08 February 2007

i'm on a ROLL!

yesiree, it's another two post day!

a couple of data entry gigs have found my way to me. grocery money! yay!!!!! i only wish there were more hours to be had of it.

so one gig is for a mayoral candidate that i adore. i get to use this groovy scanner and input voter data that volunteers collect from their calls and door knocking. i have to do it while bebe sleeps, though. it makes a beep each time i scan and draws bebe to it like flies to honey. he wants to "help mommy do'ed beep work!"

the other involves research and odds and ends for a city council candidate.

i need to rant for a second.

in compiling said research, i've stumbled across some alarming data. voter turnout SUCKS - worse than i even imagined.

i've been trying to suss out what polling places have the highest voter turnout/registered voters so that the candidate's volunteers can be at those places for the primary election to hand out literature and talk with voters. i thought a good place to look would be the last race results, from the election 4 years ago, then compare it with the data from a few other races, as well as call some people that i know have the skinny on such matters.

first thing i found?

in the last primary election (including city council and mayor races), the voter turnout was 9.6%. N I N E - I S H P E R C E N T! it was only slightly higher for the main election. so i started going through all of the results, just to see. the "bigger" elections had pathetic turnout as well - to the tune of less than half of registered voters casting ballots.

there sure are still an awful lot of flags flying in my neck of the woods - adorning cars and whatnot - as well as those loudly exclaiming that they are patriots whenever the conversation does arise. so where are these patriots and their concern for their city on election day? not at the polls. i imagine they are that same ones that are SO supportive of war but wouldn't dream of actually enlisting...

it all reminded me of an essay i wrote about patriotism for a collection of essays all written by people that live and/or work in my community as a reflection on the one year anniversary of 9/11. i can't recall if i posted it here already, forgive me if i have and you've already read it. i think it is still quite timely.

"You have driven away our game and our means of livelihood out of the country, until now we have nothing left that is valuable except the hills that you ask us to give up… The earth is full of minerals of all kinds and on the earth the ground is covered with forests of heavy pine and when we give those up to the great father, we know that we give up the last thing that is valuable either to us or the white people."

Wangi Ska (White Ghost)

"Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President or any other public office save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country."

Theodore Roosevelt


I have no country to fight for; my country is the Earth, and I am a citizen of the world.

Eugene V. Debs -

The week following September 11th , I noted a change. There it was, certain as day, a change in the way people - all people - seemed to be treating each other. "We" were attacked. "We" were united. Everyone spoke a little more kindly.

My drive to work became eerily devoid of honking horns, curses. At the coffee shop, the grocery, over the phone, across the bar where I worked, people were talking - really talking, not about the Chiefs or NASCAR, but about things that mattered.

I was filled with hope. My country was changing. We would rise to the occasion. We would set aside our differences and work together. We would begin to care about our communities, the lives of each and every one of us. We were a "we" no matter what our race, religion, sexuality, economic status. Together, "we" would consider carefully our place in the world. "We" would question our personal, day-to-day decisions and take into account their impact on the rest of the people sharing this planet with us. "We" would be fair and just. "We" had been changed forever.

Then the flags came. Flags on t-shirts, flags on bumper stickers, flags on billboards, flags on beer coasters, flags waving from front porches and the antennae of SUVs. Like the all-time biggest sporting event ever, "we" transformed ourselves overnight into "Team America."

"Us" against "Them". Talk of patriotism was everywhere - who was, and who was not a patriot.

Yet, wasn't it was patriots - men willing to die for what they believed, willing to give up their life for some strip of land, some belief - who boarded those early morning flights? Wasn't it patriots who had commandeered those planes, and patriots who had crashed them into buildings killing thousands of innocent people? Weren't they patriots? Maybe not "our" patriots, but patriots just the same?

But as the days slid into weeks, something happened. People quit talking to each other and again began to talk at each other. The honks and curses were back. I listened as patriots cried for revenge. I watched as patriots signed on to bomb an already devastated and war-torn people in search of a ring leader that remains to be found almost a year later.

The line was drawn. "You are either with us or against us." The most unfair and ridiculous of all statements became a mantra of my country. Close friends verbally attacked me for suggesting peace. How could I voice such things in a time like this? Hadn't Innocent people been killed? Friends grew angry with me because I would not deny myself of everything I believe in, my hope for a better future for ALL the world's citizens.

I love this country. Isn't it my duty as an American to stand by my convictions? Isn't trying to change what I don't like - peaceably and within the framework of elections and laws, speaking out when I disagree - the very underlying principle of the democratic government established by our founding patriots?

Yet, there it was, "You are either with us or against us."

The first election in Kansas City following September 11th drew a whopping 7% of registered voters to the polls. The lowest voter turnout in a decade! Where were all those people flying American flags? Certainly not at the polls. Maybe next time….nope. The national primaries of 2002, not even a year later, attracted a mere 25% of registered voters. I don't get it. Flags as far as the eye can see. People signing up for TIPS, desperate to report their neighbors to the government for 'suspicious activities', but virtually no one shows up to vote. Apparently participation in the fundamental cornerstone of democracy is not a requisite act of patriotism - but you'd better be flying your flag.

Patriotism in itself is a curious thing. It says not only, "I love my country," but that "my country is better than your country - my people, better than your people." As the entire world is shoved headfirst into a global economy (something that may leave much to be desired - but that is another essay), hasn't patriotism really lost its mark? Are we all united or not? Perhaps this is the problem. As citizens of one planet, perhaps it is time we consider the notion of world patriotism.

I remember reading that a woman's father had told her, "Patriotism has to be more then sitting on your ass in a lawn chair with a beer, waving a flag and watching a parade go by." Perhaps our national ideal of patriotism should be retired, and in its place the banner of a new humanitarianism raised.

There is much to be celebrated in America: mountains, forests and oceans. A people born from a cultural melting pot. A people seeking freedom and opportunities not available to them in their homelands, a chance to exercise their voice, to speak up. This means being able to question the actions and decisions of elected officials, in times of "peace" and in times of "war".

You have a decision to make. Think for yourself. Speak up. Refuse to follow blindly along with all the empty flag-waving. Focus in on your fundamental right to express your conviction - VOTE!

The new humanitarianism should preserve all of the things on which America was founded: truth, liberty and justice. We should not be afraid to jettison the blind obedience of patriotism. The new humanitarianism requires that each of us keep our eyes and ears open, staying on top of issues. The new humanitarianism must ensure that our rights as citizens, both of the United States and as citizens of the world, are not discarded.

Mark Twain, a fellow Missourian, once said, "Each of you, for himself and on his own responsibility, must speak. And it is a solemn and weighty responsibility and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government or the empty catchphrases of politicians. Each must, for himself alone, decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn't… To decide against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and your country, let men label you as they may…hold up your head! You have nothing to be ashamed of."

My American flag has the stars shaped into a peace sign. This is the flag I choose to display. Peace is what I envision and embrace. I, for one, would rather live with the threat of terrorism than hand over my freedom.

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