Exercise the right to vote: The issues are too important

There are some people in our commonwealth and country who do not vote. They believe that the vote means nothing; that things are preset and the voters are being manipulated by forces greater than themselves. This argument makes me nuts. It just isn’t true.

In Great Barrington, for instance, we are fighting to “pass it on” so that our children and our children’s children can benefit from the best possible schools. On one side is a coalition of the greedy who want to deny that legacy because they have already educated their kids or because they send them to private schools or because they moved here from Long Island because they didn’t want to pay the taxes.

Some of these people identify themselves as great social liberals and leftists, but when it comes to walking the walk, they fall down. It is my hope that there will be some soul searching as they approach the sanctity of the ballot box. So the voters will have to decide. One of the wealthiest families in Great Barrington lives on my corner. They have a sign on their lawn in favor of bringing our high school up to par. I am so proud of these people that I could bust. They truly recognize the greater good.

When it comes to democracy, I love the fact that in this state enough signatures can put any proposition on the ballot. I love the fact that so-called “unenrolled” voters can take ballots in any party primary when they enter the voting booth, thus avoiding the strangulation imposed by the self-serving political parties in states like nearby New York.

Take the fact that we are asked to vote on whether to allow gambling in our commonwealth/state. I’ve been scratching my head on this one. I abhor casinos and all that they represent. They often prey on the poor to whom they offer false hope. Now we are watching what’s going on in Atlantic City where casinos have been closing faster than acorns falling off a giant oak tree. That’s what happens when we overbuild.

These casinos offer very little to the surrounding communities, no matter how many promises are made before they are built. I have no doubt that those of us who live in the Berkshires would soundly reject any casinos proposed for our area. It has always been interesting to me that communities that do want big-time gambling are often the most challenged; the most in trouble among us. And then, for the moralists, there is bingo. Talk about hypocrisy.

On the other hand, there are powerful counter-arguments. If a Springfield, for example, sees a way to lift itself out of poverty by dealing the state in where presently only criminal enterprise exists, why not let them have the hope that they crave? If our people are now crossing the borders to spend their gambling money in nearby states, doesn’t it make sense for us to keep that tax money and those jobs here at home? With all the social ills that we have to confront, it might be a good idea to let these communities have their way. If the casinos fail because of overbuilding, the greater hand of the market will finish the argument.

Thank heavens that we have an easy one on the ballot. We can vote for the sensible, expanded bottle bill that would put deposits on things like plastic water bottles. Needless to say, the big bottling companies are against this one. Once again, greed will win out.

We simply have to save this Earth. Recycling, driving the right cars, wind power and solar power are all part of the solution. Like the people of ancient Nineveh, we can repent for what we’ve done to this Earth or we can continue to despoil it. Use the vote well. Go to the polls. Think about the consequences.

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 11/3/14

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