Thursday, February 7, 2008

What Do You Mean Caucus?

For the first time in many years Kansas has held a caucus. The democratic caucus was February 5, Super Tuesday in fact and the republican will follow on Saturday. Not quite sure why they weren’t the same day, but then I didn’t understand a lot about the whole caucus format truthfully.

But I have learned.

As a dedicated voter I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. Co-workers and friends were split on whether or not they would participate. Many of them felt that it wouldn’t be worth the time and effort to participate.

Myself, I have always thought that my vote is worth it all.

When I decided to participate in the Kansas Caucus, I realized that I knew very little about the whole process. What was the difference between a caucus and a primary? Are there differences even? So, to find answers I turned to my good friend, Wikipedia.

I like how Wikipedia is laid out; for me it is easy to read and understand and always provides me with valuable info and it was pretty helpful in this instance.

Caucus: A meeting of members of a political party or subgroup to nominate candidates for various offices.

Primary: Primary elections are one means by which a political party nominates candidates for the following general election.

Well, that cleared everything up! The only difference I could see was that a caucus was specifically done by political party and a primary isn’t. General election, primary election? This all sounded like some kind of political double-talk to me.

Both are designed to determine where our delegate votes will go at the conventions next summer. Okay, I understood that. So what else was different?

A primary is basically an election – you go in and cast your vote in a normal election process. The caucus it turns out functions a bit differently. Here’s how it worked here.

There were places set up for each of the candidates and you went to the place of the candidate of your choice. Your time to get in there and register was limited so when 7:00 came, the doors were closed and no one else could enter. When the doors closed the votes at each table were counted and then everything was tallied up and combined with all the other votes from your state.

Or that was how it was supposed to work, in theory. And of course we all know how that line of thinking works!

So, it was a bit different…

There was a place for each candidate, an over-flowing place; they had woefully underestimated how many folks would turn out for this democratic process. Each candidate had a room then, and it still wasn’t enough. But there was only so much space so they did the best they could.
So, there was a room for Clinton and a room for Obama, and then there was never-never land or in other words, the land of the undecided. It was up to the Clinton and Obama camps to educate the undecided on their candidate’s issues and views thereby coaxing the undecided to their side.
Again, in theory it sounds good and in reality it fell flat. Too many of the undecided’s knew perfectly well whom they were going to vote for. Halfway through the caucus I decided to call the undecided’s the argumentative instigators. The moniker fit perfectly. Most seemed to thrive on the arguments. I don’t know, maybe they were just lonely, or bored, or even inspired, who knows. But two hours into a process that was estimated at an hour I had pretty much had enough. And the two hours didn’t take into account the half an hour spent looking for a parking place before finally parking 2 blocks away in icy sleet that I would later have to scrape off of my car, nor did it count the half an hour waiting to get in or the time spent trying to find a place to hang out during the process.

Sounds like I’m one of those ‘whiner’ types doesn’t it? I’m not really. But I had built up expectations about the glorious process of caucus; how I would be thrilled and inspired by it and become even more motivated. Instead it became tedious and irritating – all I wanted was to get the hell out of Dodge!

Oh well, right?

I don’t know if caucus works that way in every state, but it’s how it worked here. It was an interesting process. Not particularly high-tech, nor even private as an election vote is. But it’s part of our processes of choosing our next leader and therefore to me, an important process to take part in. The main thing is that I did it. I went and became a part of the political machine we call democracy, a right guaranteed by our constitution.

My mom always told me when I was growing up to never complain about our political leaders if I didn’t participate in who got elected. I believe that is true and heaven’s knows I want my say!

