Mr. Liberty

I got stopped by a tall guy wearing sunglasses in the parking lot of the Fry’s at 40th and Thunderbird tonight. He asked politely if I wanted to sign a petition on campaign finance reform.

Normally I’m a sucker for the flexing my one-vote political clout. But I’d read a caution  that there’d been bogus petition-passers working at a shopping center near PV Mall lately. My first thought was, is this an ID theft ring? And was I approached because I have gray hair, and ergo, probably a credit card or two? Usually petition people have a table and some literature about their cause, not JUST a clipboard. And stopping people when it’s 110 in the shade, really?

So I swung by the customer service on my way into the store, to tell them they mightmightmight have a problem, politely. “Ah-GAIN!??” sputtered the manager. “They were asked to leave yesterday.”

ID Theft or Community-Building?

I found an article or two saying that without your social security number or bank account, it’s hard to for crooks to profit with just your name, address, and signature on a petition.

Sadly, stuff like this makes it tougher for people with real ballot issues to get signatures. Still, perhaps there’s another way to look at this.

I have signed petitions over the years at the front door of the Mesquite Library. I have unfortunately forgotten the name of the man who for years has balanced multiple clipboards every weekend, getting signatures on local ballot measures.  I call him “Mr Liberty” in my head. (Admit it, you do it too, give nicknames to people you see all the time but who are, in the end, strangers.) I figure if he were a criminal, he’d have been arrested by now.

I once commented to Mr. Liberty that I’d sign stuff I mildly disagreed with, and I’ll sign on various political parties too, because really it’s all about giving people an equal chance to have their voice heard.

You would have thought I plugged him into a light socket.  “You GET IT! You GET this stuff about freedom and democracy!” he said (or something akin to that), dropping clipboards momentarily to shake my hand.  I mean, this guy was excited to the depths of his soul about the democratic process.

Gosh Darn It, We Have To Talk To Each Other

I now have a relationship with Mr. Liberty, if it’s only a smile and a “Whatcha got for us today?” as I go by. And you know, I don’t think his business will dry up because some poseurs have a racket going at the strip mall next door.

Maybe we’re being sent back to democracy school right now. Maybe passing petitions to trusted friends, instead of blanketing the neighborhood stranger-to-stranger, is the best way we can go, to make change.  

I left Fry’s downcast about people who take advantage of the weak. But I later realized I had a choice to make. I could be upset over predation on the vulnerable or I could do something about it. Talking to the store manager didn’t solve the problem of petition fraud, but they guy was gone when I came out of the store, and I saw the manager walking into the store.  Alone, I was a potential victim. By reaching out, I was part of a community that wants to improve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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