The following is a totally true story. Not that you should have ever doubted that. I'm a journalist. It's my job to tell the truth.
The other day, I was enjoying a hearty breakfast and even heartier conversation with this magical talking bear I know. Over two juicy flanks of unicorn steak, talk turned to the upcoming election, specifically the Initiative 42 referendum and how none of it makes a lick of sense.
“I’m just going to come right out and say it,” I came right out and said. “No matter how much I read about Initiative 42, I still don’t get it. What exactly is it going to do, and why exactly is it going to either save the state or destroy us all?”
My verbose ursine companion shoved a forkful of unicorn in his maw, chewed thoughtfully, swallowed and set his fork aside.
“I think I can help,” he said. “Now, bear in mind … and you see what I did there, right?”
I nodded. Piece of advice: Always humor a bear.
“Good,” he said, adjusting the wire-rimmed glasses daintily perched on his massive snout. “Well, bear in mind, I go into hibernation for long stretches and often have gaps in my knowledge of current events. And when you’re only awake five months out of the year, you have no time for middle ground. So my knowledge of the matter has been carefully cultivated from the totally non-hyperbolic claims of both Initiative 42's extreme supporters and detractors. Hopefully, it will clear some things up.”
“I’m sure it will,” I said.
“As I understand it,” he said, “Initiative 42 is an attempt by a wicked group of people, under the guise of helping children, to bankrupt the state. They feel our legislators, shivering from atop the wooden crates in the state's poverty-stricken capital, have too much money, and that too much of that too much money is being spent on useful things like roads and jobs and industry and other stuff you like that isn't our schools. If the legislators were to be forced to fully fund the state's schools ... which, they absolutely would if the money were available ... they would have no choice but to layoff the state's workforce in droves, including many of our close friends and family.
I gasped. “Is that really what this is all about?”
The bear shrugged, his top hat slipping from his head. He pushed it back in place with his paw.
“It’s either that, or it's an attempt by some unnamed chancery court judge in Hinds County to seize control of your tax dollars and spend them on education instead of stuff that you really want. I’m not sure who this judge is, but judging from how much your human leaders seem to dislike him, I gather he’s evil incarnate.
“Now,” he continued, “Initiative 42A, if I've got this straight, is a vile attempt by our state leaders, rife with contempt for their constituents, to manipulate the obstreperous masses through deceit and trickery. Rather than argue why or why not you should or should not vote for Initiative 42, they invite you to look at this scarecrow.”
The bear picked up his fork and stood it end up on the table. He made it do a little dance.
“Look at it go,” he said. “Merrily dancing in the middle of his field. Ain't he grand? Doesn't he look so dapper in his straw hat, happily minding his own business?
“Or is he?” the bear asked, his voice adopting an ominous tone. “As a taxpayer, you better keep staring at this stray man while your elected officials see to other matters. They'll handle the busy work while you're keeping watch.”
I scratched my head.
“So, 42A is a distraction? A trick?”
The bear grinned so widely I could see the gold-capped tooth he had gotten for his third birthday. The diamond at its center sparkled.
“So some claim,” he said.
I sighed. Though the bear had done his best, I’m not sure I was any closer to understanding the full extent of the issue.
“So, who's right?” I asked. “Which way is the right way to vote?”
“That’s the thing,” the bear said. “It’s a complicated issue, made even more complicated by the scuttlebutt that surrounds it.”
He laid a heavy paw on my shoulder.
“There is no easy answer,” he said. “No clear cut right or wrong. That’s the stuff of fantasy, Adam. You’d have to be delusional to think you’d ever get that. Don’t be silly.”
The magical talking bear laughed heartily, forked another piece of unicorn and shoved it in his mouth. He chuckled around it.
“That’s why I’m glad I’ll be hibernating during the election,” he said. “Gives me an easy out.”
“You could always vote absentee, you know.”
The bear pretended not to hear me.