Monday, July 30, 2012


The primary is a few days away. It’s been a tough fight.
Folks have asked me what I’d do if the “vote yes” side carries the day. I’ll congratulate them, of course. I’d be disappointed, but elections come and go and the disappointment over the loss in an election couldn’t come close to the ache I felt in my heart when I lost my old buddy Jack. I’d lose a hundred elections if it would bring him back to greet me with that wagging tail in the morning. And, when I think more about it, I can only imagine how deep the well of grief might have been in me if one of my children or grandchildren had been at that theatre in Aurora a few days ago. I’d have been absolutely distraught.
There really are more important things in life than election results.
Besides, there will be other windmills to chase. Emporia and Lyon County have enough to last a man a hundred lifetimes. The windmills are actually getting bigger and bigger, so I intend to keep flailing away all the harder. I have to chase them. I won’t give in.
Lyon County didn’t get the way it is now, with its skyrocketing poverty, lack of a coherent economic development plan, and downright neglect, by accident. This long, slow, tortured descent is the result of careful planning on one hand and a blind eye turned from the inconvenient facts that years of neglect have piled up in the “less desirable” parts of the community.
I’ve often heard during this campaign that I tended to focus too much on Lyon Countians with low or fixed incomes and the impact our political decisions have on them. I am proud to plead guilty to the charge.  I intend to maintain my guilt.
In the run-up to the election I’ve heard from Emporia’s elites grudgingly admit that “A dollar is a dollar” or ask quizzically “What’s the big deal? This will cost less than a slice of pizza.” There’s the milk of human kindness for you.
They have absolutely no understanding.  That dollar they so glibly talk about is far more critical to the folks living at or below our 22% poverty rate than it is for the mighty. The proposition that concludes that because person “A” can afford getting whacked, everyone else, including the poor, can too, is seriously flawed. Using that logic, dogs become cats, the wealthy become the superior class, and the poor become useless. Only honor graduates of the Marie Antoinette School of public policy could think that way. It makes me want to puke.
When it comes to guilt and “excessive” concern for the poor and marginalized, I believe I stand in the very best of company. In 1935, New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia, the "Little Flower," filled in for a judge at night court. An elderly woman, a grandmother, was brought before him. She’d been caught stealing a 50 cent loaf of bread. La Guardia asked her if she was guilty. She said she was. She explained that her daughter was sick and her children had nothing to eat.  Desperation had driven her to steal. LaGuardia then asked the shopkeeper if he wanted to press charges. He did, explaining that his store was in a bad neighborhood and he needed to discourage criminal activity. The penalty for the crime was ten dollars or ten days in jail. LaGuardia took ten dollars out of his wallet and gave it to the bailiff. The legal requirement met, LaGuardia then ordered the bailiff to collect 50 cents from everyone in the courtroom except for the woman. He explained that he was fining everyone for living in a city where a destitute grandmother had become so desperate she felt the only thing she could do was steal a loaf of bread to feed her loved ones. The bailiff collected $47.50, gave 50 cents to the shopkeeper and the rest to the woman. It’s said that everyone in the courtroom, including the shopkeeper, gave LaGuardia a standing ovation.
So, I gladly admit my guilt. I pray that I remain this guilty for the rest of my life. I pray I remain willing to keep flailing away. Then, when all is said and done I’ll leave my guilt in the capable hands of my Advocate. My faith tells that he’ll say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, you have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!” That’ll be more than good enough for me.

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