Tag Archives: vote

Two Chances

The American people are confused, frustrated, and angry. They should be! The American political party system has failed them miserably, and the candidates for the Presidency have given them little reason for hope. Many Americans are throwing up their hands in disgust and turning away, saying they will vote for neither side. Their loathing of what they see in the election campaigns is understandable, but walking away resolves nothing. My father once told me that voting is an important, although sometimes feeble attempt at democracy, that should not be cast aside lightly. He was a firm believer in the right to vote even though he believed a vote or non-vote always resulted in the same two chances. That may sound paradoxical, but I can assure you, he knew what he was talking about.

I remember when I turned eighteen and registered to vote. That was the first and last time, my father asked me who I was voting for in an upcoming election. I tried to play cool and shoot the question back to him, “Who are you voting for?” He was not amused, and pressed me for an answer.  I tried my best, but I was so thoroughly uninformed and ignorant of the candidates and the issues that after about thirty seconds of incoherent rambling, he stopped me.  “You don’t gave a clue do you?” he said.  To him voting was a very serious matter, and for a voter, especially his son, not to take time to familiarize himself with the candidates and the issues severely pissed him off.   Dropping my head, I affirmed his suspicions, and steadied myself for a severe scolding. To my surprise, he didn’t say a word, but turned and walked into the house. My heart sank; I knew I had really messed up. However, a moment later he returned with a copy of The Hattiesburg American, which had recently run a special section on the candidates and the issues. He handed me the newspaper.

In those days, there was no internet, CNN, Fox News, talk radio, or Facebook with its political hearsay and conspiracies to fuel a person’s knowledge about elections. Everything a person knew about an election was learned by reading the newspaper, listening to the black and white television broadcast of the evening news with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, listening in on barber shop conversations, and occasionally being pointed in the right direction by the preacher on Sunday morning. Although my father paid attention to the politics he heard at the barber shop and in Church, he placed very little value on any of it unless it could be confirmed in the newspaper. Other than an occasional Louis L’Amour novel, my father was not an avid reader, but if it was printed in the newspaper, he read it and committed the gist of the story to memory. So, when he handed the newspaper to me, I knew he meant for me to read it and be prepared to continue the conversation in a more knowledgeable fashion at a later time.  I knew the next time he asked who I was voting for I had better know as well as why I was voting for that person.  If I couldn’t do both, he would not be as calm and forgiving.

The next afternoon we were sitting in the den watching an old movie, which we often did when he came home from work, when he asked if I had read the newspaper. On the screen of our 1969 RCA black and white television, Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan was wrestling a lion as his chimpanzee sidekick, Cheetah, threw twigs and pebbles at the beast presumably to help, but more likely to slyly agitate the lion. More interested in watching the movie than listening to what I expected to be a stern lecture on my responsibilities as a new voter, I mumbled I had, and he nodded his approval. “I still don’t know who I want to vote for though,” I said honestly, knowing he expected me to pick up the conversation. He didn’t say a word. “But,” I added, “I am leaning toward . . . .”

“Who you vote for is your business,” he interrupted.

“I thought you wanted to know?”

“All that matters is that you know,” he said.

“But, I don’t really know,” I said truthfully.

“That’s why I gave you the paper to read, so you can make a decision.”

“Yeah, but I’m more confused now.” From the corner of my eye, I saw Tarzan embrace Jane. A flash of female flesh momentarily stopped my breathing as the thin animal skin wrapped around her waist rode up her thigh revealing a purity and whiteness that rivaled the snows of Kilimanjaro that stood at attention above the steaming jungle around them. I don’t know if I would have said it if I had not been so distracted, but I did. I said the unthinkable. “I may not vote.”

