Column: Election Day

Election day is nearly upon us and it’s time to buckle down and study the voter information guide. Last Friday while visiting home, I was contemplating how I could get in the proper frame of mind to study the guide, and I came up with an unusual solution.

While browsing around in the music section of an antique store, I spotted the Beatles’ Abbey Road album for sale – the actual vinyl album. “Great,” I thought to myself. “This is the sense of authenticity I’ve been looking for that might provide the inspiration I need.” I decided to buy it and take it to my Mom’s to play on her record player while studying the voter guide.

Authenticity and holism have been on my mind lately. Doesn’t it seem lately like we’ve been drowning in a sea of artificiality and futile games of verbal jousting that don’t get to the proper root of any issue? I totally quit watching cable TV news shows because of this.

There’s an incredible song at the end of side A of the Abbey Road album called: “I Want You (She’s so Heavy).” I interpret the “I Want You” part of the title, with its sexually laden overtones, as appealing to the emotions, and the “She’s so Heavy” (i.e., deep, thoughtful) part as appealing to the intellect. It’s the perfect holistic integration of mind and emotion, body and soul. The song is one of John Lennon’s greatest masterpieces. While listening to it, I picture lightning flashes during an ominous nighttime thunderstorm illuminating the dark scenery of a secluded hilltop out in the countryside. Pure power and pure soul.

I ended up listening to the song about seven or eight times in a row while studying the voter guide and did indeed feel inspired. The music seemed to help me think more effectively and to tap into the deeper recesses of my subconscious brain. To me, the most important issue on the ballot is Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana for the first time. This is a basic issue of freedom, and though, if passed, the proposition would have some loose ends and secondary issues that would have to be addressed, I don’t see how a reasonable person could pass up this chance to vote in favor of the proposition. What people do in the privacy of their own homes, so long as they do it responsibly and ethically, is nobody’s business but their own, no ifs, ands or buts.

The threats made by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to enforce federal law more vigorously if Prop. 19 passes is all the more reason to vote in favor of Prop. 19. Holder’s threat constitutes the quintessence of all that is wrong with top-down, non-grassroots governance. Citizens concerned about real democracy cannot allow such a threat to go unchallenged. California is a bellwether state, so if marijuana is legalized here, then it’s likely that there would be a movement among the people of other states to follow suit. This is what Holder would be trying to stop if Prop. 19 passes: a widespread democratic movement. This is why we must stop him. This is a moral issue above all else, and Holder should know that there’s nothing wrong with allowing immoral laws not to be enforced.

All the other propositions on the ballot just constitute band-aid approaches to create relatively minor fixes (a couple of good fixes, but most of them bad), compared to what we really need, which is the systematic restructuring of government. For this reason, I will probably vote no on all of those other propositions, even though Prop. 20, which would reform the redistricting process, might represent a pretty good band-aid that I might have voted for otherwise.

Let’s stop fooling ourselves. It’s time to call for a constitutional convention to rewrite California’s constitution so that we can get to the root of what’s causing our problems and fix them in a holistic way. Hit-and-miss style propositions that don’t address the root issues represent an unhealthy type of democracy.

There’s a reason why Beatles music has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years. It’s due to the fact that people long for the return of 1960’s idealism, even if the flower children of those times weren’t able to find many answers and made some mistakes. By and large, though, they favored justice, equity and the search for root-cause solutions, and these are all values that we should eagerly pursue today.

If you agree with BRIAN RILEY that we need to hold a constitutional convention in California, let him know at bkriley@ucdavis.edu.

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