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On Fears, Fantasies and Critical Thinking

by Steve Harrison

As Halloween approaches, many are consumed with the desire to scare each other with elaborate costumes and behavior. Ghosts and witches, who previously ruled this holiday, have been replaced by more horrific entities: The ubiquitous walking dead and chainsaw-wielding psychopaths. It’s all in fun of course, but it’s also extremely ironic. Because many of us live in genuine fear of imaginary monsters for the other 364 days of the year, and it negatively alters our understanding of the world around us.

Currently the most obvious example of this is our reaction to the handful of Ebola Virus cases in the US. Yes, it’s a scary little virus, that can devastate a human body in a short period of time. But in the few weeks since it first arrived in the US, it has claimed only one life. Yet some 2,500 people have been killed in traffic accidents, and (believe it or not) an even higher number have died from accidental poisoning. Deaths associated with firearms are also approaching this number, many of them suicides, yet there is a healthy percentage of people who believe easier access to firearms would bring those numbers down. Maybe they can be trained well enough to target the Ebola Virus when it sneaks across the border.

Something else has happened during that short period of time: Over 30,000 women and girls were sexually assaulted, most of them by somebody they knew, yet only a small percentage of those familiar monsters will have to answer for their crimes. I find that considerably more frightening than any brain-eating shuffling zombie, and you should, too. Thousands of sociopaths are walking the streets of our cities and towns, and we go to great lengths to convince ourselves they’re not really there, they are simply the product of someone else’s imagination. Shameful and irresponsible are a few words that come to mind, but I bet you could come up with some others if you thought about it. Please do.

Moving on to some other unfounded fears we seem to be susceptible to, let’s take a look at the aura of alleged voter fraud. Some sources would have us believe there is a conspiracy to subvert our elections, a movement to “take over” our government by individuals casting fraudulent ballots. If you would put on your critical thinking cap for just one minute, you’d realize that particular fear defies logic. While each vote is important, it is not important enough to risk fines or incarceration. And if you were an undocumented worker/illegal alien immigrant, would you jeopardize your continued anonymity and risk deportation, just to cast one fraudulent vote in an election? Of course you wouldn’t. And you wouldn’t accept a cash handout to do it, either, considering it may have cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars to get here in the first place.

Plainly put, there isn’t a conspiracy to sway our elections using unqualified voters. But there is a conspiracy to reduce the number of qualified voters that show up at the polls. Voter ID was only part of the law that was passed recently. There were 27 other “reforms” that were instituted along with the photo ID requirement, and many of them were designed to place roadblocks in the way of potential voters.

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Same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting might not seem that important to those living in suburbia in the same house they’ve been in for the last fifteen years or so, but that level of comfort and security is not shared by all citizens. Many on the lower rungs of the economic ladder are forced to move every 18-24 months, to a new apartment or rented house. Sometimes they move a great distance from their previous home, and sometimes only a few blocks away. But that few blocks is often far enough to put them in a different voting precinct. In the past, they could change their voter registration during One-Stop early voting, or still cast a vote in their old precinct on Election Day after showing up in the wrong place. Not anymore.

Banking on your fears of a non-existent voter fraud problem, lawmakers have enacted rules that adversely impact those voters who are already dealing with adversity on a daily basis. This might suit those of you who would prefer to live in a society that is governed by the wealthy, or the economically successful, or the people who are intelligent enough to grasp opportunity and avoid bad decisions, or however you want to phrase it. But that is not democracy. It isn’t even a reasonable facsimile. True democracy places no roadblocks in front of voters, it welcomes them with open arms. True democracy doesn’t require you to pass a test or dig in your pocket for a few shillings, it throws the door open for one and all.

And out of that noisy hubbub of voices, greatness emerges.

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