The biggest thing about democracy is that it starts small

imageBefore putting the final touches on today’s edition of Siuslaw News, we did something we haven’t done in eight years. At the bottom of our Opinion page is a small section with the heading “Where to Write.” In it are the addresses of our representatives at the county, state and federal levels.

At the top of this list is our nation’s President, which has now been updated to reflect today’s inauguration of Donald J. Trump.

The peaceful transition of government has now officially been achieved for the 45th time since George Washington took the first — and very same — Oath of Office some 227 years ago. At the time, Washington remarked it wasn’t his inauguration that was important but the second inauguration that would be the most significant. He recognized one of the first and most important tests of Democracy would be the peaceful transition of power — something that had never been achieved in human history in such a way or on as grand a scale.

Eight years later, when Washington handed over the presidency to the newly-elected John Adams in 1797, it was more than a notion; it was a reality. But more importantly, it was an example of how a nation of people could participate in a process of discussion, debate and even disagreement but still emerge unified as Americans thanks to a shared belief in our nation’s Constitution and what it represents.  Continue reading

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Thanks to our veterans, there will be plenty of time to disagree tomorrow

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Driving to work this morning, talk radio stations were full of the continuing discussion and debate over the elections. Hosts grilled pollsters, questioned campaign strategists and analysts. Guests expressed their exuberance or dismay over the results. Prognosticators made predictions ranging from whimsy to woe.

As I listened, I noticed one topic that was missing from today’s discussion table:

Veterans.

Without the fundamental right we have as a Democracy to vote, there would be no election to discuss — and without the service and sacrifice of others in defense of our nation, there would be no Democracy to afford us that precious right to vote.  Continue reading

The heart of Democracy isn’t in the chosen — but in the choosing

I purposely wrote today’s editorial early Tuesday morning, before any results, acceptance speeches or other Election Night events could influence my thoughts. I wrote this with my community in mind, however far that reaches…

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imageI’m writing this Tuesday morning, well before the final votes will be tallied and, quite possibly, contested by one side or the other in the days and weeks ahead.

As much as I’d like to believe Tuesday night will close the final chapter in a political season that
has played out more like a work of fiction than reality, my gut tells me there is already a sequel in the works to this poorly written chapter in American political history.

Yet, as I slipped my ballot into the drop box this morning, I thought of the poem “Election Day, November 1884” by Walt Whitman. In it, he eloquently expresses the simple but important notion that the act of voting is, in itself, more powerful than any individual elected within our Democracy.

The still small voice vibrating — America’s choosing day, the heart of it
not in the chosen, (but) the act itself the main — the quadriennial
choosing…

In this era of social media coverage, on-demand soundbites and the constant barrage of political ads, posts and Tweets, it’s easy to forget the fundamental value our vote represents — and that the sum total of our Democracy is larger than any one individual.  Continue reading

Don’t let disappointment keep you from voting

imageAfter becoming editor here at Siuslaw News in September, I began writing an Opinion piece a few times a month called “From the Editor’s Desk.” It had been several years since our newspaper had a regular opinion piece written by its editor. Being that most of our readers knew me only as a humor columnist, I felt it was an opportunity to show a different side and, hopefully, connect with the community in a different way.

I also saw it as a way to build an ongoing dialogue with our readers so that they don’t just read the newspaper, but feel like they are a part of it. The response has been terrific and, over the last several weeks, our Opinion page has become a lively, respectful exchange of viewpoints and insights.

If only I could say the same about this year’s election.  Continue reading

Why we need a Presidential Aptitude Test

(I’m a guest at Open Thought Vortex Magazine today, proposing the creation of a Presidential Aptitude Test for future elections. Unfortunately, it’s too late for this one…)

imageIf I’m being honest, I have about as much enthusiasm for our choices in presidential candidates as I do for licking a 9-volt battery; I know the result won’t kill me but the anticipation itself is enough to make my tongue curl — because I know it’s still going to sting. As I’ve watched the process of elimination over the last several months, I can’t help but wonder how, with a population of more than 324 million, this is the best we have to offer? Maybe we forgot some people somewhere?

Like Rhode Island. It’s small and easy to overlook.

It also got me wondering why becoming a presidential nominee isn’t harder. Don’t get me wrong, I realize not just any millionaire can become a presidential candidate. But in a country where you have to pass a background check and psychological interview before landing a job at McDonald’s, you’d think we’d at least require the same of someone vying for a position as the Most Powerful Person in the World. It seems like we might even feel obligated to other nations to make sure the Commander-in-Chief of the planet’s most advanced military doesn’t have mommy or daddy issues, an axe to grind, isn’t a power tripper and has a working knowledge of international affairs that extends beyond Fox News. (Read more at OTV Magazine)