Ride or Drive?


It’s nice to be a passenger. It’s comfortable, it’s restful, and it’s easy.

But what if your bus driver doesn’t know where you want to go, the best way to get there, and how to get enough gas for the trip? You might wind up in places you did not count on, even places you do not want to go.

Somebody once said, “If you don’t change your direction, you’re liable to wind up where you’re headed.” But if you are just a passenger, you probably trust the driver to get you there and you don’t pay any attention to the road ahead. The scenery is all you see.

So, the next question is: “Did you hire that driver? Do you know who did? Do you agree with where they want to take you?”

That’s the way it is with government, too. In a democracy, the people drive their own bus and mark out their own road map, or at least they interview the driver before he or she is hired – I mean elected.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt once explained the issue. He said, “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”

This week, Contributing Writer, Stephanie McCraw, invites our readers into the driver’s seat. It is Primary Election time in Chautauqua County and in many of its towns and villages. Her message is simple: “Please step up and drive – I mean vote.”

Unfortunately, past experience suggests most of us don’t want any say in where we are going and how we will get there. Many of us would apparently rather be passengers who enjoy mystery rides and then complain about the ride and where we find ourselves at the end of the road.

In primary elections, a bunch of bus drivers are auditioning for the job of driving our bus. We are the people who inspect their applications, the HR Department that decides “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” on each applicant.

Yet, in recent years, only ten to fifteen percent of us vote in the primary elections. Select the best explanation:

Some people don’t care who drives the bus

Some people totally trust the minority

Some people just don’t know what’s going on

If you are not one of those people, we need you to vote. Politicians are elected to serve the people. That’s their job. The mystery is that some politicians seem to have their own agendas.

The solution to that mystery is that they think nobody cares. The voting record tells them so. But since most of them really do want to do some good, they are left to figure it out for themselves.

In Chautauqua County we do have a wide selection of ideas and people who want to serve. About 1/3 of registered voters are Republicans, 1/3 are Democrats, ¼ are Undeclared or Independent, and 1/10 represent about a half dozen smaller – but no less worth hearing from – parties.

John Ensign, who served as both a US Senator and Member of the House, expressed a sentiment echoed by just about every candidate for every office. “I believe that voting is the first act of building a community as well as building a country.”

If you prefer the analogy of a builder instead of a driver, that’s fine too, just build or drive, and vote.

Enjoy the read.

Walt Pickut

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Walt Pickut
Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.