“That’s stupid,” he said with unbelievable calmness. Maybe, it was his own orectic thoughts about Jane that kept him unruffled, I don’t know. I expected him to explode from his seat, dig his claws into the ceiling, and hurl crumbling plaster down on my irreverent head. He didn’t move except to sit up slightly and pump his fist when Tarzan released Jane and let fly his famous, distinctive, ululating yell of the victorious bull ape. That yell and Andy Griffith whistling the fishing hole song were two of my father’s favorite TV moments that always solicited a nostalgic “atta boy” sigh or “ATTA BOY!” fist pump. “Why wouldn’t you vote?” he asked, never taking his eyes off Tarzan swinging triumphantly into the distance from tree to tree.

“Because . . . I don’t want to make a mistake,” I said.

“The only mistake you can make is not voting,” he said and sipped his coffee.

“I don’t know,” I began hesitatingly. “I just don’t want to waste my vote.”

“I’m glad to hear that, but the only wasted vote is not voting.”

“How’s that?” I asked.

“Son,” he said, “it’s like this. Take Tarzan for example. He has two chances. Either the vine he is swinging on is going to break, or it isn’t, but even if it breaks, he still has two chances. Either he breaks his neck, or he doesn’t. But, if he hangs on to the vine and yells loud enough, he increases his chances of making it to the next tree, but if he doesn’t do either, he doesn’t have a chance in hell of making it. He can even decide the vine is too risky, and that is okay because he still has two chances. Maybe, he can yell loud enough to make it to the next tree, and maybe, he can’t. Voting and politics are the same way. When it comes to politics and elections, you have two chances. You have two chances with your vote, and you have exactly the same two chances if you don’t vote. The only difference is by voting you slightly increase the odds things will turn out your way.”

“And, if they don’t,” I asked.

“You still have two chances,” he said. “I might vote for the right one and I might not. And, if I don’t vote right, I still have two chances. Things might turn out okay, and they might not. And, if things don’t turn out okay, I still have two chances. The country may go to hell in a hand basket, and it might not. And, if it does go to hell in a hand basket, I still have two chances. I might lose everything, and I might not. And, if I lose everything, I’ve still got two chances. I have my family and my friends. And, if I lose my family and friends, I still have two chances. I might die, and I might not. And, if I die, I still have two chances. So, what’s the big deal, vote for what you believe is right, and the odds are 50/50 you’ll get it right, and if you don’t, you still have two chances.”

“But, what if I’m wrong,” I asked.

“Then you have two chances,” he shrugged, and kicked back in his recliner as the movie end credits rolled over Johnny Weissmuller playing with Cheetah while Maureen O’Sullivan laughed happily at his side.

So, if there is anybody out there thinking about not voting because of all the political mess and shenanigans, please vote! As my father said, “The odds are 50/50 you’ll get it right, and if you don’t, you still have two chances.”

See you at the polls!

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD     March 12, 2016

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Initiative 42: Are You Fed Up with being Manipulated Yet?

Initiative 42 is the result of nearly 200,000 Mississippians signing petitions to have an initiative placed on the November ballot to amend the state Constitution.   If passed, this citizen led initiative will hold the Mississippi Legislature accountable for keeping its promise to fully fund public schools, which the Legislature has fulfilled only twice in the past 18 years. That should be simple enough; however, Governor Phil Bryant, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves, and Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn have used their power and position to help confuse the public about the Initiative. Why? Such action is contrary to statements the Governor has made in the past regarding the public’s role in education. For example, in a December 2, 2014 article by The Associated Press, Governor Bryant said the “public” is in charge of education. But, if he truly believes the public is in charge of education, why is he campaigning against the charge of close to 200,000 Mississippians?   He has also advocated for parental choice in education. However, if he is pro parent choice, why does he oppose Initiative 42, which is supported by parents who have made a “choice” to stand up for public school funding? If he truly believes in parent choice and believes the public is in charge of education, why hasn’t he stepped aside and let the public decide the issue without his political interference?

