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Election Day in Salida

March 23, 2015

Yes, no, maybe so. It’s a question in more places than college campuses, bedrooms, and bars. We face it now—tomorrow is Election Day in Salida.

Your options are yes-yes, yes-no, no-yes, and no-no. I suppose there are others. Silence. But silence isn’t helpful—not in any of the above-mentioned circumstances.

The ballot is different than usual, but there’s no “no means yes” confusion. And votes translate into direct participation. If you prefer a voice in your long-term commitments, such as the size of your mortgage, here’s a similar opportunity. How much capital spending do you want written in stone? Vote.

The “city against the citizens” idea doesn’t ring true. We—the citizens—are the city. And now we have questions presented to us that directly determine aspects of how we will operate. It’s slightly more complicated than checking off your party’s candidate, but not terribly so.

If we’re bothering to spend ten grand on a special election, let’s vote. If the number of votes in the election doesn’t greatly exceed the number of signatures on the petition that produced the election, there may or may not be operational change, but little will be clarified politically.

As a city of citizens, we might enjoy clarity. We might start reading the opinion pages again. We might stop shouting across fences. I know—I’m a bit earnest and naive, but there you go.

It’s a pretty important aspect of our culture—the right to say yes or no. It’s not universally understood or practiced, certainly, but it’s one we should nurture, not ignore. One way to nurture it—vote.

This enfranchisement is promoted by civic education, but it is also affected by other messages in our culture. Corporations are not enfranchised to vote, but they are permitted to participate in the political machinery, and this fact is a profound discouragement to many people.

Perhaps they should redouble their efforts to participate, but it’s easy to feel helpless and wave it all off. If there’s any place clearly to see one’s vote count, it’s in a local election. Vote.

Of course, there’s a reflex toward seeing, or wanting, a yes/no world; and yet collectively, human psychology won’t permit it. We complicate things.

There has been an admirable effort for a long time in women’s rights to make it clear that “No means no.” The effort has been taken up again recently around the world. However, women are still not quite as free as men to say yes. Yes and no are both important.

The fact that men and women are different is not arguable, but defining equality and protecting it shouldn’t be, either. We should do it.

Legislation only goes so far. We must participate in egalitarian society. Don’t worry—I don’t have some vision of a blissful state for all humankind. I’m just reflecting on yes and no and trying to get you to vote, if you haven’t already.

In the U.S., we consider voting a right rather than a civic duty. We’re big on rights. I don’t want to think about the consequences, intended or not, of making it a duty, such as jury duty.

But I hope plenty of us will feel the responsibility to vote. The outcome for Salida’s capital spending will be one of three things: the citizen-initiated proposal for change; the city council’s proposal for change; or no change.

Both “sides” in the campaign are apparently against the last outcome, but it could happen. At this point, the best thing is to make your no mean no and your yes mean yes.

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