Do you remember the Cleaver family from “Leave It to Beaver”?
Personifying the ideal community with pristine sidewalks, manicured lawns, and perfectly pruned trees and shrubs, the town of Mayfield was the municipality of which most of us can only dream. Everyone worked together for the good of the community, not just themselves.
Decision making was made following lots of community input and everyone took an interest in the betterment of the city-at-large.
Within the Cleaver family itself, sons Wally and Theodore – “the Beaver” – were typical boys belied only by their neatly pressed dungarees and Brylcreemed hair. Nothing shabby or dirty for the Cleavers as evidenced by mother June doing her housework in crinoline and pearls. It was the kind of existence for which many towns and families have strived only to discover it is not so easy to emulate fiction as it is to dream it up.
One piece of the Cleaver family’s routine was the after-dinner conversations of June approaching husband and father Ward – still in coat and tie – with a concern that had arisen during the day.
“Ward, I’m worried about The Beaver,” she would always begin. Even when the program was briefly reprised a few years ago and Hugh Beaumont – the actor who played Ward – had died, the screen writers had June visiting Ward’s gravesite. Sitting primly on the concrete bench next to her husband’s final resting place, June would begin the segment, “Ward, I’m worried about The Beaver.”
In their conversations, June would share a concern about how someone was being sneaky and Beaver was going to be hurt by their actions or the problem may be that Beaver and his friends had been playing at an old abandoned site and she thought the owner should have to make repairs to make the place safe. Civic responsibility was of great concern to the Cleavers and it was not uncommon to see Ward leave his easy chair to attend a civic meeting to register his concern.
Recently, someone asked me who I believe is responsible for some of the ills facing our community. You can define “our community” any way you so see fit since the answer applies regardless of the entity. It seems there are folks in charge who are sincere in their desire to make things better within the political boundaries of our communities, but who may not be going about their business in a way that makes folks feel secure. Personal agendas, longstanding vendettas, and conflicting priorities begin to take precedence over the good of the community being served. Soon, the appearance is that the community exists to serve the government and not the other way around.
My response to the inquiry is that everyone is to blame: The higher ups are not asking the public for their opinion – or, at least, they’re not making enough of an effort to adequately pick the brain of the electorate; the middle range folks are not sure what to do; while the electorate is largely silent as they opt for a night of television, web surfing, or bar hopping as opposed to getting involved and letting their local leaders know how they feel.
As a result, we get blindsided with massive debt we, as taxpayers, will be expected to shoulder for as long as Moses and the Israelites wandered in the desert. We read in the newspaper about dissension among the ranks of our elected entities. We feel helpless as citizens to exact any real change in what we deem to be an acceptable period of time. We don’t like feeling out of control, so we don’t go to the meetings, we don’t contact the folks we elected, and we just decide to back away from the fray. It’s fight-or flight at its weakest – and it’s nobody’s fault but our own.
One of the responsibilities of citizenship is to be informed about the workings and actions of our government – local, county, state, and national – and to vote. If you cannot manage to walk away from the TV long enough to go to a government meeting once or twice a month or to the polls when needed, you deserve what you get.
With the political climate as it exists and the lack of interest in fixing it, frankly, I’m worried, too.
Helen Person is a Winder resident and columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.