My Turn by Anthony Smith: The gummy bear democracy
Let me tell you a story ...
A large family wanted to have a family cookout. They planned to meet together to decide what would be brought to the gathering and who would bring what to the cookout. The meeting was set for that Tuesday night.
The family was all excited. Family members bragged about their favorite dish and their cooking skills. Others made lofty claims as to how much they can eat. Games were suggested for family members to play together during the festivities. To which some family members bragged about their athletic prowess at the game of horseshoes.
Tuesday rolls around …
The main organizer for the cookout sat at her house waiting for family members to show up for the planning of the gathering. Only one person shows up: her 5-year-old niece. The organizer, the little girl’s auntie, says that she’ll wait a few more minutes. They wait and they wait. … They wait some more. No one shows up, except the 5-year-old girl.
So, the aunt asks her 5-year-old niece, “What do you want at the cookout?”
The niece says, “I just want gummy bears.”
Aunt: “Are you sure? This is all you want? What about ribs, chicken, greens, black-eyed peas, etc.?”
Niece: “I don’t like any of those. I just want gummy bears.”
Aunt: “What about everyone else?”
Niece: “They aren’t here. Does it matter what they want?”
Aunt: “I guess not. Gummy bears it is!”
Sunday afternoon rolls around. Family members pull up to the park. Music starts to blast. Folks start to catch up on family matters. The aunt pulls her truck up to unload the food. Everyone is eager to chow down. What started out as eager anticipation turned into disappointed grimaces as they noticed boxes upon boxes of gummy bears.
Family members start to complain: “Where are the ribs? Chicken? Collards? Baked beans? Soda? Etc.? You know — cookout food?”
The aunt says, “No one showed up to the meeting to decide what we will eat at the cookout today except my 5-year-old niece. She wanted Gummy Bears, and that’s what we are having.”
So it is with Rowan County. The last couple of municipal and county elections have had a similar occurrence, with less than 15 percent of the electorate (those eligible to vote) actually voting. Meaning that 85 percent of those that could vote did not vote.
What does this mean? That means our local democracy is only serving Gummy Bears when you need, want and demand more. It also means, like the 5-year-old determining what everyone else gets, our local democracy in Rowan County is determined by a very small percentage of the voting population. That means that one political flavor gets to determine what kind of political cookout we will have. The choice is limited because the participation is small.
There are a great many changes that have happened in the North Carolina state legislature this year that will affect many lives here in Rowan County — big changes of which many citizens are unaware. The question is this: Do you want a gummy bear democracy or a full-fledged cookout with a variety of choices? The choice is yours.
Anthony Smithy is a local pastor with Mission House, a kingdom of God experiment in Salisbury. He is also on the organizing team of Rowan Concerned Citizens, a non-partisan civic group whose mission is to energize local civic engagement through citizen education in Rowan County.
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