

April is National Kite Month. What does this have to do with public policy or religion? Well, maybe not much. As I write this, however, we are in the middle of North Dakota’s legislative session and I could use a break from the bills, testimonies, e-mails, and politics. I would not mind, right now, if someone told me to “go fly a kite.”

Actually, kite flying has a spiritual aspect that can teach us lessons about developing public policy. I build kites and fly sport kites -- those multi-line kites that the flier can maneuver, often choreographed to music. Both activities follow a process that, if done right, leads to a sense of satisfaction. The process begins with the learning and application of skills. God has given human persons the ability to acquire knowledge and apply that knowledge through labor. Catholic teaching recognizes that activity as “co-creating” or participating in God’s creative process. Indeed, our own creativity -- if we can call it our own -- comes out in the process. Every kite and every routine is unique.

A kite, of course, does not fly by itself. To fly, a kite depends upon Creation. We may design the kite and we may move the lines, but the kite will not fly or turn without the gift of God’s wind. Just about every kid that has flown a kite has seen it take a nose dive. This happens when there is too much wind against the kite. However, flyers of all ages usually pull back on the line or even run backwards when the kite begins to dive, speeding up the dive and the crash. To make a kite fly, a person must work with the wind -- not against it. This is especially true when “tricking” a sport kite. Sport kites can do beautiful and amazing three - dimensional maneuvers while seemingly floating in the sky. This is only possible if the flier works with the wind.

As one avid kite flier described it, when we work with the wind, we shake hands with God. We don’t fight Him. We reach up, grab His hand, and let His breath do the work.

Sometimes the legislative process creates a feeling that we are fighting against something. Perhaps that feeling comes from the fact that we often are fighting against another organization, the other political party, another branch of government, or someone else. I sometimes think, however, that the feeling also comes from the fact that we are fighting against God. Those involved in public policy do not intentionally oppose God. Rather, we become stuck in our secular, partisan, ideological, or self-interested ways and create resistance to God’s ways -- like running backwards when your kite is nose-diving. When we turn and work with His breath, we create human laws and policies more in tune with the will of God, the Giver of the Law.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that North Dakota is home to some of the best kite builders and sport kite flyers in country. Kite festivals, like those in Jamestown and Garrison, attract participants from around the nation and Canada. Take advantage of these opportunities to go outside and shake hands with God. And if you see your state legislator, tell him or her to go fly a kite. They might learn something.