Monday, August 27, 2018

The Game Has Changed...Slightly

It has been literally decades since Elbert County Republican primaries didn't mark the end of an election season. Stick a fork in it - the Republicans won..again!  Oh sure, there was always that period of time when the Democrat running for office would raise holy hell about the Republican party bosses  officially going on record saying that they saw absolutely no reason to debate a Democratic candidate.  This typically was for a very short period of time.  Generally speaking, the numbers were such that our local G.O.P.  had no interest in giving a platform to any idea that was not approved by the Republican Central Committee.  

It is a sickening feeling that rests in the stomach of any hard working Democrat in a solidly red Elbert County to know the race is over the day after the Republicans have pared down their hopefuls during the summer months.  Game, set and match,  Elephants.  The only way an Elbert County Republican could ever understand this overwhelming mental mindset of failure is to move to Boulder and run for anything.  Oh, and be more qualified than your Democratic opponent.  Ever feel that?  Probably not.

It has and will continue to be a predominantly conservative majority here in Elbert for decades to come.  The only thing that will change that fact is if, in our efforts to grow the county out of its agricultural roots, we turn it into a bedroom community of high density, low cost housing to house workers for the Denver metro area.  And THAT is when the water will completely disappear and the local political landscape will begin to turn from red to blue.  It is just a matter of time.

That said, an interesting thing happened on the way to the 2018 election in November.  The State of Colorado gave Independent voters a voice that they have not had before.  They got to vote in the primary election of one of the two dominant parties.  And to say that the Independent voters took the opportunity to express their opinion does not do them justice.  They did what no one, especially the local Republicans, thought was possible.  They took the Sheriff's race away from the Elbert County Republicans Central Committee and allowed the underdog, Tim Norton, a comfortable win.  Tim is a Republican, but many in the party found the result to be horrifying!  The vaunted Elbert County Republican Machine failed to produce the predicted winner.  Not only that, but Rick Pettitt, their choice for the EC Commissioner’s primary race,  won by only a two vote margin. 

This put the EC Republican Central Committee in a real funk.  The party began to sense the new reality of Colorado allowing Independents to vote in the primary as Democrats or as Republicans.  That is not the way the Republicans out here have had it for as long as anyone can remember.  How do you control a huge block of people who are not rabid supporters?  Who the hell are these people?  And even if you have a Republican on the ticket, can you be sure, since they were not picked by the Central Committee, that they will do as they are told?  And if they do as they are told, how will this be viewed by the Independents?  Cue the spooky organ music... they don't know!!!

That brings us to today and the selection of a new sheriff for our county.  The eight-year reign of a sheriff whose focus appeared to most as a revenue-generating squadron of leased interceptors with a penchant for stockpiling used military vehicles and weaponry comes to an end in November.  Those who were on board with that model tried everything to get rid of term limits over the years but to no avail.  In a last ditch attempt to get someone who was a disciple of the former sheriff and take Shayne Heap on as Under Sheriff,  the Central Committee offered up Troy McCoy.  That did not fly either, as the only thing Troy talked about was keeping the Feds from coming for your guns.  The Independents weighed in and the Heap Dynasty came to a resounding halt.  The old guard Republicans now find themselves trying to get their heads around giving support to someone who they had been working against in the primaries.   They decided they had no choice, held their noses and headed forward.

But now the problems of never expecting to lose reared its big ugly head for the Elbert County Republicans.  You see, Tim Norton ran against Troy with the slogan, "More Service, Less Politics." The G.O.P. in this county only does one thing...  old cronyism politics.  So they found themselves in the unenviable position of having to tell Tim that he has to tow their bright red political line. 
And that, my friends, means that the Democrat in the race, Don Charobee, has an opening.  Mr. Charobee has more experience and leadership skills in his bag than any candidate that has ever run for the office of Elbert County Sheriff. 

Tim says he is pretty much apolitical and does not want to do politics.  The Republican Party has almost no experience on how to win a close race because the primary was always the grand finale.  So what do they do?  They tell Tim no debates because after all, that is what has worked for over twenty years.   Except nobody knows that much about Tim Norton, only that he was the one who opposed Troy McCoy and the continuation of the Heap Dynasty.  

Don Charobee has an impeccable, lengthy service record to his country and has a tremendous amount of appeal to both Democrats and Independents.  Oh, and remember the old guard conservatives who felt cheated because Tim Norton broke the mold?  Now they are not sure that Don isn't a viable choice because of his service to his nation.

