a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
— Dorothy to her dog, in “The Wizard of Oz.” But you knew
that. It’s the third most-recognizable quote in movie history
I always wanted a
little dog like Dorothy’s. But I wasn’t going to name him Toto: I
was going to reference another quote from the movie, the witch
telling Dorothy, “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog,
too,” and name him Too.
Anyhow, if I had this
dog in this election year, I would say to him, “Too, I’ve a feeling
we’re not in Kansas anymore.” I should have noticed earlier, but
this feeling of being in a new place didn’t hit me suddenly; there
wasn’t a tornado lifting me from my usual campaign mode and dropping
me in the present. It’s as if I’d been rushing as usual through a
campaign season, then suddenly noticed that the surroundings aren’t
Younger people, who
didn’t experience being a political activist in the 20th century,
can still relate to this feeling by imagining themselves waking up
in The Matrix. Or, let’s all think Rip Van Winkle or Odysseus,
returning home after 20 years. Everything has changed.
Never mind decades, I’m
noticing a difference just two years after I was using the theme
“Revolution 2010,” singing along with Jefferson Airplane’s “Got a
Revolution”; this year, I got a “Revolution 2012” bumper sticker,
but just can’t get into the music or the mood. Somehow, the
excitement of that tea party year, the celebration and hopefulness,
isn’t here; this year is far too serious.
Since you are reading
this column, in a newspaper, you may relate to my intense interest
in what is happening in our state, country, the world. There are
other people hardly paying attention to anything political at all.
National Voter Registration week? How about an “If You Don’t Know
What the Heck You’re Doing, Don’t Vote” Week.
I know some of us
learned in high school civics that it’s our duty to vote, but the
assumption was that before we did, we were going to follow the
issues, get to know the candidates, watch debates. My civics teacher
knew I had studied some American history in grade school and was
about to learn more before I graduated. Do we know this about all
the students that came after me?
Maybe I’m overreacting
to those “people on the street” interviews done by Jay Leno, John
Stossel and print-news reporters who ask questions about the U.S.
government structure and get clueless responses. Maybe they just
publicize the worst answers to get a laugh.
Do we envy the
blissfully uninformed? No. Ignorance is pathetic, not blissful, but
with so much information available, we are overwhelmed and therefore
uninformed about a lot of important things.
In past elections,
candidates and ballot question proponents had a few reliable ways to
reach the voters, who had limited distractions; where do they get
their information today? I used to participate in two-hour debates
on ballot questions on the David Brudnoy radio show; today’s hosts
often need to recognize the modern listener’s brief attention span.
Local television also
offered weekly in-depth interview shows: Things said on these shows
were picked up by print media, which also did in-depth analysis of
ballot questions. Our local media is doing its best to cover the
election, but many people get their news from the Internet, along
with fantastic lies, theories and silly notions, with no editor in
charge. Much of the national mainstream media since 2008 has been as
much an advocate for Barack Obama as an objective purveyor of
On my way to vote in
2010, I was surprised to see a plane towing a banner with my
congressional candidate’s name on it; seemed a waste of money to me
until I thought about those citizens who go to vote having paid no
attention to the election. They might very well choose a candidate
whose name they just saw in the sky, for no other reason. Better
they should stay home with their heads buried in the sand of apathy,
where they at least do no harm.
I never paid attention
to polls; nowadays, they seem to be used as a campaign strategy by
different camps to influence the vote instead of just indicate
trends. Not sure how this works today, anyhow, with cellphones,
blocked calls and caller ID. Mucho campaign money is still spent on
television ads, which are sometimes clever, but hardly the way to
become informed even if you don’t fast-forward through them.
With all this going on,
with no one voice reaching many people, it’s important to understand
the role of each of us concerned citizens. There are columnists,
ranging from the syndicated greats like Charles Krauthammer, George
Will, David Shribman, to simple weekly contributors like me reaching
only local readers; online posters and op-ed letter writers; talk
show hosts and their callers; individuals talking to, arguing with
family members, neighbors, friends; people running for office with
volunteers helping them. Every one of us becomes a vital force on
one side or the other, trying to make a difference.