Thursday, October 30, 2014

Be Patriotic; Vote!

I submitted and had published a letter to my local newspaper two weeks ago.  It was an endorsement for state representative in our district.  My plan was to follow that with another letter urging my fellow residents/citizens to vote next week, November 4th, but that letter was not published.  Read below for its contents.

To the editor:

While stopped at a traffic light recently, I noticed the bumper sticker on the car in front of me.  It said, “Freedom is not Free, Support the Armed Forces”.  As laudable as that sentiment is, perhaps we would be better served if there were more bumper stickers which read “Freedom is not Free, Exercise your Right to Vote”.  

Next week, on Tuesday, November 4th, we will have the opportunity to exercise our right to vote for, not only the next governor of Pennsylvania, but our state senator, state representative, and federal representative in Congress.  Sadly, many who read this letter, most likely half of you, will not choose to participate in the democratic process, something that some might consider not only unpatriotic, but a slap in the face of all who have served in the Armed Forces and especially all those who died in that service so we might have the freedom to vote.

So, considering that we all love our state and our country, why do half of us routinely thumb our noses at democracy?  More importantly, why did those who live in Pennsylvania vote at a turnout rate lower than those who live in 42 of the 50 states in the last (2010) gubernatorial elections?  And worse than that, why do Americans vote at a rate that places us near the bottom in the world!

To me, while ISIS, Ebola, terrorism, and whatever becomes the next topic for the “end is near” hype that dominates our ratings driven media outlets, the real threat to America is voter apathy.   It is voter apathy that allows our politicians to pander to one issue voters for their support, voter apathy that encourages the top legal minds of the country to equate the ability to spend money with the freedom of speech, voter apathy that ignores district gerrymandering to allow do nothing incumbents to retain their seats, voter apathy that gives us the government we deserve for lack of participation. 

What is truly sad is that a mere 100 years ago, half of Americans, the female half, were not allowed to vote.  And, only 50 years ago, voter rights laws had to be passed to guarantee minorities the right to vote.  Despite those wonderful words, “all men are created equal”, many Americans have fought long and hard to have access to the right to vote, only to result in an apathetic electorate that loves to complain but can’t find a few minutes in their day to go to the polls.

Even sadder still, many Pennsylvanians can name the contestants on The Voice, know the rushing stats of LeSean McCoy, and have seen the latest viral pet trick on the internet, but can’t name their state senator or representative.

Are you angry yet?  Insulted? 

Please, do some research on the candidates.  Ignore the mailings and TV ads, and check out their websites for specific positions.  If they are an incumbent, review their voting records.  If you have not yet signed up for a voter information email, try

Finally, establish your priorities; choose candidates whose voting record or publicly stated positions agree with yours for the most part.  But, don’t expect to find a candidate that agrees with you on everything.  Single issue voting can result in an elected official who serves your interests in one minor area but works actively against your interests in many other ways. 

For me, this next election is about growing the economy without poisoning our environment, encouraging employers to provide livable incomes so their employees are less dependent on state and federal assistance, continuing to improve access to health care insurance as opposed to the endless delays and time wasting that has occurred by those against the Affordable Care Act, overhauling our voting rules to allow for more people to vote and more time in which to vote, not less, and working together to address the education funding mess that is intertwined inexorably with the pension liability shortfall.

If these issues are also important to you, I would ask you to consider voting for Karen Chellew for state representative, Steve Cickay for state senator, and Kevin Strouse for Congress.


For those of you not living in my geographical area, state or local, the endorsements above will mean nothing to you.  But for all Americans, and, as my readership expands beyond our borders, all citizens of democratic nations, the right to vote is as important a right as exists today.  Just consider how laws and rules were made for tens of thousands of years before democracy was born in ancient Greece, then reborn and flourished in the past few hundred years, and it is mind boggling that any person who can vote, doesn't take the time.  Would you prefer a monarchy?  Or just rule by force?  Perhaps it is just human nature to take for granted what one is given; hence the right to vote in America is not valued by so many people. 

Strangely, the good news is that with the recent efforts by the Republican Party to mask their attempts to suppress the votes of people who don't vote for their candidates in the alleged anti-fraud voting laws being passed, a backlash may occur, and by trying to make voting harder, Americans will remember the sacrifices made by our founding fathers, the suffragettes of the early 20th century and the proponents of civil rights movement in the 1960's, and the right to vote will become valued again.

Today while walking the dog, on a beautiful fall day by the way, it dawned on me that since the Republicans have long ago established their ability to frame a topic to sound positive, patriotic, "right" when it is clearly not, (See the Defense of Marriage Act), maybe Democrats should not bother to do their own issue framing (since then seem to impotent at it), and instead propose laws that turn the Republican idea back against them.  Specifically when it comes to the new spate of voting laws, each attempt should be met with an amendment that expands voting rights.  Need an ID?  OK, I'll sign off when voting takes place over a weekend not just the outdated 1st Tuesday in November as it is my state.  Or when we expand early voting for up to 30 days before an election.  Or when one can register at the time of voting with that ID.  Or when an online system can be created that allows voting from home with an established ID and password that is pre-registered.  Or any of the other great ideas I have read which encourage voting by making it easier, not harder.