Fast forward to the present.  There are actual Republicans who are crying foul because the Democratic candidate is showing up, answering questions and impressing people with his resume.  How dare he look electable?  One noted Republican woman complained recently that Don was being a distraction because he was passing out literature, shaking hands and wearing Democrat blue instead of just dressing in street clothes at the Elizabeth Farmer's Market!  Really? That’s your complaint? Don isn’t playing fair for those reasons?  If that’s all you’ve got...bring it on.  Having run for commissioner as a Democrat, I can tell you, there are few Republicans without a red, white and blue outfit and they are no shrinking violets. 

So in all likelihood, the numbers are still working in favor of the Republican, but the game has changed...slightly.  Independents want competency over party purity and they demonstrated that in the primary.  Don is extremely well-qualified and he is answering questions at every venue he attends.  The Dems are not directing his campaign's every move.  In fact, they are encouraging his intuition and leadership skills.  It is a winning combination.

I still like both candidates although I was extremely disappointed that Tim refused to debate because it broke his main campaign promise: less politics.  To win his primary was a big deal and it was due in large part to his standing up to the Central Committee. But now, that is no longer the case.  Whether Tim or Don wins, we are in for lots of positive changes. It will be interesting to see if the Republicans learn how to deal with the Independents.  If they don't, you may have some elected Democrats in office in the not too distant future here in Elbert County.

I think I hear a Bob Dylan song, do you?

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Does Experience Matter?

It has been a long while since I sat down and worked on my blog.  We have had many disruptions in the Thomasson household.  I have had serious surgery on my back to fix three vertebra, my wife underwent a seven hour spinal fusion surgical procedure during which she almost bled to death.  We have had health issues with our beloved now-geriatric dogs and one of them had to be put down this last weekend.  Everybody runs into difficult patches like this from time to time.  We face our problems.  We do what is necessary and then we move on to a stage of healing and change.  I am not soliciting sympathy here, it is what it is.

But today, when I was thinking about some of our problems, at a certain point I remembered that there are countless people in this country who have ongoing health issues that they deal with that are chronic and were derived as a result of being in the Armed Forces of the United States.  I felt that their problems and the difficulties that they have in getting treatment through the V.A. (Veterans Administration) gave me a better perspective on my own situation.  

Now stay with me here because I am going to come back to this important point in a few moments. It will take a few twist and turns along the way. Those of you who read my work know that I am a Democrat, that I work with Elbert County to help execute elections and that I have even run for commissioner with the firm knowledge that I was not going to have a snowball's chance in hell of winning.  I do not take on President Trump in this blog even though it is no secret that I am not a fan.  He is still my President.  With that said, I want to point out one blatant flaw in our current Republican majority in the Federal government without any real name calling.  I will stay squarely with verifiable facts and throw a few of those facts out there for  thoughtful discussion.  

The Trump administration has failed to properly run the V.A. and has let the 9,000,000 Veterans and their family members down.  It is a real problem and more important than any arguments that center around disrespecting America.  Standing for the Pledge of Allegiance versus "taking a knee" is a false canard dreamed up by politicians when it is placed next to the abysmal way we are treating the men and women who risked everything for our freedom and came home physically and emotionally wounded or broken.

Today I read an article in Esquire Magazine and I fact checked it against several sources,   It turns out that there are three people in charge of running the V.A. right now.  None are veterans.  None have any experience in running anything that resembles the largest medical complex on the planet.  Nope, the thing that got these three people the job of running the V.A. is that they are all old friends of Donald Trump.  They are card carrying members of his resort, Mar-a-Lago.  One is a lawyer.  One is a Palm Beach doctor who helps wealthy people obtain high-service “concierge” medical care. The third is the reclusive CEO of Marvel Entertainment, Ike Perlmutter.  Let that sink in for just a moment: The comic book guy is in charge of the health and well-being of the people to whom we owe so much in this country.

This is not a good thing.  This is not a political thing.  Plain and simple... this is a disrespectful gross error that should be rectified.  Our president promised us the "Best People" and these three are not qualified nor do they understand the needs of of our Veterans.  Period.  No matter what your political stripes are, no matter whether you are a fan of this president or not, our Veterans deserve the most qualified person available, and that would require a careful search beyond the confines of the locker room at the president's golf club.

