By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
That was not a way to display patriotism
Placeholder Image
One day two weeks ago I parked my car and was headed inside a Ceres eatery for a quick bite for lunch. A disheveled looking man on his bicycle was coming my way and since I was on Hatch Road I assumed I was about to be hit up for some drug money.

I was startled when he asked me to sign a petition in his hand instead.

I politely turned him down, telling him that I never sign petitions on the fly about things I have not studied. Far too many people are willing to sign a petition without knowing both the pros and cons of the issue. And far too many people sign petitions outside of stores and post offices because they feel some peer pressure or feel their signature is a quick way to get rid of a nuisance.

The young man gave his spiel like, "Want to sign this petition so they can't take any more of our money?" When I told him I would need to research it, he seemed dumbfounded and stammered, "Well, it's all right here."

I knew I was wasting my time. He wanted my signature not because he actually believed in the cause but because somebody was paying him based on the amount of signatures he collected. He didn't really care that I wanted to know the issues; just wanted to know if I was a registered voter and he just wanted my ink.

I am not disputing the power of a petition. Some are gathered with noble intentions. Sometimes bad intentions. Most petitions are signed after the gatherer frames the issue with a dishonestly slanted patter. Remember how 50,000 were duped into a recall petition for the recall of then state Senator Jeff Denham? Those pushing the petitions on busy shoppers said things like, "Sign this if you want more funding for our schools," all not knowing it was crafted by a Democrat who wanted to punish Denham for not caving into the tax-and-spend red-ink state budget of 2007. Enough dummies signed the petition to get the recall election placed on a June 3, 2008 ballot but it failed in a 76 to 24 percent margin. Common sense prevailed that time.

I fear that anymore that's about as close to the political process that most Americans come: petitions outside of Target or Walmart. There seems to be few people who dig into the issues, accepting only media hype and spin on an issue or how handsome a candidate appears or how slick he talks. An electorate which fails to do its homework gets the quality of candidates it deserves. It may even get people who wile their way into the Oval Office who pledge "change, change, change" only to shock and dismay with policies that few bothered to question beyond his "good looks" and smooth oratory.

I was speaking about this topic to my daughter-in-law, saying it's the responsibility of all Americans to not just vote but to spend time studying the issues. I love her to pieces but her response was disappointing: "Who's got time?" Wait, I told her, my youngest son can serve in the Air Force to defend his country and others can die for our freedom and the right to vote and we answer by saying we don't have time? No wonder Americans fall for slick politicians, whether it's a Huey Long in Louisiana - who was so corrupt and dictatorial that people wanted him shot (and he was in 1935) - or an Obama who everybody is ready to block against a second term.

Yeah, there was a lot of Fourth of July celebrating this past weekend. Funny that more celebrate our nation's freedoms by breaking the laws governing things that explode or leave the ground or leave their illegal firework debris in the street. But I'm saddened by knowing in my heart that's all it is: A chance to have a good time. A chance to break open the Budweiser and illegal fireworks. We seem more interested in dazzling the kiddies with sparklers than in correcting national leaders who caused this fiscal quandry that defies the imagination and threatens the economic security of even those who do give a flip. Truth is, few even seem to know what the day represents.

I bet you I could get a petition going to create a holiday for Thomas Crapper, the man who improved the toilet, and get millions to sign it if it meant another three-day weekend.

What I saw this past weekend wasn't patriotism. I'd eat my words if I saw more and more people waded through a Voter's Handbook come Election season and earnestly seek to know what they're voting on.

How do you feel? Let Jeff by e-mailing him at