When I periodically fill this space with some of the weird political goings-on in my Oregon neighborhood-in-the-woods, I nearly always get the same response: “You’re making that up” or “That can’t be true” or “Damn!”
Well, Virginia, I’ve never written anything fictional about the fringy political world of Southwest Oregon. It’s all real. Too real at times. Scary. And here’s another one.
We’ve got a county clerk election here in the trees. In January, the longtime clerk resigned so her deputy could take the job and run as the incumbent clerk. Nothing new or really strange about that. In fact, the deputy – now the clerk – is a right smart lady with four years of on-the-job experience. Seems like keeping her would be a no-brainer.
Speaking of no-brainers, the lady now has two challengers. From their public pronouncements thus far, well, let’s just say they offer no reason for change in that particular office.
One has run several times: Fourth District Congress four years ago. She lost. Ran again two years ago – lost to a backwoods, flat-earth pHd home-schooler who makes money selling – among other things – racist-tinged home school materials and posits public education is a crime against kids. Used to be when people ran for something the first time, they started low and worked their way up. All that changed when the Republican party hierarchy around here seemed to decide experience could be a handicap. Clinging to that goofy policy, I doubt she’ll triumph this time, either.
But it’s the third face that has my attention. A former Californian, he began a couple of moderately successful small businesses hereabouts a few years back – sizeable and well-run coin laundry; a bottled water company A solid citizen in many ways. No previous political experience to live down, either.
What sets Jock apart from almost anybody else running for county clerk in any county in America is he wants to dismantle – yea, destroy – the very workable computer system that’s the heart of the clerk’s office. Yep, his platform is hire more people, give ‘em lots of pens, pencils and paper and go back to “business-as usual” – if by “business-as-usual” you mean 1954.
Says Jock, “Computers are subject to upgrades, hacking, worms, viruses and power failures.” My response would be that “humans are subject to heart attacks, strokes, measles, mumps and whooping cough.” Oh yes, worms and power failures, too. But – no mind.
Over the last 25 years or so, our local county clerk’s office has become a paragon of backwoods efficiency, thanks – in part – to a computer system that’s occasionally upgraded. The incumbent clerk is gradually ridding the office of bound books, maps, marriage and divorce papers, and all the other assorted paper documents by going fully electronic. Just like the big guys.
But Jock says he just doesn’t trust ‘em. He points out – in a lone voice – that “all this electronic storage will last only 50 years” and he wants to avoid that disaster. So, too, I would guess, does the State of Oregon, the federal government, General Motors, the Pentagon, Wall Street and Dish Network. It’s just that they don’t seem as upset about it today as Jock.
Jock says he actually has a little computer in his business – just one. But he doesn’t like “modern technology. Doesn’t trust it.
In some ways, I share Jock’s wariness of my own little machine, the confounded keyboard and occasional memory lapses. I don’t trust the damned thing, either. But, as my teacher-of-teachers wife points out, my handwriting is so bad and I do it so slowly when compared to typing that I could never work in the county clerk’s office Jock envisions. Sort of a Charles Dickens atmosphere without the oil lamps.
Frankly, the politically weird nature of this part of the state is gradually become more acceptable to me. And I even found myself thinking that maybe ol’ Jock was more of a prophet than I thought. Until I did a few loads of laundry at his establishment.
Well now, know what? He’s got 50 or 60 commercial washers and huge dryers in there. Big ones. All over the place. And you know what? In all of ‘em – every spit-and-polish one of ‘em – there’s a computer. A little brain box that runs all the cycles and timers. Every damned one!
Well, Jock’s lost my vote. Just another wannabe politician with feet of clay. “Do as I say – not as I do.” I really thought he was different. He is. But he isn’t. Well, you know what I mean.
Oh, one more thing. My Oregon election ballot came this morning. The name of the previous clerk who resigned in January is still on it. Maybe Jock’s right. Damned computers!