8 September 2003 |
No on Recall, Yes on Gary Coleman (unpublished)
for consideration as an Op-Ed piece
background: in 2003 the people of California decided to have a special election to recall the Governor. Each voter was able to make two choices: 1) whether or not the Governor should be recalled, and 2) who should be the new Governor if the recall passed. Along with many serious candidates there were also some who entered the race apparently for the publicity value, including television personalities, publishers of adult material, and, well, Angelyne, whose profession defies labels or descriptions.
I proposed the following piece for the Op-Ed section of the Los Angeles Times. It went unpublished -- until now!
I'm going to state my conclusion right now, since California voters likely wouldn't read to the end of this short piece: Governor Angelyne. The Honorable Larry Flynt. Ladies and gentlemen, the Chief Executive of the Great State of California, Mr Gary Coleman. Be careful what you wish for.
What's wrong with California? The legislature passes laws that must be overturned by the Supreme Court (unconstitutional retroactive change of statute of limitations). By the initiative process, the people enact measures that are vindictive (three strikes) and reactionary (term limits), and ultimately counterproductive.
Even good-idea laws (Proposition 13) are not fine-tuned when enormous loopholes defeat their original purpose. And now, 1.6 million of us have squandered what little stability we had by signing petitions to recall the Governor.
If there is a good side, it is that a number of very thoughtful and articulate candidates who probably don't have a chance of winning are speaking their minds. They're telling us just how troubled our system is. Not the Governor. The whole system.
It's not just California, of course. Our society operates on the surface of problems, and rarely addresses root causes or our deeply flawed social infrastructure. So what if most of the rest of the world is worse. We can still be better.
The tone of this piece probably sounds liberal, but that, again, would be a surface interpretation. The fact is that the deep cleaning that our society needs could be done with sincere conservatism (not an oxymoron!) or restrained liberal approaches, or even better, a combination of the two, as long as the re-working goes to fundamental issues and has a long-term vision.
Politicians have proven how temporary they are, and how quick-fix their "solutions" have been. Our society needs to encourage and elevate our social philosophers, and somehow make them and their plans more important than each year's budget debates or re-election campaigns.
Now, in fairness, I need to give examples. This is the hard part, because I'm not a politician, and I'm only an armchair social philosopher. The list is partial, and reflects my biases, but may be a starting place.
Education must become more than a trendy campaign promise.
But even more important are the daily lives of our future citizens. We need, for example, to show teenagers the same affection, attention and care that we show so easily to infants and toddlers.
Everyone deserves a good education, a safe home, a productive job, and an enjoyable leisure, but somehow we need to create an ambience in which these perquisites and one's place in society are earned by emerging citizens, not expected as their due. (See, I told you some of these ideas could be conservative!)
We need to pay more attention to small, quality-of-life issues like noise pollution, public abuses of things like parking and littering, common courtesy, mitzvot (good deeds). Some of these can be regulated with laws, some can't.
We need to mitigate the crushing barrage of international media and mass advertising that shapes young people's expectations and forces them to emulate unattainable role models. We need to foster smaller, local social structures that are human in scale, have attainable goals, provide in-person heroes, and allow growing people to be as diverse and different as they naturally will be.
We need to protect young people from harm, but even more importantly we need gradually to prepare them beginning before adolescence -- much earlier than we do now -- to be informed decisionmakers, independent and self-controlled participants (and contributors) in the adult world they soon will share.
As for the immediate question of what to do on October 7, we may have put ourselves in a lose-lose situation. Perhaps the best we can do is defeat the recall, cut our losses, and lick our wounds. Turning out the governor and then trying to rally support around a new one who likely would receive 30% or less of the votes is absurd at best, even in Crazy California.
So here's what we do. Everyone who sensibly votes "No" on the question of recall should also choose one of the less serious candidates on Question 2 of the October 7 ballot. If the recall were to pass, a Governor Angelyne or Larry Flynt might give our state just what we deserve.