Speak Up.

How many times have you gone into your assigned voting place, stared at the voting machine (or whatever newfangled version they’ve settled on now) and rolled your eyes as you pulled the lever, colored in the circle or touched the screen. As a proud American I know that I have on more occasions than I want to admit. Now why are you rolling your eyes? Because you’re picking from two candidates for an important office and quite frankly, you’re forced to vote for the one that sucks less. And that doesn’t leave you with a good, patriotic feeling, now does it. I know it doesn’t for me.

George Carlin used to quip that we had sixty brands of dog food to choose from on our supermarket aisles but basically only two candidates to choose from when it came to voting for President of the United States. And there’s a really good chance that those two candidates got up there by way of lots and lots of money.

Now, let’s swing this around a little bit. Up until about 10 or 12 years ago, if your average, middle-class American family wanted to do some shopping, they have several choices of department store chains to choose from. In 1990 when I worked for the Hills Department Store chain in the small western New York city of Jamestown, we were warned that if we screwed up and got fired, we wouldn’t be able to work at any of the chain stores in Jamestown or the surrounding areas, and that included Hills, Ames, Zayre, K-mart and Jamesway. Five department stores to choose from in a city of less than 35,000 people. We had choices and it was good.

Today, I live in a city of just over 60,000 and we basically have two chains to choose from: Wal*mart and Target. Admittedly, we also have a K-mart but it’s really depressing to go into that store. I have been told by several people over the years this is because the United States is headed in this direction: big corporations bring lower prices to consumers, which ultimately is a good thing for all involved. Except it’s not. Because while we are reveling at the fact that we bought at $10.00 toaster at Wal*Mart (Always White Trash, Always) and that it won’t blow up or electrocute anyone for at least a year, the fact remains in that we are settling for two things: having our choices narrowed down and/or dictated to us and items of mediocre value at best.

Now that we are down to two choices, we have to choose the lesser of two evils when they start playing their political tricks. Our friends at Target recently donated $150,000 to an anti-gay, anti-union candidate for governor in Minnesota. There is a growing movement to boycott Target and quite frankly, the reasons they outline I believe in. But that leaves me with one other choice: Wal*Mart.  And lord knows that I don’t agree with many of Wal*Mart’s practices, including the low wages for their employees (urging them to find public assistance to compensate for their crappy benefits), their vendor lock out policies (if you don’t package it the Wal*Mart way, you’re out) and their basic sterilization of the American community where you’ll almost always find a Wal*Mart 1.2 miles outside of town, luring consumers away from whatever is left in your basic American downtown, ultimately leaving said once-thriving business district as a bunch of run-down empty buildings.

Yes, I over dramatize, but someone has to.

We are distracted from the control being taken away from the American people on a daily basis by news outlets that go on for DAYS about Dr. Laura saying the “N-word” (which, by the way, is her right though it is not something I agree with) and hourly updates on how Lindsey Lohan is doing in jail.

There are groups in the United States paying MILLIONS of dollars to prove and tell you that gays shouldn’t marry because their love isn’t valid. It isn’t natural. It isn’t real. Heterosexual people can marry eight, nine, ten or how many ever times it takes to “feel natural” but by god, my unequivocal, undeniable, “unnatural” love for Earl isn’t real.

Put these two choices on a ballot: allow gays to marry or allow them to declare themselves gay and pay only 75% of the taxes married couples pay. If we are not afforded the same rights then we shouldn’t pay the same amount of money to maintain those rights.

I have two nephews that I love dearly. And at times I feel horrible for them because this is such a screwed up world we are leaving for them. Ice chunks many times the size of Manhattan are breaking off the ice shelf, people are going around spreading messages of hate in the name of religion and people are working very hard to make everything either a black or white issue: you’re Christian or you’re not, you’re Republican or you’re a Democrat, you love your country or you down. Well I’m sorry, future generations deserve better than that, and the only way that is going to happen is if we make good choices and more importantly, we have many choices to choose from.

By the way, Saturday night we needed some dry goods that we would normally buy at Target. We skipped Target, avoided Wal*Mart and drove 30 miles round trip to go to a halfway decent K-mart.

It was the gray in a sea of black and white.