The way to get rid of billboards was never to vandalize and destroy property, and the way to save them was never to talk about shooting people.
The way to “move on” past an education scandal was never for a high school district to disregard state law and refuse to provide public documents.
The way to address predatory lawsuits over the Americans with Disabilities Act was never to tar, feather or lynch an attorney who files them.
The way to alter Arcata’s forest policy was never to vandalize logging equipment and flip off City workers.
The way to properly and effectively approach all those issues is via our democratic process.
Process – slow, tedious, boring, effective political process – is all we have between us and chaos. Take a look at other parts of the world where people effect change by taking matters into their own hands. Bypassing rational process erodes democracy and starts us down the slippery slope to mob rule.
Using process works – sometimes agonizingly slowly, but it works. Look around at the public facilities and institutions we all enjoy and depend on. They weren’t created by vandals and violence, but by methodical application of public will via democratic process.
That all sounds fine and dandy, but maddeningly, sometimes process gets derailed by those who are supposed to be its curators. It’s disheartening to see the majority of our county supervisors throwing away years of work on the county General Plan. How are citizens supposed to have confidence in our political processes if their investments of time and effort are savaged by politicians rewarding their cronies?
Undermining process for political expediency is not far removed from selfish vandalism itself.
If you don’t like what the supes, or the City Council or even your neighbor is doing, organize. Find support, make your case and take it through the process.
Take a lesson from the McKinleyville Organizing Committee. Rather than taking a knee-jerk position on issues, the group went through a methodical process. Part of that process involved learning, and listening. Lots of listening. The group sought to understand the issues first, before staking out a position. Now the group hopes to make Central Avenue safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. While it remains to be seen what exactly will be accomplished, one thing is clear – improvements are coming.
It’s always fashionable to banter about “direct action” and how “if voting mattered, it would be illegal.” Well, voting matters enough to some politicians to make them try to limit it among certain inconvenient segments of the populace. In case you haven’t noticed, voting has helped bring an end to a useless war and accomplish milestones like health care, same-sex marriage and soon, cannabis decriminalization.
So many have given so much to create and defend our democracy. It’s there for you, and the best way to keep it alive is to exercise it.