Which brings me back to my day and thinking about my own situation.  Oddly enough, I have been thinking about a discussion regarding who is best qualified to become our next sheriff.  Tim Norton and Don Cherobee are both really nice guys.  In my humble opinion, it is the first election cycle in a long while where I am sure we will end up with a good person at the helm of the Elbert County Sheriff's  Department.  I have been drawn into some discussions in regards to which candidate will do the better job.  I can say with no  hesitation that the most qualified person for the job is Don.  Hands down, there has never been a more qualified person running for EC Sheriff than Mr. Charobee.  He has been in law enforcement all over this country and in Europe.  He has decades of leadership under his belt.  He has recommendations from all levels of law enforcement.

Does that mean that others should see things my way and vote for Don over Tim?  No, it does not.  But the arguments against Don that I have been seeing are quite frankly void of reason and more importantly, honesty.  I have heard it said that he has too much investigatory skills and not enough time spent in a patrol car.  I had one person try to argue that if you need a doctor, you don't go to the dentist.  (I still am not sure what that was about.)  But when it boils right down to it, most of the arguments are intellectually dishonest.  Those disgruntled citizens know Don has more experience, better training and much better recommendations than does Tim.  If they would just be honest, they would come out and say that they can't lower themselves to vote for a Democrat. What it says is that a less qualified Republican is a better choice for them than a more qualified lefty.  

Which finally brings us back full circle.  If Elbert County is the place you make your home,  I suspect you love the rural lifestyle and your family is here.  If you or a loved one ever finds themselves in need of a police officer, you won't call the dispatcher and expect them to send out a Republican officer to chase off a burglar. No, you will want the best trained, best equipped person that the department has to offer.  Why we have politicized the sheriff's department in Colorado is beyond me.  It is about following the laws.   Our sheriffs cannot pass gun legislation, and it does not matter one whit whether they like Paul Ryan or Nancy Pelosi.  It is all about service to a community and following the laws of the land.  If you are looking for political purity of ideas over solving crimes or keeping us safe, then in my opinion you have lost the meaning behind law enforcement.  You will notice I did not say law interpretation...that's political and that should not be a consideration.

If you believe the V.A. should be headed by people of integrity, have an impeccable resume that includes military service and an expressed devotion to the 9,000,000 people utilizing the services of the Veterans Administration, you wouldn't just pick one of the guys you play pinochle with at the club.  They may be wonderful people, but that does not mean they should be in charge.  We owe more to our Veterans.  Likewise, if you have two nice guys running for sheriff, a position that by rule should be above all politics, then you should hire an experienced leader.  We owe more to our Elbert citizenry.

But...and I mean this in all sincerity, it is your vote to spend.  Vote the way you must. Just be honest with yourself about whether your vote was about the most qualified or the most politically pure.  There is a huge and troubling difference.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Open Letter to the Chairperson of the Elbert County Republicans

This past week, a friend of mine posted the meme printed below that he had shared from the Elbert County Republicans Facebook page. The letter following this picture is an open letter to Elbert County Republican Chairperson, Tom Peterson. He is responsible for the message that this meme was designed to evoke.  I chose not to let this message to go unchallenged. Please note, I do not believe all Republicans feel this way about Democrats

Dear Mr. Peterson,

Although we have met on numerous occasions, we never have once participated in any kind of meaningful conversation.  It is therefore an  accurate statement to say you do not know me on any kind of personal level.  You may have formed an opinion on me based on my party affiliation, my blog posts, my editorials in local newspapers or my writing for various electronic media outlets.  The same can be said of my opinion of you; I only see what you pass along on the internet in your role as a political chairperxon. I do not know you on any sort of a personal level. 

I have served as the vice chairperson of the Elbert County Democrats. I have been in charge of the party’s website and content.  I took that position very seriously and made sure that if I put up any kind of information that was critical of the Republicans or their leadership, that it was accompanied by the information that the opinion was based upon.  Those who were criticized might disagree with that assertion, but I believe it is true. As I began to disconnect from the leadership in the local party politics and move toward civic issues, I began my blog, Mundus Vult Decipi.  I have tried to point out that partisan politics should have very little to do with local governance. In the sixty or so posts on my blog since it began, I have almost exclusively tried to point out that Elbert County is safely in the control of Republican leadership. Despite the fact that the majority of our county is conservative in makeup, you seem to not be satisfied with what most people recognize as a Republican stronghold.  In fact it appears you would only be satisfied if every Democrat would just pack up and leave. 

