July 24th, 2014
Election day is Thursday, August 7. Early voting ends Saturday, August 2.
Think of the ballot as a menu, albeit a long and complicated menu, but one that offers something for everyone. You don’t have to eat everything you’re served. You don’t have to eat whatever you’re told to eat. You don’t have to eat things spoiled by time, or things well short of fully cooked, or things way overdone by blasts of hot air.
You have a choice, and whatever happens you’ll know the order you asked for when that choice was made.
But know this, if you don’t vote, you’ll have to eat whatever’s left and like it.
As published in The Daily News, August 1, 2014, and in The Memphis News, August 2-8, 2014
By all means, discriminate.
Refuse to accept some prepackaged deal as the best you can do, some label to be the quality test. In the known, look for proven performance from each individual offering, standing alone, not just part of some group menu. In the unknown, demand fresh and bold, the promise of new and interesting interpretations from old and predictable ingredients.
And if something leaves a bad taste, send it back.
For example, Henri Brooks is an embarrassment not because she’s African American, not because she’s a Democrat. Henri Brooks is an embarrassment because she’s Henri Brooks. Joy Touliatos should be the next Juvenile Court Clerk because she’s capable and qualified – and because she’s not Henri Brooks.
Ophelia Ford is an embarrassment not because she’s African American, not because she’s a Democrat. Ophelia Ford is an embarrassment because the only reason she occasionally occupies a seat in the State Senate – the only reason she’s allowed to make Memphis a standing joke in that chamber – is her last name. Lee Harris should replace her, not because he’s also African American and a Democrat, but because he’s bright, informed, engaged – and because he’s not Ophelia Ford.
If the choice is a favorite, something you can depend on for simple honesty, for proven performance, then ask for it again.
For example, Amy Weirich should be reelected as District Attorney General not because she’s white, not because she’s a Republican. She should be reelected because she’s professional and experienced – and because Joe Brown’s next show should involve oversized shoes, a big red nose and maybe a flower in his lapel that squirts water, not anything remotely serious.
Mark Luttrell has been a good County Mayor and would be again, not because he’s white and Republican, but because he’s a good person and good at the job. Deidre Malone would be a good County Mayor, not because she’s African American and a Democrat, but because she’s a good person with a solid record as a public servant. A tough choice but a good problem to have.
If there’s something new, look at what it’s made of and then choose.
For example, Reginald Milton, District 10, and Dr. Manoj Jain, District 13, are running for County Commission and I hope they both get there. I don’t care that one’s black and the other’s not, or that one’s from around here and the other’s not. I do care that they’re impressive and imaginative individuals who will shake up and wake up old alliances and tired notions, and both are more about people than parties.
Make your own decision, but vote. If you vote like you’re told or don’t vote, the decision of what happens to all of us will be made by others.
Discriminate, but not on the basis of race, gender, religion, age or sexual orientation. Or political party. Or where they get their barbecue. Discriminate on the basis of individual ability and collective gain.
I’m a Memphian, and let’s elect character instead of characters.