Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | November 13, 2007

Head scratchers

Here’s a collection of items that had me scratching my head lately:

Negative campaigning charges in the recent Gilroy election. Why is it negative for Craig Gartman, Perry Woodward and their supporters to ask important questions, point out decisions with which they disagree or investigate residents’ concerns?

Informed voters don’t make life easy for elected officials. Elected officials who ask probing questions of city staff don’t make life easy for bureaucrats. Those are positive – not negative – actions for the community. Uninformed voters and unquestioning elected officials are definitely negative for the community.

• Ragoots’ restroom configuration. The downtown Morgan Hill eatery has delicious food but a confounding restroom setup. Ragoots has two restrooms: one labeled for men and one labeled for either gender. Each features a toilet and sink (my husband verified the porcelain installed in Ragoots’ men’s room). It’s not just Ragoots, by the way; I’ve seen this setup at other restaurants, too.

Given that anatomy-based differences in restroom time between the genders are well documented, why overlap restroom functions so that men – who need less time than women, on average – have two facilities, instead of overlapping restroom functions so that women have two facilities? Better yet, why not label both restrooms as unisex and be done with it?

I scratched my head about this Friday night as I waited behind another woman in line for the lone unisex restroom at Ragoots and debated ducking into the available men’s room.

• Rose-colored nostalgia. J. McCormack earned a Golden Quill for his Nov. 9 letter to the editor about ongoing Gilroy High School yearbook tattoo page debate.

McCormack wrote nostalgically of the 1940s of his youth, specifically 1946. He wrote about the “deep moral commitment” of the time, saying, “… get a girl pregnant and you marry her.” Besides overlooking the contradiction in his own sentence – how deep was the moral commitment if folks were fornicating, after all? – McCormack fails to acknowledge many of the era’s problems.

Let’s start with the unhappy marriages that often result from the shotgun weddings that McCormack lauds, and the difficulty in that era – both legal and cultural – of ending marriages that might range from miserable to abusive.

Let’s not forget the deplorable situation for Japanese Americans, many of whom remained in internment camps until late 1947. Internment began within hours of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

This suspension of America’s core principles based on fear remains a blot on our history. It inflicted untold psychological and financial hardship on the 120,000 Japanese Americans forced into concentration camps. Sadly, we’ve forgotten those lessons as we fight the “war on terror” six decades later.

That’s just one example of the less-than-ideal conditions that existed in 1946 America. I could also list persecution of people for loving someone of a different race or the same gender, medical conditions that were devastating then that are easily treatable now, Jim Crow laws and much more.

I’m sure that 1946 was a wonderful time for many. But it was also a horrible time for others.

We need to remember both.

• Labeling paid work “volunteering.” People are paid for working at the polls – $125 for a full day – so by definition it’s not “volunteering.” Nevertheless, the state says it’s volunteering and pays ADA funds for students who miss school while participating in the county registrar’s High School Election Officer program.

A recent letter to the editor from GHS parent Charlie Hamik defending his daughter’s participation in that program and criticizing a recent editorial questioning its value uses the term, too. He asks, “… Did anyone from the editorial board volunteer at the polls? I think I know the answer.”

I’m on the editorial board, but I haven’t volunteered at the polls. But, then, neither did Hamik’s daughter: We both worked at the polls.

I was paid to show voters where to sign, where to deposit absentee ballots, and periodically empty punched-out chads from voting devices. It wasn’t particularly enlightening about the democratic process.

I learn a lot more about democracy by attending meetings of local elected and appointed officials, reading about issues that are important to my community in my local newspaper and talking about those issues with colleagues, neighbors and elected and appointed officials.

Best of all, high schoolers can do all of those truly educational things without any faux volunteering during school hours.

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