All I Want For Christmas
Is there any more iconic Hollywood image of Christmas than that of little Ralphie Parker in "A Christmas Story," clinging to the top of the department store slide in a desperate attempt to plead his gift request to Santa--“No, no, I want an official Red Ryder carbine-action two hundred shot range model air rifle!”? Earlier in the story, Ralphie even admits to no longer believing in Santa, but seemingly getting nowhere in his other efforts to cajole his parents into the purchase, he submits to a secular version of Pascal’s Wager.
There is something heartwarming and, given the recent political environment, something eerily poignant about Ralphie’s gambit. Quickly losing hope, he seeks out everyone and anyone who might be able to aide in his quest to receive the blue steel beauty with the compass in the stock and that thing that tells time (and yes, that IS my house with the leg lamp prominently displayed in the front window – it’s a major award). Whether you’re a 99%-er or a Tea Party member, you’ve got to really empathize with his plight. After all, politicians’ approval ratings aren’t in the single digits just because we’re not getting what we want, but, because we’re beginning to think we’re no longer even being heard.
If you peel back all the party politics and radical rhetoric, most people are actually supporting some very similar goals. But regardless of the demands of their constituents, most politicians quickly dismiss the argument with the impertinent equivalent of, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” We’re not having any logical discussions anymore, you don’t see politicians give you the list of pros and cons, and regardless of how many grizzly bears have been spotted near Polaski’s Candy Store, their minds are seemingly made up.
So what are we to do? Well, Raphie went to Santa, so I think I’m willing to give it a try also. Well, maybe not with Saint Nick, but with an option that I, likewise, stopped believing in quite a while ago: the media. So here you go Lakewood Observer, here’s my Christmas list. I’m getting nowhere talking to politicians, so I’m putting my last hope in Jim O’Bryan, who, come to think of it, would make a rather convincing Santa Claus...
First of all, for my friends over at the Westerly, I want a daily Community Circulator. I want it to loop around to all the critical Lakewood stops (the hospital, grocery stores, etc.) and I want it to have a GPS transponder so that anyone who wants to can use an app to know just where it is at any given time so they don’t have to wait outside in the rain or snow hoping that they didn’t just miss it. And to keep it affordable for seniors, I want it to have a powerful speaker system and tricked out interior so that you can run it on Friday and Saturday nights as a party bus for the drunks to get from bar to bar.
For my family that comes into town a couple times a year, I want a fishing pier and boardwalk at Lakewood Park, complete with seasonal kiosks that can be leased out to local businesses looking to sell their wares. I’m sick and tired of Lakewood being the only waterfront community that has a “look but don’t touch” mentality when it comes to its biggest marketable resource.
For my son, I’d humbly like to ask for a finished High School. He’s only at Harding this year, but at the rate we’re going, if I don’t ask now, by the time he moves up, the mascot might officially get changed from the Ranger to the Construction Worker. Come on people, we might be the only school system in the country that has more wheels on our students’ classrooms than on the vehicles the city officially operates to get them there.
And for me, my request is much less complicated but much more problematic. I want candidates. Not politicians, candidates. Next election, I would love to be blessed with a handful of decent, honest, hard-working citizens who are willing to throw their hats in the ring and give civic leadership a try. As a capitalist, I believe in the benefits of open competition. It’s not that I’m against our current Mayor or Council Members, or think that they are necessarily doing a bad job. But I think the easiest way to keep an elected official on track is to let them know that there are other options. Letting a person run unopposed is akin to us admitting that we have few expectations and even fewer ambitions. Having an opponent forces debate, it demands discussion, and it mandates that each candidate make an argument not just that they can do the job, but that they can do it better than the other person.
That’s it. That’s all I want. I’m willing to live without a movie theatre, I'm willing to tolerate never being more than twenty yards from a drug store, and I’ve gotten strangely comfortable with having a six foot squirrel hocking cell phones at the end of the block. If Ralphie can have his BB gun, I don’t think it’s too much to ask if we can have a few things that’ll make our city better. So, Mr. O’Bryan-claus and all you elves over at the Observer, if you would be so kind as to honor my Christmas list, I’ll be sure to drink my Ovaltine.