Someone once told me the saddest thing of all is looking at life the way it is, instead of the way it should be. To see life as it really is, stripped to the bare bones, bereft of civility and idealism, inflicts a level of awareness resulting in a best-case scenario of paralysis, and in the worst case, despair. So the argument goes.
Most of us, due to passions, beliefs, psychological constructs or simply lack of time, can't see reality, and in fact, both physicists and metaphysicians have argued for years as to whether it's even possible to see it. But that doesn't mean "reality" isn't there. If your dog dies, it is not the case that everything's fine, that he lived a good life and therefore your grief is nonsensical. The truth is, it is terribly sad, but over time, it's mostly survivable.
Other things, however, are not nearly so survivable. Violence, drugs, disregard, neglect, abandonment and poverty, to name a few, are rampant in this country, and inform the psychologies of loads of individuals--particularly members of the underclass--like suppressed premises in philosophical arguments.
Politically, this translates into a sense of disenfranchisement best summed up by a cab driver I met. "Politics," he said, "has nothing to do with me." Truth is, the whole topic seemed to make him uncomfortable, the way the subject of chemotherapy might a person who secretly suspects he has cancer.
No, the cabbie didn't care about politics at all. What he did care about was the fact that his pinche boss had put retread tires on his car and told him they were new. He worried about them shredding from the heat of the road.
Which is why Proposition 200, the Arizona Voter Reward Act, in which everyone who votes is automatically registered in a million-dollar lottery, is such a great idea. Yeah, it's tacky, undignified and all the rest, but so what? We have Wal-Marts, McDonald's, Hooters, strip clubs, raunch culture, guns for all and politicians suggesting kids use their textbooks as Kevlar should Harris and Klebold reincarnate and come back to school. We have Paris Hilton, The Bachelor, Survivor, Jackass Number Two, The World's Gnarliest Home Videos, Cops and enough forensic-investigator shows to choke 12 Jeffrey Dahmers. We have fake tits, fake lips, fake butts, eyes, hair, penises, Viagra. We have outsized super-sized ice creams, humongous tubs of popcorn and nachos with yellow goo all over them, mandatory at all movies and sporting events. We have blow-up dolls and blow-up saguaros advertising who the hell knows what, outside of stores. We have guys on street corners dressed like Uncle Sam and pink lizards selling pizza and cell phones
American culture is already tacky. Adding more to it is not going to matter. The levees of decorum have long been breached. What's one more hole?
Curtis Gans, who directs the Center for the Study of the American Electorate in Washington, told The New York Times, "We need to rekindle the religion of civic duty, and that is a hard job, but we should not make voting crassly commercial."
Ha. That's funny. Political commercials on television are as crass as anything the World Wrestling Federation could come up with. The mass of signs on every street corner renders the local landscape as ugly as any landfill for months at a time. It's occurred to me to research the one candidate who didn't put up any signs and vote for him/her on that basis alone.
Jack Chin, a University of Arizona law professor, opined to the Times that Prop 200 is a "cute and clever" idea, "but even though it responds to a real problem, it does so in a way that threatens to degrade the process."
In the 2000 presidential election, we had a butterfly ballot resulting in thousands of Floridian Democrat Jews voting for Pat Buchanan. We had the U.S. Supreme Court overruling the Florida Supreme Court with Dubya Bush 154 votes ahead, thereby handing him the election. Many large states now have Diebold voting machines that, according to an HBO documentary scheduled to air Nov. 2, have already been successfully hacked.
In other words, the process has already been degraded.
So it seems to me that anything that gets people into voting booths can only be a good thing. Sure, some people won't give two shits about who or what they're voting for, but some inevitably will. Some are bound to realize at some point that the right to vote in fair elections is something millions have fought and died for, and that millions more throughout the world still don't have. Voting, they may come to realize, is sacred in the most profound sense of the word.
And hell, if the lottery idea doesn't work, perhaps the government should offer a six-pack of beer or, better yet, a punch card. After 10 elections, you're automatically entered into a sweepstakes for a free set of radial tires.
Hey, it could work.