But how far away would this citizen have to move away for you to be satisfied, Mr. Peterson? It seems as if the meme you posted wants to paint everyone in my party as someone who hates this country.  Actually, I do not have to guess about your feelings on this matter.  You state in your opening remark for the meme that you in fact do believe that all Democrats hate our country.  So to answer the question with which I began this paragraph, I believe you are saying, leave America. You have no use for any ideology that differs from yours.  My way or the highway! One party rule! I know you are probably saying to yourself that I am being hyperbolic.  The brutal truth is your mindset embraces intolerance  and shuns the founding principles on which this country was founded.  That said, here you are, the chairman of the local Republicans. A leader who believes that memes like the one you posted are good for America, should be viewed as wholesome and make your county a better place to live. Except it is the opposite.

I can only speak for myself, but let me share a few facts that are indisputable about this one, single Democrat who has lived in this county for twenty-one years.  I work hand in hand with my Republican neighbors in my community, doing volunteer work and helping to assure our roads are plowed and if a fire comes, I will show up with my fire mitigation wagon until the firefighters arrive. I work every election cycle knowing full good and well that no Democrat will be elected in Elbert County and that means taking classes and attending meetings which pull me away from my personal life.  If that was not hateful enough for you, Mr. Peterson, I am currently raising money for the American citizens in Puerto Rico selling photography at a loss to help those in need.  Cue the spooky music, Tom,  it gets even more despicable. I have done mentoring with “at risk” kids in the county. I spent months  working to get a brand new school in Elbert and I don’t have any children. I do historical photography to illustrate the beauty of Elbert County. I donated a 100 year old woodworking marvel that was once in our CCC camp that is being restored for our local museum.  I gave up my AG status the day we moved to this county so that my taxes would help the schools. I can go on, Tom.  But the purpose of this blog is not to sing my praises, because I did not do any of those things for personal recognition any more than anyone of my Republican friends did who were standing right beside me over the years.  We were all just interested in being good citizens, good Americans and good neighbors.

So, Mr. Peterson, you say I hate my country, my police, your family, your church, the military. I could easily put up examples where I provide support to all of those institutions, but why? I have a feeling you will  just be telling  those around you about the pride you are experiencing for further dividing citizens in the county.  I believe in my country, its diversity, the two party system and the goodness of the human heart. You may be a decent person, Tom, but it is hard too see it when you champion the very hate you try to pin on Democrats.  Every soldier, every policeman, every EMT in an an ambulance, every firefighter has a set of political beliefs which is their right granted to them in the constitution. It is tragic, unhelpful and cruel to suggest that their service might be suspect because you believe if they are Democrats, liberals or progressives that they harbor hatred for the country they serve with their lives.  

I don’t hate you, Mr. Peterson.  I just refuse to do any less for my neighbors, county, or country to prove your outrageous concept of leadership. Someone has to do the work of bringing people together and to counter your false claims.

         Sincerely,  Robert Thomasson

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The World Through the Eyes And Lens of a Photographer

This is a piece I have been thinking about for a very long time. The initial premise is really quite simple: Once you become a serious photographer, your perspective about almost everything in the world around you is altered. I would go so far as to suggest the world would be a better place if more people actually took meaningful pictures regularly. And yes, I am aware that, with the advent of the smart phone camera, there are more pictures being taken than ever before in human history. That said, selfies are the antithesis of the kind of photography about which I am speaking. 

The type of photography for which I am advocating requires that the person who is taking the picture is looking to capture something specifically in their environment.  It can be as simple as trying to capture beauty in nature. It can be as complex as trying to isolate and capture an emotion. It can be the attempt to chronicle history for those who understand that time moves inexorably forward and that memories can be sharpened with photographs. Loved ones will not always be with us and to capture them in the present might just provide comfort in the distant future.

Photographers are historians. What is captured is at first new and then becomes increasingly older. Everything that reflected light onto the sensor or film in the camera reveals the norms of the day. Clothing, furniture, hairstyles, vehicles and anything else seen with the human eye are pretty much guaranteed to change, but the  captured images will remain  accurate depictions of  moments in time. Photographs become a metric with which change is measured.

It goes even deeper than point and shoot. A good photographer looks into his or her camera and unlike the human eye there is the ability to frame what will go onto the photograph. I cannot begin to tell you just how many of the photographs that I have taken over the years are what I call an extraction.  By that I mean, if you were to open the field of vision too much in any direction there will be something that completely ruins the intention of the photographer.  It might be a pile of junk, a wrecked car, a mountain of manure or a herd of curious yet uncomely cows.  You see, it is framing in such a way as to extract a particular view.  Much of the time it is for pure aesthetics.  You want to find only the beauty.  Sometimes you want the wrecked car with a baby goat proudly dancing on the hood.  You  are in charge of the message.

