I show a bit of geekish enthusiasm for things political. But, even I, news addict since age 10, get a bit jaded over national politics. Nobody seems to take the high road any more. I would love to see a politician who was truthful, does not try to belittle opponents that he/she disagrees with, fosters discussion, isn’t looking only for the sound bite. The same goes for the 24/7 echo chamber that is the news.
We have problems in this country — big problems. They aren’t going to be resolved with the current “don’t give an inch; the other side is evil” attitudes that both political parties are currently entrenched within.
Yet, I still want to wave my flag when I see the system working.
A few weeks ago I was asked to consider showing my support for an important charity in my city that was facing opposition from neighborhood groups in a zoning petition. Without going into details, let’s say that this is the type of facility that at first glance most people would be skeptical about, but it is also something with a 30 year track record of success and is exactly the type of organization that as a community we should be embracing.
I had no idea what to expect, and certainly didn’t expect a few hundred people at the meeting. The case I was there to support was the last on the docket. It didn’t matter though: I hung on every word, from the store that needed a zoning variance for a fence, to the homeless shelter, to the neighborhood squabble over an addition, to a half-way house. All were interesting to me. I was a bit discouraged by the vitriol in some of the cases, the “not in my backyard” attitudes. I was also curious when some, on the losing side of their particular battle, starting chanting “follow the money”, as if they could have only lost if there had been some sort of payoff or political favoritism. (There certainly wasn’t anything that I could tell that seemed suspicious, but it isn’t something that I’d be in a circumstance to tell). But, I do think that it is a sign of our times that people are naturally suspicious of the process.
But, I don’t look at it that way. Instead, I look at it as an example of what we do right. In one case, there were neighbors who had ridiculous reasons to oppose the petition. In the case of the homeless shelter for teens, one old lady said that it shouldn’t exist because she didn’t want teens having sex in a house in her neighborhood. Really? Does she think that doesn’t happen elsewhere? Maybe with teens who aren’t homeless? Another didn’t like that the city would have to bus them to their home school district, although that is the law, regardless of where the student may live. Neither were cases to not approve of the zoning petition.
But what was encouraging to me is that we allow people, regardless of how silly or unfounded their concern is, to remonstrate. Our court system has rules, sets guidelines for notifying people, and let’s people have their say. I may not have agreed with every ruling that the board made, but it made me feel good to witness the process.
Likewise, I always feel good on Election Day. In my city, there were elections for mayor and for city-county council. Some people might think that it wasn’t that important since we weren’t voting for the legislature. But, I vote even in off-year elections. It made me happy that I was number 203 in my precinct — a pretty good turnout for 10am in an off-year. I don’t know what the final percentage was, nor have I checked yet to see who was elected. But, it makes me happy to know that I can vote, even if my candidates didn’t win.
I’m also thankful for the people who took the time to volunteer at the polls today. I was the only one voting at the time I was there, and there were about six poll workers. It made me happy to thank them for their service. I think it made them happy too to be thanked.