Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Silence isn't necessarily golden

I've been wanting to weigh in for a while about the NSA, John Swallow, and politics in general, but I haven't really found exactly the right thing I want to say about all of this--until yesterday.  I was having my oil changed at Grease Monkey's in Clinton, and their only magazines were Sports Illustrated and People, neither of which were appealing at the time.  I always keep a small copy of the Constitution  in my purse
for times like this when I need something to read to pass the time.  Instead of diving in to Article I like I usually do, I decided to read the inspirational quotes at the beginning of the booklet.  I stumbled upon this one by Thomas Jefferson, "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent." 
 I think this quote sums up perfectly what we, the people can do about the governmental chaos that surrounds us.  John Swallow himself has stated numerous times that the issues regarding his conduct have been, "hyper-politicized by the media" and he is concerned that he is being tried by the media.  While I absolutely love the 6th amendment to the Constitution and the rights it affords those accused of crimes, I don't think it applies quite yet.  The Utah State Legislature is a body elected by the people to do the work of the people and they alone are tasked with the immensely difficult task of deciding whether or not to begin impeachment proceedings on our State Attorney General.  Potentially starting impeachment proceedings on any elected official is a big deal indeed, and it is not a task to be taken lightly.  In order for the people and legislature to be on the same page, for the people to be able to support their legislators, and for those legislators to accurately represent those people, the people need to be informed about the goings on.  A recent survey showed that 71% of Utahns polled support beginning impeachment proceedings for our Attorney General.  We are calling for a thorough investigation and our legislators are listening.
Jumping over to the recent revelations that our phone records are being monitored by the NSA, it is just as vital that we, the people, demand accountability from our government.  Regarding this search by our government without the probable cause demanded by the 4th Amendment, a friend commented, "What can be done about it?"  What can be done?  We can demand that our rights as outlined in the Constitution be respected and honored.  Our Washington lawmakers' phones and email in-boxes should be flooded with demands that these illegal practices stop.  If we simply complain at the water cooler or post on Facebook, our voices will never be heard and, if  we do not speak they cannot listen. 

Finally, I'd like to bring these thoughts back home.  I had an interesting conversation with a neighbor at Wal-Mart about a month ago.  We were discussing the update to the General Plan.  He said that he would like to see some areas that are zoned for 4-plexes so that he could build a few within the city.  I told him that there wasn't much public support for that, but that the plan isn't complete and would consider his thoughts at the public hearing, if he shares them with us.  He immediately replied that he doesn't have time to attend the public hearing.  I suggested writing a letter, which he also dismissed. Although he was happy to complain in the parking lot, he wasn't willing to do what it takes to have his voice heard.  I did relay his comments on to the general plan committee on his behalf and will repeat them to the Planning Commission at the public hearing, but his own voice would have been so much more effective.  I have attended nearly every Clinton City Council meeting in the last three years.  I have watched numerous times as the minds of the Council and the future of our city have been changed by the voices of two or three citizens.  I, myself, have stood and spoken numerous times and at least sometimes they have listened.

Regardless of the level of government, it is vital that we, the people, keep it in check.  If we simply keep silent when government oversteps its bounds, when leaders are corrupt, or when we simply disagree with the path being taken we risk, as Mr. Jefferson warned,  allowing tyranny to gain a foothold.  It is imperative to be involved, be informed, and be vocal so that this fate never befalls our government at any level.

Friday, June 7, 2013

ABCD: About Biking, Conventions, and Duty

I love to ride my bicycle.  Really, it doesn't get any better than a good, hard bike ride. I wear a helmet, so I don't get the wind through my hair, but I still love it in my face.  I love to push and see how fast I can go, conquering hills, and then flying down the other side.  Biking is one of my very most favorite activities in this world.  Last year I checked of a major "bucket list" item by completing a century bike ride.  Then, a few weeks after the ride, I hurt my wrist and had to stop riding.  I had surgery on my wrist in November and then I finally got the green light to ride again in February.  There isn't a better way to get back in good riding shape than training for and doing another century ride.  I had to enter a lottery to get a spot this year, but despite the high demand, I made it in and was on my way to another century, I was so excitied! 
My plans for cycling greatness came crashing down when, several weeks after winning the lottery and paying my registration fee, I learned that the Davis County Republican Party was holding its organizing convention on June 2, the same day as my ride.  This convention is usually held in April, not June, so I thought I was home-free planning something else for that day.  I was sorely tempted to bag the convention.  It was the DCRP's fault for announcing the convention date late, right?  Then there's the fact that I already paid my registration fee, and lots of people miss the organizing convention anyway.  I really wouldn't be missed at all.  No one would notice.
No one, that is, except for me.  I would notice.  At a caucus meeting last year, I stood before members of my precinct and told them I would represent them as a Delegate to the Davis County Republican Party.  I told them I would research the candidates thoroughly, listen to the input of the people in my precinct, and do my best to select good candidates.  Part of the job I said I would do is representing our little precinct at both conventions: the exciting nominating convention last year and the less-exciting organizing convention this year. 
June 2 dawned bright and sunny.  I awoke early and put on my biking spandex, my bright yellow visibility shirt, and my cycling shoes.  There wasn't a cloud in the bright blue sky as I mounted my bike Boaz (a Hebrew name meaning Swift) and headed out on my ride.  I could not have asked for a more beautiful day for a bike ride.  I rode the 5 miles up to Syracuse High School, chained Boaz to a pole, headed inside, and changed into clothes more suitable for the 6-hour convention.  I suppose it is human nature that I was tempted to bag the convention for the bike ride, although I am disappointed that I was.  Ultimately, though it boiled down to one question: "Am I a woman of my word or not?"  So much in life comes down to those quiet moments and those small decisions about which only we will know.  Would I have been missed at the convention?  Maybe I would have, maybe I wouldn't.  At the end of the day, though, I have to be able to look myself in the mirror and know that being who I want to be is more important than doing what I want to do.