Monday, February 4, 2008

Political Alienation in Salem

The Globe is writing about "The Irritables", those citizens who don't believe in voting.  Mostly, they feel so alienated by the political process that they feel their participation doesn't matter.

I'm familiar with the argument since I participated in the Net, modems and computer bulletin boards before that.  Libertarianism and anarchism were, and still are, very prevalent political philosophies.

I don't have much of a choice but to vote tomorrow;  as I've said before, I and the Commission have fought too hard to defend our rights not to use them.  I'm certain we'll all be at our respective polling places tomorrow.

Yet, I'm very sympathetic to the "Irritables"?  How could we be so alienated from the people who we trust to run our country, our state and our community?

Whole books have been written on just that subject.  But here's a story:  I've been a volunteer at SATV ever since we opened in 1994.  In our first five years, I trained myself in all the aspects of TV production, but my best talent was (and is) in engineering and TV graphics, so my talents were well in demand by many other volunteer producers.

I was doing graphics and engineering for many shows, including almost all of the "political"  issues-based shows;  this went on for almost 7 years.  I had the opportunity to encounter a number of elected and appointed officials.

It was the most thankless job I've ever had.  To a person, most elected officials look down on the help.  When they appear on our channels, they do so as a favor to the producer and ourselves.  It's not a small jump for an official to think that those under him move to his command.

I never got the time of day from most officials as I worked to get them on the air.  One time, I was verbally blistered in public, in front of my producer and the other guest, by a candidate angry with me that I wasn't ready to put him on the air right away.

I've helped produce shows where it was obvious the host and guests were patricians,  deigning to tell the rest of Salem how they should vote and behave.  I've had producers call me to do shows at the last minute because some crony of theirs wanted the camera and wanted it right then and there.

Only once has an official been kind to me.  Some years ago, I had to work over a two day weekend to set up a show.  The show needed to be early Sunday morning as the official was campaigning in our Heritage Days parade that afternoon.

We did the show Sunday and the man stopped by the control room when the cameras stopped rolling, thanked me for my work and shook my hand.

Later on, I was at the SATV compound along the parade route, helping run cable and looking out for the other camera people.   The politicians came, one by one.

One man came up to me, shook my hand, and thanked me for my work that morning.

It was Scott Harshbarger, then running for governor.

He had my vote just then.   No other politician ever did for me what Harshbarger did just then.  Not just the handshake, but an apparently very sincere appreciation, and most importantly respect for my work.   I was very upset when he decided not to seek public office again after his defeat in the gubernatorial race.

Although I still work on one issues show, Leo Jodoin's Salem Now, I never want to work on a political show ever again.  Ever.  If I were Leo, I wouldn't even have such people on his show, having instead working-class people and others who can appreciate and respect what we do.

Sadly, many if not most, or even all, elected officials and party officials really don't respect America or its electorate.  They don't need to.  The real measure of a person, as is often said, is how they deal with people lesser than they.  Politicians fail this, and hard. 

They don't have to respect the average citizen.  They already have their power.  Lobbyists, private concerns and pressure groups give them what they need, incumbency each and every term.  Every four years, they arrange with consultants to get them the wholesale votes!   The average voter is stupid, they think, just give them their goodies and they'll go away.

In Salem, we have those groups, too.  A city councilor doesn't need to poll the voters;  he or she has the neighborhood groups, running their wards through a minority who discourage those citizens without "property values" and a large mortgage.  Developers and consultants will gladly tell the councilor how to vote.  I've often wondered just who and what the at-large seats are supposed to "represent"?

Tom Furey, one of the at-large councilors, recently got criticism for missing many meetings of the Council on Aging which he is a liason to.  Of course, politicians, like any person, often have things come up, like family emergencies and such, but the thought is firmly in mind:  Furey doesn't go to the CoA--there are more important people to meet.

I have no choice but to be knee-deep in politics.  But I sure do sympathize with those Irritables.  I just don't have an answer for them.


Anonymous said...

Speaking of thankless, as I remember there were many people at SATV training all of us in everything from running cables to engineering and they should be thanked. I think it is wrong to claim self training, when in fact there were many people there training you, me, and everyone else. One of the best gifts is the gift of knowledge, no one really learns on their own, they collect information from any source available, in our case at SATV, all the wonderful and supportive staff. I sure am grateful to all of them and always tell people where my skills came from. We should not discredit our teachers by not acknowledging their contributions to our lives, as they are responsible for where we are today.

David Moisan said...

Point taken, but I have given SATV itself my expertise for that period of time as well! There is about $50K worth of equipment there that I had a direct hand in specifying. I provide IT support that SATV would otherwise have to pay big for. I don't train members, true, but I do train staff.

Just saying.