Thursday, June 26, 2014

Smaller is Better

My flight lesson got cancelled today due to rain. So I'm forced to stay indoors and blog while my dog look at me with accusing eyes, asking when we'll go play fetch.

The idea behind our American republic is awesome. We don't have a king who rules us just because his father did. We elect leaders to enact the laws and policies we want to see. And during the time known to historians as "the Good Old Days" we rubbed shoulders with our elected representatives regularly and shared our views in the market, at church, or even in the latrine. Colonial New England is most celebrated for having this remarkable familiarity between elected representatives and their constituents.

And their timeless fashion sense.

That whole mechanism of representative government gets a little distorted, especially at the Federal level. We only see our federal politicians on TV or in the news so its hard for them to really hear our voice. That's part of the reason why we so dislike our federal leaders most of the time.

But at the state and local level, you can still sometimes get a taste of how it used to be. The other day at a local festival I saw my state representative Vic Gilliam walking around. He is probably my favorite politician, though he has a different party registration than me. Not only does he respond to every letter my students ever wrote him, he shovels the poop after our town's annual pet parade.

I went up and said hello, and introduced him to my father who used to be involved in state politics. While I felt bad for taking his time, Vic Gilliam seemed to just want to chat (maybe that's why he is a politician). Best of all, I got to ask him what he thought of open primaries, which I would love to see happen here in Oregon. He told me what he thought, said he'd really been considering them, and thanked me for sharing my opinion.

It was a little thing, but it felt great to have a voice. So many of us feel so helpless and disenfranchised by what happens at the national level, but we have so much more access at the state and local level. More and more, I think that's where real change happens, and where the average citizen can make the biggest difference.

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