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Successfully raising five sons to adulthood qualifies a mother for sainthood, and my husband's mom certainly earned her heavenly stars. She wisely knew how to keep her boys playing fairly, thereby limiting injuries, I assume, especially when navigating the constant feeding of her growing herd. When it came to pies, for example, one got to cut and another got to choose. And, when the remainder of the food was passed around the table, if there was enough for one more serving, the last person holding the dish had to ask if anyone wanted any more. It taught them long-term civility over momentary gluttony.

As adults, four depended on math and physics in their professions and the fifth became a wildlife refuge manager. I suspect their engineering skills were honed early when exacting the cut of those pies in precise and fair slices, while also managing their wildness with manners.

It is basic fairness that either makes or breaks how we co-exist, and the lack of fairness, whether it's in governing a country or a household, can result in riots and violence or apathy and hopelessness. The divisions in the nation now can be attributed largely to unfair political gluttony spiced up with payback retribution, insecurity and a tarnished Golden Rule. Tracing these problems to mere disagreements about issues and candidates overlooks the process we are supposed to have in our country for settling matters at the polls when we make our choices. We think when we go vote, we are exercising our citizenship by picking someone to represent our interests. Today in the good ole U.S.A., we have not wrapped our minds around the reality that actually the candidates and their parties are picking out their voters instead of us picking them. Until that situation enters our consciousness, we will continue to see majority vote-winning candidates lose elections because of how our voting district lines are drawn.

Every 10 years the national census is taken to determine how many people live in the country. That count in turn determines how many representatives our states are apportioned to fill the 435 congressional seats. Tied to the census by state law, Arkansas' Legislature is strict in deciding how to divide up those congressional districts by population. A political commission, the Board of Apportionment, made up of our governor, secretary of state, and attorney general, is in charge of redistricting the state Legislature. It is pretty evident that the majority party will be the one with the power to determine where district lines are fixed for the next decade. That is a long time for one party to dominate and here's where the pie gets sticky because both parties have been guilty of weighing the districts to their favor. "Ballotpedia--State by State Redistricting," is a site that is helpful in understanding this process.

Rules for redrawing the state's districts require population equity in each, and ideally the parts of the district should be physically adjacent and compact. Minority populations should not be diluted or split. Gerrymandering was named for Massachusetts Gov. Eldridge Gerry's artwork in creating a political district that seemed the shape of a salamander. That was in 1812 and such cleverness has continued in many states' politics ever since. Nowadays computers loaded with population and political distribution data have raised map manipulation to a whole new level, finally driving some redistricting into the courts. Districts across the country, whose politicians have flaunted the rules, have also garnered names to reflect their crazy shapes like "earmuffs" and "pterodactyls" (the extinct flying reptile), or even "Goofy kicking Donald Duck" (in Pennsylvania).

The road to a possible solution is to put redistricting in the hands of an independent commission, which has already been done in six states. David Couch, a Little Rock attorney, is preparing an initiated act petition to that effect for Arkansas. The League of Women Voters of Washington County will review the process of mapping political districts and hear from Couch as to how an independent commission could change our present system. They are hosting a free public meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church Parish Hall. Call 527-2777 for further details and please show up if you are tired of politics as usual.

My mother-in-law probably had the answer with her pie slicing solution. One mixed set of voters could draw the districts and another mixed set could pick the ones they wanted. But, I guess that's too simple.

Commentary on 02/06/2018

Print Headline: Salamanders and pterodactyls

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