We Americans talk a big game when it comes to electing our public decision makers. Every election that rolls around is accompanied by calls for change, for moving our city, county, state and nation forward, and sometimes even “throw the bums out.”
That rarely happens. We rarely walk the walk.
Take our community’s recent municipal elections. We faithfully re-elected our incumbents, with the exception of one new Fayetteville City Council member who joins the city board because the incumbent chose not to seek re-election. It was pretty much the same story across North Carolina’s larger cities, with a couple of notable changes. For reasons unique to their communities, Charlotte and Chapel Hill elected new mayors, and Chapel Hill also replaced two council members. Voters there must be on a tear. So why, I wonder, is incumbency such an advantage?
Part of it is simply that we are more likely to know the names of incumbents than the names of their challengers. Part of it can be summed up in that old saw about “the devil we know as opposed to the devil we do not.” And part of it is just old-fashioned laziness. Too many of us do not make the effort to get out of bed, off the sofa, push open the car door, much less to pay attention to the quality of government we are getting or how challengers might want to improve it.
Mine is a tired lament, one that surfaces after most elections. No one seems to know how to light the fire of civic engagement in Americans both as voters and as willing candidates. As long as we cannot, though, we will pretty much get what we deserve.
At the risk of confirming paranoia, my cell phone is stalking me.
I recently downloaded an update, as I regularly do with my fingers crossed and with great hope that the update is not some hideous cyber bomb, and my phone is now tracking my movements.
Not that I asked it, but my phone now informs me how far it is from wherever I might be back to my house. If I drive downtown to the library, return and check out items, then get back into the car, my phone beeps and tells me that there is moderate traffic and it will take me 8 minutes to get home.
Ditto for the grocery store.
Ditto if I go out of town and even out of state.
It apparently does not occur to my cell phone that I might not go directly home, that I might have errands to run, meetings to attend, people to visit, movies to see.
I think my phone is descended from world-class homing pigeons.
I can only hope it is not psychic.
The Dickson household had no trick or treaters on Halloween, probably because there are few children in our mature neighborhood. Halloween is nevertheless the fastest growing American holiday, with almost $7 billion — yes, with a B — expended on costumes for children and adults. Facebook was consumed by photographs of people dressed in everything from French maid outfits to aliens from outer space, often accompanied by children dressed like monkeys, which seemed to be this year’s go-to costume for little ones.
Now comes Thanksgiving with its famously fattening and always-delicious home-cooked feasts and family extravaganzas — I am hungry just writing about it!
Then on to Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, both fun and festive and deeply meaningful.
Where did 2015 go?
Finally, from the “Where On God’s Green Earth Were This Man’s Parents?” department.
Earlier this month, I rushed to meet a friend for lunch at a local restaurant. I — mistakenly, as it turned out—thought she was already inside, so I swung open the restaurant door and headed in at the very same time a younger man headed out with the heft and deliberation of an aircraft carrier. Call me a naïve and foolish old Southern lady, but I must have assumed he would yield to a much older woman.
Silly me in the uncivil world of 2015.
Not only did the youngish man — maybe 35 — not yield, he slammed his shoulder into mine and kept going without looking at me. As he past by, eyes rigidly ahead, he snarled out of the side of his mouth, “Get your a*& out of my way, b#$*&!”
Talk about being stopped in one’s tracks with one’s mouth agape!
Not only has no one ever spoken to me like that, I doubt my grandmother ever heard those words at all.
The times have changed, indeed.