Perhaps we don't value our right to vote because we haven't been taught to value it.  Is civics still taught in school?  Do our high schools still review the structure of our democracy, and the nature of its working?  Would it take that much effort to improve our education about democracy? 

Finally, I recently found out that a number of countries make voting mandatory.   I didn't do much further research to find out if and how it is enforced; chances are there are no real penalties.  It makes me wonder who might fight a proposal to make voting mandatory in America.  The ACLU, under the guise that we have the right not to participate in our democracy?  The tea party, under the guise that you can't make me do anything I don't want to do?  The politicians themselves who know that large scale participation in our democracy makes it harder for them to fool us, or garner enough one-issue voters to win an election?

And, gadzooks, what if we established an actual penalty for not voting.  No welfare checks.  No social security checks. No tax deductions.  I wonder how the Supreme Court would handle their recent decisions about corporations being people when a corporation can't actually vote.  Oh well, I guess they will just have to start paying those high corporate taxes that the business community likes to quote but which very few, if any actually pay.

Believe it or not, while I would derive much entertainment from the squirming that would result in a serious movement to make voting mandatory, with a consequence for not voting, I would much prefer that we vote because we love our country.  Because we value the sacrifices that have been made by those in our Armed Forces, and those who fought to expand the right to vote.   Because the alternatives, a country run by elected officials who spend all their time raising money to fend off well-funded special interest groups who have little concern for everyday Americans, or worse, a country run by people who just take control because nobody bothered to express their choice, are so much worse.


Sunday, October 19, 2014


I have fallen behind reading my Lapham's Quaterly resulting in my just getting to the summer edition called Youth.  Also, to be honest, I was reluctant to start reading it.  I was a bit concerned that I might find too many examples of the elderly reproaching the young.  In direct contrast to my belief in the next generation addressing the problems of the day, there are far too many people on TV, radio and in print that see only laziness, non-persistence, selfishness, even immorality in everything that is today's young.  Even some young people, that would be people in their late 20's and early 30's to me, seem to consider those 21 and under as spoiled, unmotivated.  Of course, I was also concerned that I might encounter just the opposite.  A veneration of all that is young to the point of abhorring those in the more mature age categories.   

Still, I began reading Youth last week.  Immediately, I was immersed in Lapham's opening essay.  True, he did lament over the seemingly never ending bombardment of new and improved marketing strategies.  And he certainly expressed some longing for his youth.  But his attack on youth was not about the young but more directed to the culture which worships youth as it denigrates age.  In essence, he was rebuking those of his generation (over 70) and mine (50-65), who spend far too much time trying to avoid getting old.  Who somehow believe that Viagra and sports and home exercise equipment will keep us forever young while it is so much more about accepting, no relishing, life as a mature adult.

And then I came to Teddy Roosevelt's essay about what it takes to be a good boy, or rather how being a good boy leads to being a good man.  What struck me was Roosevelt's opinion of the bully, which might seem curious to someone who recalls the Rough Riders and "speak softly and carry a big stick".  In the essay I read, an excerpt from The American Boy, Roosevelt expresses a disdain for those who use their superior strength to gain advantage over others.  Yes, he often thought of himself as a defender of those being bullied, and perhaps did not always recognize when he himself may have been the bully, but he expresses a sincere belief that those possessing superior strength should use that advantage as much for the good of family and society, certainly not to simply gain personal advantage.  It gave me new insight into Roosevelt's anti-trust activity as president.  Like him or not, he maintained his values when he had the power to do so, working to enable the regular guy over the big company.

Which brings us to today, and the continued battles being waged to prevent more examples of "too big to fail" which contributed in part to the recent economic meltdown in 2008.  Where are the
anti-trust, or anti-monopoly forces today?  Certainly not in the Republican party where any attempt to regulate business so they do not have free reign to pollute our environment and prostitute our labor force, are net with calls of anti-capitalism, as if capitalism was meant to produce limited competition and mega companies dominating all markets.  Not that democrats are much better when the company, like Comcast, pumps large sums of money into their campaigns.  When our elected officials rationalize cutting the benefits of those with the least rather than removing the tax advantages for those with the most, it seems that they prefer the bully to the victim.  Or, at least, prefer being friend to the bully in hopes to avoid being the victim.

So, I continue reading and enjoying Youth.  It helps me bite my tongue when I am tempted to rebuke today's young as was done by each generation since time immemorial.  Reading a diatribe about the "rabble" of today, and seeing BC after the year provides good perspective when thinking today's youth are the worst ever.  Somehow, all those admonitions seem to be just one more example of envy.  I guess it is human nature to wish to be older until we wish we were young again.