There is an old saying that if you are in a room full of people and someone tells a joke that you don’t get, the joke is probably on you.
Another idea along these lines is the character and plot development of TV situation comedies. The funniest and most regrettable people are those so clueless they don’t ever see through their own—well—cluelessness. Think Colonel Klink on the old series Hogan’s Heroes.
Well, this joke is on us.
Much has been said and written in the last two weeks about the outrageous redistricting put forward by the Albany legislature resulting in incomprehensible and illogical geographic boundaries for state senate districts, one here in New Rochelle, the other in Ossining. For the purposes of this discussion, we will dismiss the Ossining case except to say that there ought to be a law that allows us to place our gerrymandering elected officials into that city’s famous correctional institution.
As for the Queen City, we should be embarrassed by such an egregious, self-serving and tyrannical violation of our rights. In this instance, the insult was served up by Republicans to try and take hold of the traditionally Democratic seat soon to be freed up by the retirement of Suzie Oppenheimer. But few if any doubt that the Democrats would do the same had they the power to do so. Word is that the governor will veto the proposed new districts, but this piece is not about District 37 (see www.latfor.state.ny.us/maps), as such. It is, though, about you and me.
How did we allow our elected officials to become so confident in our ignorance and disinterest that they had no qualms about perpetrating such blatant abuse? How is it that a city rich in doctors, lawyers, professors, teachers, stock brokers and honest tradesmen and women could allow their rights—sacred rights, if you believe in democracy—to be taken so lightly?
Just the other day on my radio show a resident I admire, and who is anything but uninvolved, said that some people just don’t care abut this stuff, and don’t pay attention to such matters. My answer then and now is the same: If you don’t want to be involved, fine. Then abdicate your responsibilities as you see fit.
A nicer way to put it, perhaps, is to delegate them. Oh, wait, that involves representative democracy, the very right that is manipulated and expropriated. Some say that not being involved forfeits our right to complain. Fortunately, it never does. It might make one a naïve fool, but it does not take away our privileges. The other good fortune is that it is never too late.
I implore you to look at the Web site I noted above. When you do, I can only hope that you take it personally. Because while the people that did this thought we were asleep at the switch, they made quite the fool out of us. This is what our elected officials are capable of when they think we don’t care. They think the process—indeed your city—belongs to them.
Go easy on them at first. They are our monsters, created by us. Many of them are good people who have been out of touch so long they think that this is a necessary part of the job. But do call your representative—if you know who he or she is—and scream bloody murder. At least call the governor.
Or, you can just sit there and take it. In that case, I ask that the next time you watch your favorite sitcom you look for the most clueless character.
Alternatively, it might be easier to go look in the mirror.