Standing Guard Over Our Town

It was like a dream out there. A quiet, early evening, and the sun was wearing a veil of gauzy white, which seemed to tame its usual harsh summer attitude. The rain had stopped by for a quick holiday “hello” and left behind a host of crickets chanting in stereo, and there was just enough of a breeze to make sitting outside on the patio pleasant. Birds of every chirp seemed excited by something going on. The scent of a holiday BBQ was winding down the day somewhere nearby. Freshly cut grass grass, thick from recent rain and topped by patches of robin’s egg blue and accented by the sweet scent of flowers in bloom reminded me to take a deep breath and enjoy the moment. And I’m sure I would have if I could’ve ditched the pesky mosquitoes. They taunted me with the fervor of kids at a picnic who know when they’ve found an easy target to annoy.

Fireworks were being set off by neighbors all around me. Barely getting off the ground, they crackled as if someone had just poured milk over a bowl of fresh rice crispies. That snap, crackle and pop were occasionally accented by a startling and soaring BOOM that caught me unaware, nearly sending me airborne.

In the wake of that boom I was reminded of the sweet ring of freedom.

The thought settled and I began to think that maybe we need a few fireworks now and again to remind us of the price that’s been paid to make sitting on the porch doing as we please on a 4th of July evening possible. Individual liberty comes with the huge responsibility to stand guard over that freedom. That duty is not the job of a select few who wear the nation’s uniform or hold an office. After all, those in office have no power except the power granted them by the people. The constitution gives us this power over our government, and the rigor with which we carry that out will tell the success or failure of our American story.

And what happens if the people aren’t watching or engaging? Turns out that not only the nation, but also our own neighborhoods will be in jeopardy. We are a nation of laws not of men. It is our job to be alert so that men do not usurp the law or assign themselves a self-importance or power which they were never intended to wield. We must have no fear of holding them to the task to which they have been appointed. They are elected to do our bidding, not their own.

It’s true that a lot of us balk at the responsibility of being the defenders of freedom, after all, if we’ve voted, we’ve done our part, right? We’ll head home now, thanks, and rest knowing everything is in someone else’s concerned and capable hands. That sounds ridiculous when I say it out loud, and yet isn’t that exactly how many of us, me included, have lived? Not only is this foolish, but it is a gross neglect of a citizens’ duty. And besides, how has that “let someone else take care of it” philosophy been working out for us?

Your vote is not your only voice.

We are to be vigilant, but when taking a stand in the public arena is labeled “politics”, many run. I say, if upholding the freedom you intend to enjoy for a lifetime is called politics, so be it. Suck it up and act like an American. I speak first to myself.

It’s essential we make no apologies and do not back down. If an elected body has no “governing citizens” standing guard, OUR own interests are at risk.

A new session is about to begin for the Lake Park commission on Wednesday, July, 13th. Some are hoping the new commission votes will put an end to the “bickering” at past town meetings. They hope we’ll all just sit down and play nice now. “Fireworks” had become a regular occurrence, and they found that embarrassing, as if to defend principles or facts or disagree in public over money or who is in control of questionable town business means those involved are being petty. I think our founders would have found the engagement wildly in line with our part of the deal. And the lively debate sure beats the semi-coma brought about by the usual droning on of an overwhelming bureaucracy.

The battle between good and evil is not a quiet conversation. Shining light on the dealings of any town leadership and correcting that which is errant is the people’s job.

To be told to stand down or to be branded a troublemaker for holding town dealings up to thorough scrutiny is evidence that something isn’t right. Someone doesn’t understand how our republic works.

And the day that there is an abundance of peace, love and happiness, overflowing into streams of beauty and kindness, visited by sparkly unicorns flying over skittle rainbows with a huge pot of gold at the end, then you know what, we’d better high tail it to the meeting even faster. Because it’s our job to make certain the unicorn doesn’t eat all our skittles and make off with our town’s pot of gold. That is what a government of the people is all about.

Okay, the unicorns might be over the top. But I’m sticking with the skittles and the gold. We absolutely must stand and watch, explore, study, ask and critique, and when we find question marks hovering overhead and inconsistencies and nonsensical decisions being made, we are duty bound to make some noise. If those elected can’t handle vigilant citizens, they can resign. And if that noise sounds a little like fourth of July fireworks, all the better!

Then we will know that freedom is ringing loud and clear in Lake Park. And besides, that kind of fireworks display comes at no cost to the taxpayers. Might even save ‘em a couple million from the looks of things.

Stand guard with us on Wednesday, July 13th, at Town Hall Chambers. It’s YOUR town. 

UPDATE: For further reading on this topic, click this link Leadership vs Power for an article by Robert Wilson, from the January/February 2010 publication of “Professional Engineer” Magazine