Once upon a time long, long ago your humble observer rocked in his little porch chair in a fair land not s
.o far, far away. This land was much like our hometown both in citizenry, geography and attitude. In other words, there were many good folks, some not-so-good ‘uns, several superiorists and a pack of digjams.
Your rocker had several happenstances in those old days and from one emerged a best friend who, over time, became teacher/mentor/confidant. Mr. Charles was a one-of-a-kind American who didn’t know there was a U.S.A. for the first three or four years of his life.
Charles was a native born Lithuanian. If you aren’t familiar with what or where that is, look it up. His parents decided to emigrate where there was better opportunity, probably a dozen or so years before some dolt named Adolf decided their country needed to be “liberated.” Something about that forced takeover made Charles a lover of individual freedom and its accompanying responsibilities.
We think of Charles often, especially during the season in which we currently find ourselves. In about five days, all of us will have the chance to let our collective voices be heard one at a time. Without having to ask permission of those who assume themselves to be in control, we can stroll to the polls and flip a switch. With that action, we express our preference. In private. We hand someone a very large responsibility.
We also slap on the back of those persons a very large label. It reads, accountable. Whether they like it or not, elected officials answer to each of us. Will Rogers most accurately identified those too-often self-considered royalists for what they are. He referred to them as “the hired hands.” And many of these seldom earn their keep. Seeing to it that they do so is our responsibility.
Charles would wonder loudly and longly why some elected officials felt so empowered after an election. He would be the first to point out that OK, so-and-so was elected by a margin of 55-45. But, he would say, that margin came from only 20 percent of the registered voters who bothered to go to the booth. How, he would wonder, can a person claim to be popular when his/her majority comes from so few.
Charles carried a grudge against anyone who did not take advantage of the chance given to only a small percentage on this planet. He couldn’t stand to hear anyone say “the people have spoken” when so few voices are heard through voter turnout. Absence is ignorance in action, he would say. And to those who would claim we elect too many fools to office, he would respond that fools are elected when bigger fools fail to vote.
Experts tell us we will see around 25 to 30 percent voter turnout this year, despite the trumpets blowing about turnaround in the federal elections. Sounds a little high to us. We will watch that, of course, but we’re more interested in happenings around our own environs.
It’s Minden that interests us, and we want to see if complacency really does breed incompetency. We want know if Minden is ready to put the community transmission in drive, neutral or (gasp) reverse.
People seeking public office here are, hopefully, sincere in wanting to effect change of the positive kind. We will know, possibly after next Tuesday, who will be chosen to take government to the next level. If there are runoffs as many predict, we will have to wait until November. Regardless, there are choices to be made. Knight to Indy: Choose wisely.
When the smoke finally clears, we’ll separate the promise keepers from the promise makers. We’ll know who are problem finders, problem solvers or just plain problems. But, there needs to be a whole bunch of us making those determinations. Charles said if you don’t vote, you lose the right to complain. But, as we all know, that’s not way it works. He who does least complains loudest.
One word of advice from an optimistic cynic. You folks who become public employees need to loosen up. Criticism follows any public official. Live with it. Those who are elected, and even those who are appointed to boards and commissions are not immune. If you think you are, go home. Anyone who puts themselves above criticism is tinyesque.
Charles told a story about a researcher who polled people on the street, asking if they thought the problem with politics today was empathy or apathy. The first person asked responded, “I don’t know and I don’t care.”
Sure hope that guy wasn’t standing on one of our street corners.