LA MESA – A friend once taught me that if you hold a small rock up to your eye, you can’t really tell what it is. As you move it away, you see it for what it is and, eventually, you see it in proper perspective.
And so it is as this month’s election recedes in the rear-view mirror.
Amid the energy and acrimony of the time we make profound choices as a community, it is often hard to see the good in the process. Easier to see are acts of naked ambition, petty jealousies, desperate hopes and the bold machinations of greater powers.
And yet as the dust settles, you can see intelligence to what the voters accepted and what they rejected. Marijuana rejected – probably not for its danger but for a sense that this culture just wasn’t ready yet for a companion to alcohol that, in truth, we can hardly handle already.
Spanks to a state Legislature that has clearly lacked the statesmen to bring order from chaos.
And in the most local of elections – the La Mesa city elections – it is hard to argue with an electorate that rewarded long-standing stewards of a city that has managed such a delicate balance during one of the most prolonged building booms in world history.
If you listened between the spurts of vitriol, there were clear points of agreement among the incumbents and the challengers: We are a small town in a big city. We like it that way. We know our neighbors and we take pride in saying we live together here. We don’t like personal attack politics. Signs on lawns and public forums are enough for a small town.
And in the end, one could see in the vote totals of the La Mesa city elections, a willingness to consider the new; the narrow margin between Mayor Art Madrid and relative neophyte Laura Lothian is all one need see to support that point.
The other day Steven R. Weisman, the former New York Times reporter and editor, was in San Diego promoting his new book on the collected letters of the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
In his discussion of one of America’s most prolific Senators, Weisman reminded us of a time when one man could, as Moynihan did, serve under two Republican and two Democratic presidents and then build a political career of his own marked by close work with his Republican rivals.
Weisman said Moynihan would have understood the Tea Party movement today as a natural reaction to unsettled times, another example of the way major currents in American political history struggle against one another to keep the country on a balanced path; the period immediately after The New Deal, was a similar period, he reminded.
And that is how I like to explain the sometimes irrational sounding currents of local politics too. For all the histrionics of the new fading election, we exit the other side with good servants rewarded but warned. There was enough hope for newcomers in the voting to keep them engaged in the process and promising to run again in two years.
There is talk of chickens in yards, public gardens and in the coffee shops residents are already weighing the benefits and possible detriments of new developments proposed for the Jewel of the Hills.
And in a contentious election's wake, the community approaches its Centennial year with a clearer sense of who we are and what we want to be as we grow.