Well, it's been a quiet week in Spring, Texas, my home town, out on the edge of the Megalopolis. The weather has been quite cool, by Texas standards. The 50 degree temps were cool enough to wear long sleeves for the first 10 minutes of my run this morning, although I did notice what must have been a native Texan in Capri length tights, long sleeves, running vest, gloves and ear warmers. My Minnesota friends would, no doubt, have been mystified by this weak constitution indicating an obvious defect in character.
The weather signals that The Day is quickly approaching. The Day is when we in this pluralistic collective will take part in our one common sacrament--casting our votes.
Well, except if you participate in early voting.
Which I do.
Because I don't like to wait in line.
Even for food.
Especially for food.
Especially if that food is a crap sandwich with a side of crap.
Which is all you get to vote for in this or any year.
I guess I better warn you now that if you are a Democrat, or if you are a Republican, and if you think your ideology or party is "The Answer" to the world's problems, you are not going to like this post. You might want to exit now.
**whistling to myself**
OK. Here's the deal. I drove by my early polling station three times on two different days before finally concluding that the line out the door was never going to be any shorter--that I would have to stand in line with "the people" in order to cast my ballot. So, I finally did. I know this makes me a really bad person, especially given all those who have suffered persecution and imprisonment and even death for the right to vote. The least I could do is stand in a wee bit of a line, right?
Yeah, I know. And I did.
But I didn't like it much. And because of that, I'm a bad person.
But it gets worse. I'm not even convinced that democracy is intended to enable a society to make the "right" choices for what is best for it. Basically, you get to vote if you can fog a mirror, whether or not you've studied the issues and the candidates. Your vote counts the same if you're a PhD in public policy from Harvard or if you need adult supervision before you can work the voting machine. Knowing this, both the political parties try to buy votes of the uncommitted rabble in the middle by promising goodies that our grandchildren's grandchildren will never pay for, or by playing on fears calculated to get a vote, or at least to keep them from voting for "that guy," even if it means staying home.
This is what it's come to? We can do no better than the worst of the worst--classless and deceptive rhetorical technique that is unworthy of a mediocre, law school mock trial team? Lee Atwater and James Carville and Karl Rove alike would have all gotten their asses canned if they worked on my team. I see better advocacy from the least competent lawyers in town. Half as bad would get any of my associates fired and would permanently injure any good lawyer's credibility with the court. Yet, year after year, the same parties and the same candidates and the same consultants do the same things without being held accountable.
The genius of the our system is not that we make good choices with our collective wisdom, but that we transition power regularly enough through this Rube Goldberg, fear-mongering, pork-barrel, sausage making device that we keep either party from becoming a tyranny. We don't drive down the road so much as we keep weaving from ditch to ditch, two four year olds fighting over the steering column, most of the time moving forward.
So, yeah. I have been dark and poisoned in the mind for much of the last week as the cesspool of political jousting has been eaten up and spewed out the back end of the 24 hour news cycle.
During my drive home, the "mellow" playlist on my Ipod started with James Taylor and soon I found myself singing with the John Denver songs that followed. Sweet, simple, naive even. But singing. Then the words--about children:
Though the cities start to crumble, And the towers fall around us, The sun is slowly fading, and it's colder than the sea, It is written, "from the desert to the mountains they shall lead us." By the hand and by the heart, they will comfort you and me. In their innocence and trusting, they will teach us to be free.
For the children and the flowers are my sisters and my brothers. Their laughter and their loveliness could clear a cloudy day. And the song that I am singing, is a prayer to nonbelievers. Come and stand beside us, we can find a better way.
And I ate dinner at home. And it was better there.
And that's the news from Spring, Texas, where all the food is fast, all the schools are exemplary, and all the commutes are below average.