Thursday, July 24, 2008


Roadside Pleas(e)
Thou shalt not give
I see an odd contradiction in the fact that many of the same people ranting indignantly about how unsafe it is for groups to stand by the road to solicit funds for some cause, seem to be perfectly happy with groups of people standing by the road to protest some policy of CUC. Apparently it is only unsafe if the complainers have to shell out a couple of bucks for a cause. Apparently it is only unsafe if the complainers are not the ones standing there beside the road themselves showing their ‘solidarity’ with some other protest group with a sign waving campaign.

It is both common practice and traditional here to use the ‘traffic method’ of fund raising for everything from cancer awareness to baseball clubs. Sometimes roadside fund raisers are trying to generate money for the catastrophic personal illness of a loved one or friend so they can have a chance at life. Sometimes it is students trying to get money for a field trip or for some extracurricular sports activity that PSS has no funds to support.

In those rare cases where there really might be a safety violation, there are plenty of applicable rules on the books that DPS can use to quash unsafe roadside activities. We do not need laws on top of laws to micromanage our lives and the lives of those who simply want to get a message out or to try to raise a buck for a good cause.

Making a law that forbids this practice based on the assumption that “someday” someone may be hurt standing beside the road is an intrusion into the rights of every citizen to gather and state their case. Spending time making laws against this kind of benign behavior is simply a waste of time and effort. There are plenty of important things for our lawmakers to focus on. This is not one of them. This is a prime example of a proposed regulation that inhibits our freedoms while pretending to save us from ourselves. We can take care of ourselves thank you. Parents can decide for their own children whether this is a practice they want them to engage in. We don’t need another law to restrict our choices.

Whatever the reason a group has for roadside fundraising, be it serious or flippant, do they not have the right to ask for your support? You can then decide whether to help their cause or not. Do you need a law that forbids you from donating? I submit that you do not.
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Party crasher
I dropped by the home of a friend that was doing some work for me to discuss the strategy of repairs. When I drove up there was a gathering of folks sitting around tables under a tent obviously enjoying a party of some sort. In US culture it would be considered rude to invite yourself to a party, so I was about to drive off and come again some other time. Luckily here in the Marianas, close to Asian culture and with centuries of welcoming tradition by the indigenous islanders, I was welcomed; no I was commanded to join in the festivities. This was a birthday party thrown by Filipinos but only the language being spoken and some food variations differentiated it from the many wonderful Chamorro and Carolinian gatherings I’ve been invited to join. The welcome was the same.

I was helped to embarrassing quantities of delicious food and was ‘forced’ (yeah sure) to drink some beer, chat happily and enjoy fellowship with the group, most of whom I had not met before. It was a refreshing and fun experience. One that I have had repeatedly here and one that I hope to repeat many times in the future. What a wonderful experience it is to meet new people and share their ideas. Celebrating life is one of the best things we humans do. It helps to make up for the times when we do harm to each other.

The point is that in the rush to be more American, to assimilate that financially successful culture and make it part of local island life, it is possible to lose some of the core beliefs that make this culture unique. The ‘separate individual’ culture nurtured in the US where people often live for years in an area where they do not know or associate with their neighbors is not something this place should emulate. I am not suggesting a return to full communal life, but I am sounding a warning that taking on the mantle of change offered by those who come here from afar or from those who leave here to be educated elsewhere is not always advisable. That mantle of change can be protective, and it can also be destructive. In the midst of all the technical things that need improvement here resides the reality of a wonderful place to live. I for one am thankful to be here, power outages or not.

When I first came here many years ago I was happily surprised by the welcoming nature of the people’s who call these islands home. I still find myself enthralled by the giving and friendly nature of the Marianas population. Carolinians and Chamorros hosting Filipinos, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thais, and even a few US mainlanders, Russians, Bangladeshis, Europeans and others who all manage to get along pretty well here. Better than most disparate populations get along, that’s for sure. The level of mutual assistance and reciprocal aid is refreshing too.

For all our faults and petty grievances, this is still a great place to be, and a traditional party is a great way to express our joy. Now where did I put that abs toning machine?
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Post Toasties
Note to Postmaster Medina:
I read your letter in the Saipan Tribune. My latest ‘lost’ package arrived. It took a month to get here by Priority Mail, and had been smashed, dashed, crashed and hashed enroute. It had been cut open; I suppose to check on the suitability of children’s clothing and a package of yellow rice being used as fodder for terrorists. Usually when a package goes missing, that puppy is gone forever. This one at least arrived. Thanks for tracking it down...and thanks for reading Sour Grapes.
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Quote of the week:
You only have to bat a thousand on two things; flying and heart transplants. Everything else you can go 4 for five. Beano Cook (1931 - )

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I disagree with your defense of traffic corner fundraising. It is unsafe; but even worse it endorses begging as a means of getting money. Others who have criticized this practice have suggested car washes or lawn care or bake sales - all of which involve exchanging labor and effort for cash. Earning your money, instead of begging for it, is a good lesson for young people. It teaches self reliance. It rewards industry and subverts indolence. These are all lessons better taught by parents, teachers and coaches. Only when they fail that responsibility should DPS intervene; and then only to protect the safety of the children and the motorist. We'll have to wait another generation for someone who is willing to protect their value development.

Boni said...

Isn't it nice to be welcomed?

Bruce A. Bateman said...

There is nothing wrong with labor exchange, nony. Just as there is nothing wrong with selling band candy or Girl Scout cookies for 4 times actual worth. As long as all parties know it is essentially donation to a cause they want to donate to and there is no forcible coercion involved (like there is in taxation for example) then let those who want to ask ask, and those who want to donate donate. I like the idea of teaching the work-for-benefit lesson, but there are other methods as well. Outright solicitation teaches responsibility, sales psychology, reliability and is no more dangerous than crossing the street. Hey, if it’s good enough for the Red Cross, or churches, it’s good enough for baseball.

Who pray tell in another generation will step forward to 'protect their value development' that is not around to do so in the current generation, nony? I would be interested to hear your answer even if you are nameless and scared.

Bruce A. Bateman said...

Yes, Boni...it feels good to be welcomed...no matter the language, no matter the mores.

Not many places practice it as it is done here.