Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Men on the Chessboard

My local daily paper today is full of anger. It usually is. Americans are angry people these days. Fearful people tend to become angry people, because they feel they've lost control.

There is not usually so much local anger, though. But today we have Montgomery County angry over a Circuit Court Clerk's decision to fire half of her staff, Rockbridge County is upset over Botetourt's near-certain approval of 25 wind turbines on North Mountain, and people in Botetourt are upset because the supervisors want to tear down historic structures to build a big shell building.

The state of Virginia is upset because somebody rooked the Commerce and Trade Department out of $1.4 million.

Nationally, people are angry over polluted water in Michigan and Planned Parenthood (pro and con). Online, people are still talking about those men in Oregon who took over a federal facility and for some reason are still there, and I see as I write this there are reports of yet another mass shooting. Sad that those have become so commonplace one barely blinks at the headline anymore.

And this is all caused by those in power. Yes, we have class in America. We have people in power who don't know what they are doing, and we have people behind the people in power who probably know what they are doing, but what they are doing is not in the best interest of the rest of us. Power only serves power, and it most certainly does not share it with the likes of the little people, of which I am one.

I learned to play chess when I was about nine years old. I never was very good at it. But chess is an interesting way of looking things going on in the world.

You have the king, who can only move one square at time and who, in my opinion, is weaker even than a pawn, though the rules say otherwise.

The queen is the most powerful piece. She can whiz about the checkered board with impunity. She can knock off bishops and knights, destroy castles (rooks), and eat pawns for lunch.

The queen is the power behind the throne. I firmly believe that in the U.S. the power behind the throne is something - or a group of someones - that Americans are not even aware of. Maybe it is simply rich folk like the Koch brothers, using their lobbyists and money to bend our elected representatives to their collective will. Perhaps it is something more sinister, like in the movies, an evil coalition set about to destroy all that was once good in this world in a grab for more power.

Which means I believe our government is broken, and is more like the chess board tossed about by a two-year old than any sort of conventional play. No, we have a president who was unable to bring forth his vision for the country because of the can't do Congress and Senate, and they can't do because of that invisible power - the Queen - who really runs around the board and takes care of the business of the rich and the powerful.

This even plays out on the local level. I will use my own county as an example. We have five elected representatives, a few of whom appear to believe they must answer to the people who elected them. They have collectively assumed the role of queen, and tossed the pawns completely off the table. The king - I'm not sure who that might be - will step around his single square waiting for the Queen to offer permission.

As for the rest - the bishops, the rooks, the knights - they are all loyal subjects. Lower level administrators, maybe, and other county employees. They have a place on the local little chessboard (and no place on the bigger, state-sized one, and not a prayer of ever being on the national chessboard) but some, I suspect, aren't sure whether they are rooks or knights. They may even really be pawns and not realize it.

Every locality plays its own game of chess, even the tiny towns that lie within the boundaries of our county. We have three little towns and they have their own versions of king, queen, and supporting players. It happens everywhere, not just here.

The problem is always the queen, though. Who gets to be that power player? That's where the fighting and anger comes in. The public, who does the electing, thinks it is the queen - and rightly so. This is supposed to be a democracy, after all, so those who vote should be the ones to move around the board, overseeing this, looking at that, whispering in the ear of the king so he will move from front to side and back again.

But instead we have reversed power - we've given it all to those we elect, because we are now not even on the board. We're not pawns, we're watchers. We do not participate in the game at all. We're content to go to work, watch TV, eat a Milky Way, and go to bed.

About half of us aren't even aware that there is a game being played, and that whatever these kings, queens, and bishops do, it affects us in some fashion or another. The only time we look up to see the board is if the word "taxes" appears, blinking like a magic neon sign over the bar in which the chess game is played. Then, maybe, we speak up. But most of the time we simply go back to watching Netflix.

I wish citizens would be more active in their government, whether at the local level or at higher levels. Many times we have offices up for election and no one has opposition. This is wrong. People should always have a choice. I understand that it is a time commitment and the financial rewards can be limited, especially in local politics, but there is more to life than money.

My actions have been to vote in every election (I don't think I've missed a single one), to write letters to representatives and newspapers, and, when I was a working journalist, to report on topics as objectively as I could so that the citizenry could make an objective opinion on issues. I also served on an appointed board as a representative for my district (the local library board, which is not a major determiner of destiny, but I still served). I continue to write letters and monitor things and work on issues I care about. Others do too, of course, but so many do not.

If you have never written a representative about an issue, I encourage you to read up on something you have an interest in, and then express your opinion in a letter to the editor, or a letter to your representative. Email makes this easy (though a "real" letter tends to be held in higher esteem by some officials).

We can't "Make America Great Again" unless we all participate. If we're sitting back waiting on a sugar daddy to save us, we're going to slide right off that sucker and into a drainage ditch full of sewage. Is that really what we want for our selves and our children?

Take action today. It really is important.


  1. It still all boils down to too many Chiefs and not enough Indians. Whoops, is that not politically correct? Am I being a racist? Perhaps I better stop thinking so much and do the right thing. What is the right thing? Too many opinions, not enough doers. Hugs, LJ

  2. I agree with everything you said -- except eating the Milky Way.

    'Can't wait until this blasted frozen slush thaws!


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