Just try and shut me up!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Gimme Shelter

Oh, a storm is threat'ning My very life today
If I don't get some shelter Oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away
War, children, it's just a shot away It's just a shot away

War, children, it's just a shot away It's just a shot away

Ooh, see the fire is sweepin' Our very street today
Burns like a red coal carpet Mad bull lost its way
War, children, it's just a shot away It's just a shot away

War, children, it's just a shot away It's just a shot away

Rape, murder! It's just a shot away It's just a shot away
Rape, murder! It's just a shot away It's just a shot away
Rape, murder! It's just a shot away It's just a shot away

The floods is threat'ning My very life today
Gimme, gimme shelter Or I'm gonna fade away
War, children, it's just a shot away

It's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
It's just a shot away
It's just a shot away

I tell you love, sister, it's just a kiss away
It's just a kiss away
It's just a kiss away
It's just a kiss away
It's just a kiss away Kiss away, kiss away
--Words and Music by M. Jagger and K. Richards

A few months ago for about 2 weeks I had the Rolling Stones song Gimme Shelter roaring through my head. I say roaring because it practically never ceased its assault on my attention. It was with me during the day and even if I happened to wake up in the night. When I opened my eyes in the morning the serenade began anew each day.

Don’t get me wrong – I like the song. It’s my favorite Stone’s tune. I vaguely remember it as a child around 1970 or so. It was a song that sort of characterized the Vietnam War. The song seemed to be about war in fact, about that age, that time. So why was it on cruise control in my head?

War, children, it’s just a shot away!

It was about war, wasn’t it? Isn’t that what Mick meant when he sang, Oh a storm is threatening my very life today. If I don’t get some shelter I’m gonna fade away?

It certainly epitomized the thoughts and emotions of a generation of people who saw the fruitlessness of that war. Oh wait, police action. At 12, I watched the news in the evening, saw the destruction of villages and people, of jungle and life. Sure seemed like war to me. People died in war and that was what was happening every day in Viet Nam. Did ‘police action’ make it less violent, less deadly? It didn’t seem that way to me.

And yet not seeming to learn from our mistakes we as a nation are embroiled in yet another war, and the same sad consequences are spread across the news every day. So maybe that was why the song was running rampantly through my head. Again, loyal American’s are going off to war, to fight in a country that isn’t even sure it wants us there. There are points for and against that war and it’s not for me to say what’s right or wrong. I don’t support the war – but I whole-heartedly support our troops. I can’t even imagine the courage it takes to go to a place to fight for the rights of people who want to kill you for your protection and yet troops do it every single day.

So was the song repeating through my mind as a reminder that we are at war again? That precious life on all sides of this combat are being recklessly lost? I had to print out the words to look at them, to see what they said to me before some possibilities started to occur to me.

The words seemed so hopeless – almost as if the darkness and despair were coming regardless of what we do. Rape and murder? Certainly common enough in war, but not exclusive attributes of warring activities. So was it a societal epidemic it was referring to? Man, where was Mick when I really need some answers!

So I started taking a broader look at the world around me. Not hard to do since every news broadcast, newspaper and internet blog is full of the miseries of this world; of everything that is wrong with people, the world. Yes, all of it is true – our children are dying in the streets in Iraq and America. Children are starving as well and we’re tolerating it as a society because we simply don’t know what to do to reclaim our streets and towns, our world. Our hearts weep with the wasted potential of our youth, our future. Famililes shed tears over flags that cover the coffins of our dead and wash the blood off the sidewalks and streets and pray that the violence doesn’t claim anymore lives. How do we keep hoping; hoping that it will change?

And then one line in the song suddenly jumped out at me.

I tell you love, sister, it's just a kiss away

Isn’t our love our strongest shield? No, it cannot stop the bullets as they blast through bodies, tearing asunder not only the body but the lives of so many. But can love help us to find a way to shield the kids who carry the guns because they see them as the only protection from a hostile world? If we love enough, not only our family, but our communities, our cities and towns and neighbors, if we love enough can we do it? Will love make us strong enough to stand up and say ‘No MORE!’? No more fruitless death, that your gangs are not family, they are not love. They are only a temporal path to destruction derived from people who don’t have a clue as to what real love is? Who don’t know the shield of protection the loving arms of mothers and fathers and grandparents and family and friends of all types provide.

No, love cannot stop a bullet but it can stop the tide of violence by building children and society strong enough to take a stand against it; one person at a time.

This sister will choose love, with all my heart.