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MISSING THE POINT

By Michael Strelcheck

Every four years our country goes through the sacred ritual of choosing a new leader. This process is usually pretty predictable; a bunch of primaries that select a couple of qualified candidates that are followed by a general election. But something is clearly different this time! The current political process seems to have, unexpectedly, rubbed away a layer of social apathy exposing a “raw nerve” in society – causing a collective “scream” to be heard.

In the past, most of the election cycles were guided by the leaders of the established political parties, but this time there’s a type of “rebellion” occurring. This isn’t the “political revolution” that one candidate is calling for but is much more of a visceral response from voters. The media’s polling, designed to measure popular opinion, is revealing that a large segment of our population is very dissatisfied (or downright angry) with those governing. The funny thing is that the established political hierarchy doesn’t get it; they don’t understand the reason for the unhappiness! They seem to think that the uproar is due to people feeling “disenfranchised” by the economy or frustrated by the conditions created by the current government’s inability to follow through on its policies – never really focusing on the idea that much of the electorate is angry with them – personally! That people are feeling betrayed by their political leaders due to them losing sight of the common goal of government and public service. In a Democracy, civil leaders are to represent the will of the people and aren’t elected to do whatever they want. This fundamental principle seems to be on shaky ground right now.

Here’s a glaring example of how government is breaking down. In South Dakota there’s a controversy over the state’s license plate. There’s a state law that demands license plates to include a replica of its signature memorial Mt. Rushmore. The law states that the image must not obscure the number on the plate, but still be easily discernible, so it has had the memorial in the background colored in white. For whatever reason, state legislators decided to change the look of the license plate without giving the state’s citizens the opportunity to weigh in and went ahead and altered the plate. Would you believe that the new image has fundamentally changed the nature of the memorial by positioning it at a different angle – and has President Washington facing the wrong way! This alteration of the image misrepresents it and is counter to the spirit of the state law. To add insult to injury the image has been colored in, now being golden in color with dark shading that muddies the image making it, in some’s opinion, dirty looking. Tony Ascrizzi, who develops film for the famed Mount Rushmore photographer Bill Groethe, told reporters that not only do the plates not represent anything he’s seen in real life, they make the identifying numbers and letters hard to read. “I’ve never seen a picture that dark,” Ascrizzi said. The new plates were a collaborative effort between the governor’s office, the Dept. of Tourism, the Dept. of Revenue and South Dakota law enforcement according to a spokesman of the Revenue Dept.  When that spokesman was questioned as to who designed the image he quipped, “That’s not something I’m willing to talk about,” clearly dodging any accountability.

To us outside the state, this situation may sound a little petty, but many of the state’s residences are upset, feeling as if something meaningful in their lives has been defaced. Many government officials are perplexed as to why people are reacting so strongly? Apparently officials never took the time to consider the fact that the memorial is a sacred site to South Dakotans; that they are proud of its presence and what it brings to their culture. The willingness of the state’s officials to misrepresent the monument subtly reflects an attitude of “not caring” about their citizens and what they might think. Rightly so, South Dakotans are unhappy and are speaking up.

Perhaps this type of legislating is happening far too much?  The clean water failure in Flint, MI is another good example of a governmental decision made in a vacuum. Maybe citizens across the nation have finally reached the point where they can no longer hold back their feelings? Hopefully, as the collective angst of our populace grows, politicians will begin to awaken to what’s being expressed by public opinion and once again to take up the effort to serve the “best interests” of the people and not their own ideology.

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