Sometimes you don’t have to take sides

A powerful storm blew through here last week twisting limbs, pushing trees over after the soaked ground gave them up as if vomiting them from the earth; power lines fell, refrigerators warmed and some of us sat waiting for the fix. We waited until the twisted limbs were removed, the trees chain-sawed, frozen foods thawed, and then after about 24 hours it was over. The lights were on, TVs were flickering and refrigerators were restocked.

Then on Friday night the devil returned, though this time with less fury but a certain amount of staying power. Our lights went out again at about 9:30, and as I heard my neighbor crank up his generator I got the feeling I had lost some independence. I began thinking about how I should trade in my electric appliances and get me one of those generators and maybe a fridge that works on gas — you know they had those at one time.

You know there’s something freeing about being independent, not really controlled by the lack of electricity, the closing of Wal-Mart, the high price of gasoline, skyrocketing food prices, the want of the Comedy Channel or acceptance by fashionable society.

There’s independence that wealth brings, that education affords, that moving to the Montana out-back allows, that a certain mindset yields.

Isn’t there also an independence that comes with knowing that you are free to vote for whomever you please? There is, you say. Well, I say that unless you are familiar and have researched the issues on your own, then your independence is not secure. Many of us vote the way we’re told. You’re a Democrat so you vote for the candidate the Dems put out there. You consider yourself a Republican so you vote for anyone with an “R” behind their name. It’s seems to me that it can be the lazy way to vote.

But you think yourself to be objective, right? Being objective is the excuse of good people that do nothing and their vote means nothing unless they act on the facts. If that guy is a real stinker you’ll vote for someone else. But if you aren’t paying attention you wouldn’t know a stinker if the guy next to you hadn’t taken a shower in a year. Even if you declare yourself a D or an R, you are still alone in the voting booth. You don’t need to color in one box or another just because some party or committee told you to.
There are a lot of gray areas in politics nowadays. How do you really know what someone is about? They wear a red tie or scarf or they wear a blue tie. What does that mean? I’ve heard some people when asked why they are a Democrat or Republican say, “Because my father was,” or “Because my family has always been Republican.” Oops. In Virginia, most of the Republicans were Democrats before the 1970s.

Maybe we’re not Republicans or Democrats, maybe we’re lemmings. Maybe we just follow for the sake of following. “Well everyone else is a Republican around here.” Maybe there are candidates who follow because that’s where the money is. Maybe you need a certain letter behind your name to win an election.

Pete Seeger wrote, “Where have all the flowers gone? ... When will they ever learn?” Where has our independence gone? We were once individualistic, but in fact, one political party claims that by way of its second tenet the “We embrace our Founding Fathers chastising Local Spirits who vulgarly manipulate the political process,” when maybe that’s exactly what happens in some localities. The fourth tenet in part: “We eschew the hypocrisy of imposing personal doctrines or dogma as bounden for political convictions...”  The fifth: “The right to criticize; to hold beliefs; to protest; to undertake independent thought.”

I like the fifth tenet: “To undertake independent thought.” Now that’s powerful. So why do 90 percent of our local elected officials seek the support and endorsement of our local Republican committee?

Maybe in the upcoming 2011 local elections voters will take to being independent and vote with knowledge, with their own conviction, without relying on dogma, following their own beliefs, to protest the status quo, to undertake independent thought.

Author Tim Flannery wrote, “Sometimes you have to take sides.” Nicholas Sparks wrote, “Sometimes you have to do what’s best for you.”

Sometimes you have to think independently, make your own choices, find the truth and follow your own instincts. That’s how the Tea Party began. That, for some folks, is what drew them to an independent take on how much government should truly be in our lives. I surely belief in a limited government, but sometimes it is local government that has the most effect on our lives. I also believe in paying attention to local government where real decisions are made; but we don’t see it displayed on our favorite TV channel, it seems boring and hidden in obscure locations on the dial.

Maintain you independence during this election, vote for the right candidate, the truthful candidate, not necessarily the one on the sample ballot.

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