We take for granted what people die for elsewhere

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

I voted last week in our local and state elections. They voted in the Ukraine also recently, but it was a little more complicated.

They voted out their leader-turned-dictator, Viktor Yanukovych, but it took a little more effort than simply casting a vote.

More than 80 protesters who occupied the ‘Maidan,’ the name for both the square and the protest movement in Kiev, were gunned down by government security forces.

Protesters want democracy. They voted with their actions. They sacrificed and kept the pressure on. Sharpshooters were not able to disburse them. When one protester was shot, he was dragged away and another took his place.

I was watching it on YouTube as one by one protesters fell to another sharpshooter’s bullet. It was like shooting fish in a barrel.

I realize that the Ukranian situation is more complicated than what I have room for here, but my point is that what we take for granted here, people are prepared to die for elsewhere.

In these off-year elections, it’s hard to excite the masses, especially in the primary races. I tried it in 1998 when I ran unsuccessfully for Brazoria County Judge. I spent a lot of money and time hoping to get peoples’ attention.

It didn’t work well enough to win. Going up against an incumbent was like swimming upstream. But I think the campaign accomplished a secondary goal.

Those of you who voted in 1998 may remember that we debated several important issues affecting the daily lives of Brazoria County residents, like tax abatement and taxpayers footing the bill for many expenditures by county officials that were private and should have been reimbursed.

We debated how much expansion - and on what terms and how fast it took place - was best for the county; how new development in the northern section should be handled; how the county’s business should be only for the benefit of the residents, nothing else.

I kept repeating that I had only one measuring stick: If it’s good for the people of the county, we’ll do it. That was generalizing some complicated issues, but during a campaign, itemizing each little detail loses a lot in translation. I felt very strongly about the Optional Road Law, but explaining its benefits to a crowd in five minutes was difficult.

I wanted to win, obviously. I still feel that I would have made a good, hard-working county judge. I would have served the people well. But the chances were slim. I ran anyway.

It was more of a protest candidacy than anything else, shedding light on issues that were important to me. I was spreading a message the peaceful way, like today’s candidates are spreading theirs.

We don’t need to set fires in the town square to get our message out.

When I printed controversial stories in The Bulletin about our county government, nobody from the powers in place tried to shut me down. A few opponents made awkward attempts to go after my advertisers, but that just landed me more advertisers.

One time, a group that shall remain nameless because we kissed and made up a long time ago, even sent me a letter letting me know why they would not deal with The Bulletin and why they were freezing us out of all advertisements.

The letter ran Page 1 the next week, and I had to add four more pages to a special section targeted by the group. I admit that I sometimes miss the rocky ride of those days. Things have calmed down quite a bit since then.

I could tell war stories forever, but I need to return to my premise.

I hope things work out in the Ukraine. I know it is complicated, and it may take a while for cooler heads to prevail. I hope the next time they decide who their leaders should be, it will be at the ballot box, safe and sound, with no government snipers around.

I also hope that once they achieve their goal, they also will cherish democracy and cradle it like we have since 1776.

I know we have problems. I know we’re not perfect and that a democracy has its built-in friction.
But it’s friction created by words, not weapons. That’s how our democracy functions. And every time we vote, we express our protest or agreement, on all levels.

Note to the protesters in Kiev: Once things settle down, copy our Constitution. It’s a good one and will serve you well for many years.