Saturday, May 13, 2006

Voting in Orange County, NC

This article in the Herald-Sun started a firestorm of outrage on the Squeeze the Pulp forums. Here's my take:

Folks:

Think long and hard about this one before rejecting it out of hand. This is the opportunity to create true equality among all residents. If you do not side with Mr. Herrera on this, you can never again in good conscience claim that everyone's voice is important, that you value the opinions of others, that you do not judge others by the color of their skin or the place of their birth.

The arguments against this idea will be many and varied - they will mirror the arguments heard in every blog, news program, and newspaper now, calling for tougher immigration laws and fences. And, as today, logic, fact, and basic human compassion will be irrelevent to those making the arguments. When the fallacies of their arguments are pointed out, just as now they will fly into raging rants fueled by one thing - xenophobia.

Please allow me to quickly dispatch with the obvious: citizenship. Under the current NC system, I can move from Las Vegas to Carborro, certify that I won't vote in Las Vegas, and go straight to the polls. By contrast, someone who has lived, worked, and raised children in Carrboro for 5, 10, 20 years who is not a citizen cannot. 90 days later, I can re-register in Las Vegas, leaving the family in Carborro to live with the decisions I helped shape. Can anyone really argue with a straight face that my birth in Iowa gives me some right to shape the future of a NC family while they have no say?

Having said that, my first reaction to this story was the same as John's; I believe there is good reason to fear the outcome of adding this voting bloc. The reason to fear it, though, has nothing to do with the new bloc. It is purely of our own making.

In little more than 200 years, we've corrupted our representative republic into a popularity contest. We've found government to be an expedient method to impose our will and wants on our neighbor, and to get him to pay for it. Executives, legislatures, and jurists treat our federal and state consititutions as mere pieces of paper; in tandem, they've ignored constitutional restrictions in an endless pursuit of campaign contributions and votes. We've enacted a bloated system of entitlements in an attempt to create equality of outcome instead of equality of opportunity.

We eschew personal responsibility for our actions (or inactions). By lobbying for restrictions on my neighbor's actions and what he does with his property, I also relieve myself of the responsibility to act and use my property in an ethical, environmentally sound manner. Only when he feels the actual pain of restriction does my neighbor petition government to correct what he views as injustices. It's a slippery slope that tips further and further toward vertical with each iteration; we stood by idly while the constitutional brakes were discarded.

Until, that is, another vocal minority is able to marshall the resources to use the system we've prostituted to do something we don't agree with. THEN, suddenly there's a problem. In a classic example of transferrence, we don't blame the system (that would require taking personal responsibility for our part in creating it), we blame the vocal minority. In this case, it's even easier to blame the minority because they were born to the north or south of some political line on a map. We fear what they will do with the system we've created (the very definition of xenophobia).

Going back up the slope will require radical change and sacrifice. (No more radical than bussing 11 million people out of their homes back to a place they decided they don't want to be.) It won't be pretty or easy. But, the prize, where the life, liberty, and property of everyone is equally valued, is well worth it! Will this be the issue that jars you to take the responsibility to reclaim your life, liberty, and property? Or, will you bury your head in the red clay until they come to take you away?

UPDATE:Alderman Herrera clarified his position to include only Permanent Resident Aliens (essentially the level of wading through the paperwork just before citizenship). It doesn't change my position - legal status is irrelevent. Since Alderman Herrera responded on STP, I tried to pin him down on some life, liberty, and property issues; he didn't respond.

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