Or, how years of telling people “no” may have made me a poor political candidate.
I’m afraid I don’t know how to tell people what they want to hear.
First, a story from this past weekend. On Saturday I went to Lazy Daze, the annual arts festival here in Cary, armed with a few brochures — yes, I finally broke down and spent some money — to hand out if the occasion arose. It was a lovely day, and I saw a couple of my opponents out and about, one of whom was working the crowd pretty hard. (I did not see my third opponent, who reportedly was also campaigning hard — and in a way that might be considered a bit devious.)
Anyway, I wandered the booths and examined the wares, bought a great 2016 calendar featuring some spectacular calligraphy, and at one point a gentleman walked by me and said, “Nice shirt.”
Since I was wearing my STAR TREK United Federation of Planets shirt, I turned and said, “Live long and prosper!”
To which he replied, “Qapla’!” (If you’re not up on your Klingon, that means, “Success!”)
We both laughed, and I mentioned that a friend of mine is the founder of the Klingon Language Institute,* so we chatted for a minute and I asked if the fellow lived in town. No, he said, but his in-laws did — and when his mother-in-law happened by, you better believe I gave her a campaign brochure!
So my STAR TREK shirt led to a campaigning opportunity, which was probably the furthest thing from my daughter’s mind when she bought it for me.
Sooner or later, it seems every politician’s mask breaks. (Image: “Broken mask” by Josef.stuefer, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)
My other campaign stops have been less successful, though, and I think I may have figured out why.
One stop was sort of a pro forma meeting, because I anticipate the group’s endorsement will go to a particular candidate they have worked with for some time. It was a quite pleasant meeting, though, and I feel I at least provided a little entertainment value.
At another stop, however, I definitely turned off some potential voters by — again — refusing to commit to specific courses of action without knowing all the facts. My “if I don’t make a promise, I can’t break a promise” message fell rather flat, and one attendee approached me afterward to explain why they were disappointed in it.
I was surprised. Even though the halls of government are littered with the shards of once-shiny promises that wound up shattered through neglect or by design, and though the fingers of the electorate are bloody from picking up the broken pieces and trying to fit them together into something, anything, useful or beautiful, it seems that people are willing to accept and even desire more promises without substance, goals without plans. I wonder if it’s a matter of needing hope, even if it’s a slim hope, even if it’s ultimately a false hope.
If so, I’ll say it straight out: I’m not the guy to give anyone false hope.
My day job, when you get right down to it, is to disabuse people of their hopes. Every person who sends in a manuscript to Baen Books hopes it will attract our attention, hopes we will accept it and publish it and help them achieve that dream of publication. But the raw facts are that we publish a limited number of books every year, only a small portion of those can be by new authors, and we receive many hundreds of submissions in the slush pile for every potential “new author” slot.
I applaud every writer who slogs through completing a manuscript, toils over that manuscript to ensure it’s as good a story as it can be, and takes the risk of sending it in for us to evaluate. But I still have to tell almost every single one of them “no.” And even when I write to someone whose work is good enough for us to consider at length and in depth — whose manuscript two, three, or even four of us will in time study and pick apart — I have to tell them that the answer may, in the end, be “no.”
In other words, I make no promises. I do not try to bash any writer’s hope, and I do not try to crush any writer’s dream, but I will not give any writer an unrealistic expectation.
And so, I will not give any voter an unrealistic expectation.
If that is what you need as a voter, if you are desperate for some slim hope and willing to take the risk of almost certain disappointment, then I apologize that I cannot be the kind of candidate who will feed that need. I hope (and I mean that without irony) that you find and support the kind of candidate you need.
But if you are a voter who can tolerate deliberation, who can stand deep examination of issues, then I hope you can understand my position — and maybe even support me.
*Dr. Lawrence M. Schoen, if you must know.
Reminder: Election Day for the Cary Town Council race is October 6th. Help spread the word about my campaign! Share this post on social media or forward it specifically to anyone you know who lives in North Carolina, especially in the Research Triangle area or the Town of Cary. For additional updates and info, sign up for my newsletter using the form in the right sidebar or visit the election page on my website. Thanks!
Spending Disclosure: As of this date, my campaign has spent a total of $44.
This blog post was “paid” for, at the cost of $0 and whatever time it took Gray to write and upload it, by The Gray Man: Service, Leadership, Creativity.