Put Your Voter to the Wheel

Perhaps we in the media neglected to mention it, but there was an election last week. Judging by the number of students who showed up to vote, I’m guessing there must have been a really good “Simpsons” episode on that day.

Voter apathy has been an issue ever since voting was discovered back in ancient Rome, where democracy was soon replaced with drunken immorality and irresponsibile recklessness, which fortunately bears no resemblance to the United States of today. People stopped voting, the same officials stayed in office, and nothing ever changed. Well, except that the empire was destroyed and all the people were killed.

BYU students, in particular, seem to be uninterested in voting in local elections. Maybe they think they aren’t allowed to vote in Provo. Are they allowed to vote? Maybe they are; maybe they aren’t; I don’t feel like doing the research to find out. The point is, most of us DON’T vote in local elections.

Another reason many students don’t vote is that they don’t care about local issues. Frankly, I am shocked and appalled that so many students feel this way. I thought I was the only one. Really, I think we’ve proven to the people of Provo that we don’t care about local issues, except when they pertain to us specifically. Self-centered? Maybe; maybe not. Again, I don’t feel like doing the research to find out. The Daily Universe always dutifully covers all the candidates and the various races, but we are well aware of the fact that most of the readers couldn’t care less. We only do it so we look credible as a newspaper. Of course, spelling all the candidates’ names correctly would make us look even more credible, but that’s a step we’re not yet prepared to take.

That’s not to say that no students ever get involved. Some do. For example, last year, BYU student Joseph Anderson ran for — and won — a seat on the Orem City Council. Now the city of Orem has a BYU student’s input on local matters. Too bad nothing happening in Orem has anything to do with BYU. Just think how it would be if we got one of our fellow students on the PROVO City Council! I bet we’d see some changes in parking ordinances and what’s allowed to pass for an “apartment” in this town! (Rule #1: abolition of all cinder block.)

So I’m thinking that in this last election, I should have run for a spot on the Provo City Council. (That is, if there was a spot open. I don’t remember if there was or not, and no one sitting near me as I type this remembers either.) “You?” you say with incredulity. “What can YOU do?” The answer is: nothing. I can’t do anything. I’m barely capable of piling enough words together to equal one column every week; I certainly can’t provide any adequate leadership.

But it would appear that someone who won’t change anything is exactly what the people of Provo and Orem want. I base this on the fact that every time someone has tried to build something in this area, the local residents have protested it. A new Smith’s in west Provo? Neighbors don’t want it. The new mall in East Bay? The neighbors don’t want it. A half-way house in Orem for troubled youth? The neighbors don’t want it. Everyone seems to agree that a Smith’s, a new mall and a place to help youth are good IDEAS; they just don’t want them near where THEY live. Sort of how everyone agrees Utah should have more Democrats, so that things are more balanced, but nobody wants to be the one to actually BECOME a Democrat.

The most ludicrous example came just a few weeks ago, when Provo put stop signs at the intersection of Iriquois Drive and North Temple Drive. Traffic going north and south on Iriquois already had to stop; now cars going east and west on North Temple had to stop, too, making it a four-way stop. The reason for this was that many people would zip through the stop signs and run smack into cars — which were NOT required to stop — traveling on North Temple. There had been something like seven jillion accidents within the past two weeks, so the city very sensibly put stops signs there, figuring that if everyone had to stop, it would dramatically decrease the number of accidents.

And guess what. The local residents complained about the new stop signs. That’s right, they were upset by STOP SIGNS! Come on, people! It’s not like the city wanted to build a brothel, or a moat with crocodiles. They’re STOP SIGNS! They PREVENT DEATH! And yet the people don’t want them. “We like the sound of screeching tires, the smell of burnt rubber, the look of blood and matted hair caked on the asphalt!” is what they seemed to be saying. “Don’t take away our accidents!”

And so I have concluded that while we college students tend to be spontaneous, fun-loving, adventurous sorts, the rest of the people in Utah Valley don’t want anything to change, ever. Even if it seems like a good change, they don’t want it: “Good change” is an oxymoron. If it’s new or different, it must be bad.

So next year, I’m running on the “I Won’t Change a Thing” platform. Under my leadership, nothing will get better, nothing will get worse, nothing will get anything. We’ll just keep going the same direction we’ve been going, forever and ever

Of course, that’s only if I get elected, and since no one votes, I guess my chances of getting elected are pretty slim. So much for trying to do my civic duty. I’m going back to “The Simpsons.”

This appeared as a "Snide Remarks" column, but on a Tuesday, and on the opinion page, rather than on a Monday on the lifestyle page. The reason is that I had actually written more columns than I needed for the semester. Normally, I could just hold one over and use it later, but in this case, I had written a few that were somewhat timely and needed to run right away. This was one of them, and since it actually expressed some opinions, it seemed like a good choice to go on the opinion page.

Several days later, I received this irate e-mail, with the subject line "You are discusting" (that's right, with a "c"). This is the e-mail exactly as I received it:

Erick-- "We like the sound of screeching tires, the smell of burnt rubber, the look of blood and matted hair caked on the asphalt!"

This shows a complete lack of taste. In fact, I'm not so sure YOU don't like those things. Refering to those gross things makes you sound like a ten year old boy looking at roadkill. Why don't you just grow up?

A sobering question indeed, and one which I ponder frequently.