By ROBERT JUMPER
One Feather Editor
It is the old good luck charm for a marriage ceremony, making sure you have the necessary tools to ward off evil spirits from your wedding and the wedded bliss in years to come. Back in Victorian times, these were talismans of protection that the bride would wear on her dress. According to one statistics firm, the divorce rate still hovers around 50 percent, with first-time marriages failing about 41 percent of the time. Numbers like that don’t speak well of the mystical power of the old, new, borrowed, and blue.
In looking at our candidates for elected office, the thought of those lucky pieces and marriage popped into my head. In many ways, our elections are about who we will be married to for the next two to four years. They will be asking us for stuff, and we will be asking them for stuff, like housing, food, entertainment, transportation, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Marriage is bound in a covenant relationship, like a charter or constitution. You swear to God and state that you will be bound in holy matrimony ‘til death do you part’, or like in government, two to four years.
We have seen many changes in the past two decades. The adult gaming dollars ushered in a world of change in our Tribe, some very good and some not so much. And like beauty, success and progress is in the eye of the beholder. While one person may say that the Tribe has come a long way, another might say that it has gone backward. It is all a matter of perspective.
Many of those who are vying for the seats of power have names that are very familiar, while some are not nearly as well known and will have to battle for name recognition in addition to selling their message to the community. I have often wondered why candidates insist on putting their mug (or portrait) shot on their campaign materials. The only thing a voter sees on a ballot is a name. And those little campaign eyesores, the little 18”x 24” corrugated cardboard signs that pop up like dandelions in spring, aren’t big enough to put picture, name, and message on, although I have seen many make the attempt. I don’t know how effective those things are (someone should get a grant and do a study), but they sure are a nuisance to me. I have always wondered what kind of community member would base their vote on the attractiveness of a roadside political sign.
Elections are taking on a new orientation as well. Less and less do you hear off-Boundary tribal members say that voting should be left to those living on the Qualla Boundary. That is probably because, as the Tribe has grown, the land available for living on the Boundary has not. Oh, as we complete multilevel apartment complexes, we do get a few more tribal members who can make a home on the Boundary, but most of our people live off-Boundary out of necessity. There is simply not enough room for all of us, especially those who have families and want a home to call their own. And while you will hear blame go to current and/or previous administrations, expecting our leaders to defy physics just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
So, constituent services will play a big role in the marriage, I mean, election. Janet Jackson released a song in 1986 titled “What have you done for me lately?” and she sang, “Used to be a time when you would pamper me, used to brag about it all the time. Your friends seem to think that you’re so peachy-keen, but friends say neglect is on your mind. You ought to be thankful for the little things, but little things are all you seem to give. You’re always puttin’ off what we could do today. Soap opera says you’ve got one life to live. Who’s right, who’s wrong?”
Unfortunately, for many of us in the community, we have a difficulty in thinking beyond today. We are very much impulse buyers. We get while the getting is good. So those who make us promises of quick and easy will tickle our ears. We must think beyond “What have you done for me lately?” and ask our candidates, new and incumbent, how will you assure me of sustainability, even if it hurts in the short term? We must stop asking our governmental partners to pay for seats, because that is not called a marriage. It is called “something else”.
We, the One Feather and the community, will be asking questions of the candidates that are going to attempt to win a seat on Tribal Council, Executive Office, and School Board. In our analogy, we could call this period the dating process, the time leading up to the Primary. This is an important time where incumbents will try to convince us that they have done great things and the things that did not get accomplished while seated were the fault of the “other guy or branch”. The candidates who are not incumbents will try to convince us of the great things that they will do and that the things are not getting done are not done because they are not in the seat and those who are, are just not doing it right.
People who marry folks based on promises usually find themselves in a loveless marriage locked into a relationship with someone that are miserable with until they can get out of it. As you begin the process of sizing up the candidates for the leadership positions of our Tribe, think about the long-term health of our community. And as difficult as it can be, when we are selecting those who will drive our Tribe forward, it may be that friends and family members are not the best qualified or most passionate. When we are dealing with friends and family, it is very hard to be objective. We feel like we owe them. It is a tradition in some circles. And I am not saying anything against those who may be candidates and close to you. I am saying that when dealing with those close to us, we must try that much harder to be unbiased in our voting and selection of tribal officials.
We are only six months away from the governmental wedding day (inauguration). And, that time will evaporate quickly. During the dating and engagement, let’s keep our eyes wide-open. Whoever we marry (elect), we will have to live with for a while.