I went out on our deck the other day to clean a bit so that we might relax in the summer afternoon and perhaps eat dinner outside. We have two garden tables with holes in the middle and large umbrellas sticking out of them to shield us from the sun. I keep them folded up when we're not outside to minimize damage from the strong morning wind coming down Big Cottonwood Canyon.
So, this particular morning I went out to clean the tables and on one, at the base of the umbrella, was a bird about 9 inches long, beak to tail, healthy looking at first glance, with full breast and smooth feathers, but it was dead.
I stood there watching it, trying to figure out why it was there and why it was dead. I am no Sherlock Holmes, so it took a while before I noticed three small drops of blood near its head which had hardened to crust on the glass tabletop. I looked around, up and back to the house and saw a smudge on an otherwise clean window about 15 feet up. It looked like this young, healthy, energetic bird was swooping down toward what looked like a pathway to free sky, but which actually was a window reflection of said sky, until smack! And, of course, like many motorcyclists we see coming down the canyon from time to time, it wasn't wearing a helmet.
Now we all think we are doing slightly courageous things occasionally, and most of the time, we get away with taking liberty with the driving speed limit when nobody is watching, "just making it" through a traffic light when it turns yellow (not quite red, as we later recall to the officer), having large fries with our Big Mac, pleased with ourselves for living on the edge. Really?
Firefighters who run into burning buildings are courageous. Taking traffic chances and eating cholesterol-busting meals are acting more like the two to three guys who fall from the rim of the Grand Canyon annually. Our "Watch this dude" mentality increases accidental deaths each year, showing that stupid is not courageous.
Some covet courage without deadly risk through politics. Look at how many citizens boost their adrenaline by running for office. Some 22 started in this year's GOP Presidential contest alone. Then there are the Dems, the lesser known parties, the independents and literally thousands of down-ballot candidates. Many haven't any chance. Yet, 2016 primaries and elections will cost both rich benefactors and more modest on-line contributors billions on losing races.
Winning political office in times of crowded rhetorical turmoil has extemely long odds and most candidates do not end up more successful than those ill-fated Grand Canyon rim walkers. But then, sometimes, against the odds, you actually win.
Jackie Biskupski beat the odds and won the SLC mayoralty. U.S. Representative Mia Love lost in her first race and then tried again and won against first-time candidate Doug Owens.
Recently, I asked Owens, a successful local attorney with roots in Panguitch, why in the world would he want to get involved in politics and, more incredulously, run as a Democrat in a very Republican state after losing once before? He answered that his dad not only was a Democrat elected several times to serve Utah in Washington, but was known as a champion of that lost art of reaching across the aisle to pass historic compromise legislation that benefited our citizenry. In the last election, with less than 50 percent name recognition, Owens lost by only a few percentage points. This time, he feels that Utah will choose someone with his bipartisan spirit of compromise. So, he's back in the contest.
In Utah's governor's race, Gov. Gary Herbert, aka Available Jones, has raised a needed ton of money from lobbyists to battle Overstock.com Board Chairman Jonathan E. Johnson III, who only needs to be "available" to Overstock company founder and CEO Patrick M. Byrne. Byrne put up the better part of a million dollars, if you believe him, with no quid pro quo.
The GOP gubernatorial primary winner must continue raising more millions to run against Mike Weinholz, who, himself, has announced kicking in close to a million of his own money. Why? I ask again, do all these folks feel the need to raise and spend so much? Weinholz, proud of his business record of creating and running one of Forbes' 100 best companies in America to work for, says that employee autonomy and compassion, "putting people before profits," is what made him rich and is what he will do to make Utah an even better place.
I believe him and everyone else who is campaigning against each other's party, and who campaigned against other candidates within each party.
Yet, look at all that money spent. Then look around at the homeless people on the street and the jobless who bring their kids to hospital emergency rooms because they don't have health care, and the lack of funding to support our troops and former troops.
This cycle, Americans will spend between 5 and 10 billion dollars on our presidential race and up to $100 billion on all races. Don't the misplaced priorities of all these billions of dollars in campaign spending seem sad to you? It does to me.
I feel like we are those dudes walking recklessly on the rim of the Grand Canyon, or helmetless motorcycling down Big Cottonwood Canyon, or carelessly flying like that bird that ended up on my deck, swooping, feeling the wind in our feathers, rushing toward the concussion-smacking slap of reality, instead of the cleansed mirrored imaginings of what we think reality should be.