A week of ups and downs that goes beyond politics
November 10, 2006
This was a tough week, a time of highs and lows in all senses of the phrase. The nation turned a political corner, the human race lost one of its best, and the world at large continued its march toward chaos.It all began well, with high hopes that the Republicans were about to be tossed out of the congressional driver’s seat like the corrupt, lying scoundrels that they are.And then, all the predictions miraculously came true. I can’t count the number of times on election night I expected the ugly face of electoral fraud to rear up, leer at me from the television screen, and turn the whole process into yet another evil farce. But it didn’t happen.The electronic voting machines seemed to function fairly well. With Denver’s electoral meltdown and entirely preventable problems across Colorado, our secretary of state, Gigi Dennis, proved inescapably how badly we need to put somebody in that chair who knows what he or she is doing. But it seems the will of the people was stronger than her desire to derail the Democrats in this state, and perhaps similar dramas were playing out in borderline states across the land.It’s not exactly a mandate, of course, since the majorities in the U.S. House and Senate are slender, and could be reversed easily by a determined cadre of thieving ballot-box stuffers in two or four years. Or by a reversal of fortune if the Democrats, say, end up being just as corrupt, venal and untruthful as their Republican adversaries, and the voters get disgusted by the spectacle.But we won’t dwell on such negative prospects,. Let’s just bask in the shining moment and hold onto the hope that the Democrats are knights in shining armor, astride noble steeds, who will lead us to a brighter, more honest future.One cloud on this bright horizon, unfortunately, was the trouncing Colorado voters gave to Amendment 44, which aimed to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, taking at least a tiny step in rationalizing our nation’s drug policies.I voted for it, although I was uncomfortable with it as a constitutional amendment and would have preferred it be a statutory measure. And perhaps similar thinking was behind the fact that so many voted against it, when it doesn’t seem possible that 70 or so percent of the state is so inimically opposed to legalization.Happily, the cause fared better in other states. Voters in Massachusetts “overwhelmingly” passed a couple of “nonbinding measures,” urging authorities to vastly diminish the penalties for possession of an ounce of pot or less, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, an advocacy group for ending the prohibition against pot. And voters in Missoula County, Mont., passed a law directing law enforcement agencies to make pot arrests their lowest priority, and similar measures were passed in some California cities.Perhaps the best news for the cause, though, came from Nevada, a bastion of the right, where some 44 percent of the state’s voters cast ballots in favor of ending pot prohibition completely.Doing so nationally, of course, would vastly cut the fiscal and social damage caused by our illogical war on pot. More rational laws would make pot a regulated substance and thereby less available to the very young, open up prison facilities so that the truly evil among us could be sent there to cool their heels, and take the fear and pressure off the minds of that vast subset of our population who smokes a little weed every now and then to relax or have fun.So much for politics, though. The week ended on a much more somber note, when Ed Bradley, celebrated broadcast journalist and a truly nice guy, died after a lengthy battle with disease.I didn’t know him all that well; we talked at parties and dinner gatherings at friends’ homes, seemed to hit if off, and that was it.But when a lion’s roar goes still, the whole jungle must take note of the silence and pause to reflect on the meaning of it all. And Ed was a lion in his field and in his life, in so many ways they can’t easily be recounted. I will miss all that he gave us, from his incisive reporting to his quiet, smiling social graces, and I know many here who are much more deeply wounded than I by the loss.Like I said, it’s been a tough week.