Debate Rave, Driving Rant
What to love and hate about living in East Greenwich this week.
RAVE: Hands up – who learned something new from the House District 30 Debates that took place last Wednesday?
Seriously, I really want to know because I couldn’t make it. Darn school meetings.
But my kids went and they certainly came back with a clearer sense of whom they would vote for – that is, if they were old enough to vote.
I, on the other hand, read the follow up of the debate published on this site and now have a clearer sense of whom I will indeed vote for – because I am most certainly old enough to vote.
So, did we really need to corral all of the candidates in one place to help us make an informed choice on November 6?
Well, that’s debatable.
If we are talking about the presidential debates, I would have to say no.
However, local politics are a much less polished shindig. It’s like the difference between a so-called reality TV show like Bravo’s Real Housewives of [name your affluent city] and a real down-and-dirty raw program like Public Access’ We The People of Rhode Island.
Whatever the pundits say, no one should win or lose a political debate. (Revise that – the winner and loser are determined on Election Day.) After all, being a strong orator doesn’t necessarily translate that a person will govern well. It simply means that they talk a good game. So, in that context, a political debate is a way for the candidates to concisely and compellingly present their positions, highlight their differences and get their message out to a larger platform.
But the reality is that today’s political world is a tightly-scripted place in which the true object for the candidate in larger political debates is to say as little as possible about anything that really matters and to say absolutely nothing new. As someone tweeted during one of the recent Obama/Romney shout outs (which is what I am calling those media events), “If that debate changed your opinion, you probably shouldn't be voting.”
On the other hand, local debates are one of the few times we can truly hear the views of the people who hope to represent us, our town, our state. Unlike the presidential hooplas, we have not heard their positions ad nausea. So this forum and its subsequent coverage is their shot at reaching a critical mass of the population.
And this is why these local debates are important. They help to remind us to think, possibly rethink, perhaps discuss, argue (if you live in my house) or even debate the issues and hopefully, get off our rumps and vote on November 6. And, perhaps, also be grateful that we don’t have to sit through the three-hour face-to-face discussions that took place when the first political debates happened in 1858 between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas.
RANT: Welcome back to my weekly special “Rude and Selfish Drivers – Installment Three.”
In his book The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw paid homage to the generation that emerged from the Great Depression to fight Hitler and other forms of tyranny (bear with me, I do have a relevant point that I am getting to). Their efforts were all about sacrifice so that their children could enjoy a better life. They sacrificed on the front lines of battle and back home in the factories that produced what was needed to wage war.
I, on the other hand, am a card-carrying member of the Baby Boom generation– a group that is hardly known for its selflessness – and I can’t help but wonder: were my parents more thoughtful drivers than I am?
Truly, I don’t know if the self-centered way people seem to drive these days is indicative our generation – or simply a side effect of the fact that no one seems to have any time to do anything in the slow lane these days.
I know I have been guilty of not letting drivers come into my lane, taking advantage of a lane cleared by an ambulance, getting out of a closed lane at the last possible second and a number of other me-me-me driving moves. But one thing I do not do, have ever done, will ever do, is make an illegal move simply because the car in front of me is going too slowly (read: five miles over the speed limit).
OK, I know I am an irritating car to drive behind. My natural speed used to be 80 mph on I-95. But after I ditched my Franken-Subaru (so-called because we had replaced so many parts) for what I call my OJ-mobile (because it seems to organically attract police attention) and being stopped four times in the space of one month, I now keep well within the speed limit.
So there I was, tootling down Route 2 (and it always seems to be Route 2). The painted line between the two directions of traffic is a solid, no-passing marker. Still, on several occasions in the past week, the driver behind me decided that their schedule was more important than everyone else’s safety and revved past me like it was a matter of life or death (which they indeed made it). Obviously, their grandmother never used to say to them: “It is better to be a little late in this life than early to the next life.”
Now here’s the thing – it turns out that these people who drive according to their whims and immediate needs increase the time the rest of us have to spend on the road. In research by some physicists and a computer scientist, the term for this is the Price of Anarchy (doncha just love it?).
Here’s another thing: according to studies by insurance companies, the cause of most accidents, or near-collisions, can be traced to selfish driving on the part of motorists.
This suggests that we would all be a lot safer if we acted like more like Gandhi and less like Genghis Kan when driving, our roads – and we – would be safer.
I know all of us have experienced these types of it’s-all-about-me drivers:
- If I am approaching you at night with my high-beams on, why should I turn them down to low beam? I wouldn’t be able to see.
- I can’t be bothered to use my blinkers. I know where I’m going.
- You would like to pull out of that parking lot and onto the busy road I’m driving down? Too bad.
- Even though I can practically read your odometer, I don’t consider this tail gating, simply an incentive to get you to move faster.
- Even though you are approaching and there is no one behind you, I am going to pull right out in front of you to turn onto the road. So long, sucker!
- Look at me go, zoom zoom. I don't brake for pedestrians.
- Your reverse lights work just fine and I can see that you have proceeded to back out of that parking space, but never mind me, I am going to drive past you anyhow.
- We have been going the same direction for at least 4 miles, me swerving in and out of traffic like I’m training for NASCAR - but after spotting that state trooper up ahead, I jump into your lane and proceed to go below the speed limit ...for five miles anyway.
OK, I’m done – though I am sure you can – and will – add more to this incomplete list. My point is that I assume that the goal of every driver is to get where they need to go without serious incident, injury or death. I just don’t understand why everyone doesn’t drive like it.
I apologize for the interruption. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming: "Dancing with Race Car Drivers."