It is not uncommon for people who otherwise are shy and unable to verbally express themselves are extremely good at photography.  Words are one way to send a message, but you will notice that those who practice the nearsighted walk through an art museum generally leave filled to the psychological brim with an enriched understanding of the world.  The painter, sculptor and photographer are nowhere to be found, but every visitor leaves with the artists’ creative messages bouncing around in their brains...even if it is pure disgust.

For me, it is a simple message.  Of all the things that I encounter, this is what I saw.  These are the things that jumped out at me.  These are the animals that I wouldn't see if I sped by at sixty-five miles per hour. These are the buildings that have stood for so very long and make me want to know who built and used them.  There are as many questions as there are statements.  But all of them are saturated with my desire to learn and share, to shoot and capture.  

We would all be better off if we approached life like a photographer approaches his craft.  There is something worthwhile in every landscape but sometimes it’s necessary to overlook the flaws for the beauty.  There is no perfect sunset, no perfect mountain lake.  The photographer must extract that beauty.  In these times of polarization wouldn’t we all be better off to frame each picture of life for the value it presents rather than focusing on the flaws?

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Older I Get, the More I Realize I will never be Andres Segovia.

I am not generally a person who gets too wound up with the notion of my own mortality.  We are all faced with the realization that we will not live forever. 

And, I recently celebrated another birthday. It was my sixty-seventh revolution around the sun. I was sitting down watching a video of a young man playing the guitar. He was gifted. His music was flawlessly played. His technique was unique and it made his performance all the more engaging. I found myself dealing with a nagging and increasingly anxious feeling. In essence, as silly as it sounds, I realized at that moment, I was never going to be as good at any craft as that young man was at his. In short, I caught a glimpse of the inevitable fact that I am growing older. For a brief fifteen minutes or so, I found myself wondering exactly why this little video clip had struck such a worrisome chord with me.  

There was a little German woman, who along with her husband ran a boot store on Colfax Avenue down by East High School in Denver when I was young. I was an avid hiker, climber and mountaineer in my youth and that boot shop had the best boots in town. The woman's mantra, (which she would oft repeat as she helped customers find their perfect fitting pairs of boots) was, “Life is what you make it...okay?!” It stuck with me. If you want a good life, one where you feel you have given as much as you have taken, it has to be an ongoing process of forging your own desired path. 

I was raised in a somewhat dysfunctional setting where excesses were a way of life. Everyone in my family dealt with anxiety in one form or another and hard living and alcohol were considered viable coping strategies.  However, at a certain point along the path I decided that life did not have to be that way. I decided the little German woman was correct.  You could make your own life and forge your own path. I gave up the notion of being a contractor (the family business) and with the help of my dear sister, chose teaching over construction. 

Teaching was never going to make me an economic powerhouse. But teaching is learning. I decided very early on in my teaching career that the best thing you can give a student is not some chunk of wisdom that they can set on a shelf like a shiny trophy.   No, the best thing that you can show a student is how to love learning.  Life and education is not about winning on a television game show like Jeopardy. The one who amasses the most trivia in life is not always the happiest person.  Life is about following your passions.  Life is most fulfilling when you master the ability to learn what you need to know to get the job you enjoy, master the skill that brings you joy, or demonstrate to those whom you love how to become the best they can be.

Where am I going with this? After taking a few minutes to reflect about the young, gifted guitarist who brought me some unexpected anxiety, I came upon the realization that even at sixty-seven, life is still what I  make of it.  You cannot make yourself live one day longer than what your genetics will allow. If you are honest with yourself you will probably realize that you cannot become a virtuoso at the guitar overnight, especially if your earlier experiences took you in a direction away from music. You can learn and enjoy how to play the guitar if you so desire. You might even want to try your hand at something else.  But remember that you are the one who determines what is worthwhile in this life.

If you want to take pictures of mountain goats like I do, you are probably going to need to stay healthy and exercise daily. If you want to create a painting for your grandchild, you are going to have to buy brushes and choose a color medium and start practicing or taking lessons.  Likewise, if you want to be happy and appreciated, then it is incumbent upon you to be pleasant, engage and spread a sense of wanting to be useful.  It will pay off, I guarantee it... because life is what you make it. Okay? Okay.

"Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring
The Winter Garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To fly - and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing."

Omar Khayyam