The reason is simple! In maybe the truest statement by the Republican leadership since the Initiative 42 debate began, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves in an October 22 article by Valerie Wells, published in the Hattiesburg American, stated Initiative 42 is a struggle for power rather than funding. “It’s not about funding,” Reeves said. “It’s about power.” Although Republicans would like for the public to believe Initiative 42 is about Democrats versus Republicans, black versus white, or a power hungry chancery court judge in Hinds County usurping the sovereignty of the state, those are simply smokescreens! The truth is as Reeves stated, “It’s about power.” For the political leadership in Jackson, this issue is about the power and control of the people to hold the state Legislature accountable to the law versus the power and control of the state Legislature to do as it pleases with no boundaries or accountability.

Although fear of losing “power and control” may be at the heart of the Republican opposition to Initiative 42, we must be careful their struggle to maintain power does not overshadow the original purpose of the grassroots initiative led by the people of Mississippi. Power was the furthest thing from the minds of the citizens who signed the petitions to place Initiative 42 on the ballot. Their intent was to help struggling teachers reach all children – poor, middle class, rich, black, and white; their intent was to keep public education alive. Unfortunately, at times, that intent seems to have been lost beneath the clouds of political smoke swirling around such issues as top heavy school districts and school consolidation. We need to save those discussions for another day. Besides, no one in Jackson has any intentions of tackling those political time bombs in the near future; such issues are simply there to confuse and divide the public.

In an era where a good education is a prerequisite for success in life, the idea anyone would not support funding education is mind boggling. At a time when Mississippi needs everyone working together to pull our state from the clutches of poverty by creating an educated work force with more options than unemployment or a minimum wage existence, it is unbelievable we have elected officials who refuse to make education a priority. In a state as untrusting of government as Mississippi, it is beyond belief the citizens would tolerate a governor and state legislators who believe they are above the law. At a time when the public has the opportunity to remind the state Legislature that they are not only in charge of public education as Governor Bryant says, but they are in charge of their elected representatives in Jackson as well, it is unthinkable politicians might actually get their way and not be held accountable to the law.

As a state, we should be ashamed for having this debate. It is disgraceful some would put politics above the needs of our children. It is appalling some people look for excuses not to support education rather than look for reasons to support it. It is disappointing Mississippi citizens needed to sign petitions to put an initiative on the ballot to force elected officials to do their jobs and follow the law. And, it is reprehensible public officials would use or condone the use of half-truths, fabrications, and scare tactics to misguide the public. It is unfortunate, but the current struggle for power and education funding resembles a throwback to the Mississippi of the 1950’s and 1960’s rather than the new enlightened Mississippi we have struggled to become since those dark days.

In spite of this apparent throwback, we are a more enlightened people! We have made tremendous strides since the 50’s and 60’s, but as the Initiative 42 issue has shown, we still have a long way to go in regard to our attitudes toward education, race, and our future. Too much of our past biases still lurk in who we are as a state. Hopefully, additional time will further eradicate those prejudices from us – at least from our children. Nevertheless, I believe for the most part Mississippians are good people who strive to do what is right. We are proud people often recognized as the most benevolent state in the nation! Mississippians are quick to come to the aid of others, whether they are in this country or countries halfway around the world. Mississippians have always generously given to those in need. It so happens, our children are the ones in need this time. It is time we looked in our own backyard and shared our benevolence with our own family. It is time we stood by our children and their teachers; there is no better place to share your generosity and compassion than with those who live in your backyard.

I pray the people of Mississippi will stand up for Initiative 42 and not be led astray by professional politicians with political agendas that often exclude what is best for our state. With Initiative 42, public school education has a chance to be funded as required by law; without it, the chances are slim and none. If you don’t want to vote for Initiative 42, that is your right, but if that is your choice, why not at least do the next best thing and vote those politicians committed to sabotaging public education out of office? Citizens concerned for education and the future of Mississippi need to send a message one way or the other that we are fed up with political manipulation not only at the federal level but at the state level as well.

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD. October 29, 2015