But as they say, “freedom isn’t free”. There’s a cost, not only in money, but in the responsibilities that come with being a citizen of the planet. One of the greatest is the responsibility to actively participate in the governing process. I know, I’ve harped on this before, and I’ll continue to harp on it until the cows come home.
The Legislature just finished for the year – after a sixty-day regular session, followed by a thirty-day special session (at which no work got done until day 27), followed by a seven-hour second special session that ran overnight, our lawmakers finally adopted a budget and went home. Home to campaign for re-election this fall. It wasn’t even twenty-four hours after the final gavel fell that I started getting phone calls soliciting support. All I can say is thank God for caller ID.
In case you haven’t noticed, there is a big election this year. We’ve got a ballot with the President, a Senator, a Governor and a host of other state-wide offices, every member of the US Congress, and every member of the Washington State House, and about half the Washington State Senate. I know it’s early, and I know it’s probably the last thing you want to think about in May – I know it is for me. But if we as riders, not to mention citizens, want things to get better down the road, we have to pay attention, we have to get involved, and we have to participate. If we don’t then nothing will change.
This summer you’re going to see a lot of political signs on the sides of the roads, hear a lot of ads on TV, get phone calls and enough junk mail to fill you recycle bin several times over. You may even get a knock on the door, or run into a candidate out in the community. You will no doubt feel electioneering overload by this summer and just want to run away from it all. That’s what sunny weekends and motorcycles are made for! But when you get back, it’s gonna be waiting for you. Don’t ignore it.
Take a moment and engage yourself in the process. Let them know what you think, not only as a motorcycle rider, but as a citizen. It’s not hopeless, they actually do listen. They may not agree, but a dialogue starts the education process. It’s these little things that lead us to big things. Letting candidates for office know what is important to us – what it takes to earn our vote and our support is what’s gonna make a difference in the short and the long run.
Does it matter? Yes it does. Without information and knowledge, decisions are made in a vacuum. If our elected officials don’t know what we like, what we want, what we don’t want, how else will they make a decision. If they don’t know that we ride, and that rider issues are important to a number of the folks who vote for them, why would they bother to pay attention when someone representing a riders group approaches them and asks for their support on an issue?
So if getting the roads fixed and rideable is something that’s important to you, speak up this summer when the candidates come a callin’. If rider safety and education is important, tell ‘em! If you want the helmet law repealed, demand it when they ask you what’s important to you. You know I get emails all the time from riders saying “why does the government demand I wear a helmet, I want that repealed”. I generally respond back “well what have you done to let them know that’s and important issue for you?” You know, I rarely hear back from these folks. Sometimes I think they assume I can wave a magic wand and make it happen. Oh, if only that were true! I think most folks just assume either that their elected officials already know everything, or that their individual voice doesn’t matter. They are wrong on all three. Officials don’t know, your voice does matter, and I don’t have a magic wand.
Yes, with the freedom to ride comes responsibility. Part of that responsibility is speaking up, letting candidates out campaigning this summer know how you feel, and voting come this November. Don’t take that responsibility seriously and your freedom to ride will inevitably slip away. When it does, don’t come crying to me.
On a separate note: Last month’s column suggesting an annual Law Enforcement Memorial ride brought an e-mail notice from Sid Beech who belongs to the Tacoma Chapter of the Washington Road Dawgs MC. They are a club of retired and working police officers from numerous South Puget Sound law enforcement agencies. The Road Dawgs MC is going to sponsor a Fallen Officers Ride. This is short notice, but it’s a start. They are going to have the first ride on Saturday May 12th, the beginning of Police Week. It will start at Destination Harley-Davidson in Tacoma at 9am with registration, and departure is at 10am. They are suggesting a $10 donation, with the funds going to help the children of fallen officers. They will ride the back roads to the Fallen Officers memorial in Olympia. This is exactly what I was hoping for! He also tells me that for the last eight years they have sponsored a Law Enforcement Police Memorial Ride. You’ll find details on the calendar page of this issue. This year’s ride is on July 7th leaving from Tacoma Police headquarters and heading to Wenatchee, returning on the 8th. Proceeds are donated to the Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital sexual assault unit. Kudos to the Tacoma Road Dawgs for both these great rides. Lets hope they grow and blossom to something as big and as wonderful as Children’s Ride.
Gary can be reached at email@example.com and you can read his blog at http://grgardner.livejournal.com