EDITORíS DESK: Yes on good, no on bad

       I was a hippy once. Yeah, truth's out. I was a product of the public school factories of the '50s and '60s, and just never felt fulfilled as an individual. So I exercised my freedom as an American to more or less drop out of the system for a while. I hitchhiked across the country, spent time with unusual people, worked the kinds of jobs they say Americans don't do anymore. But you know what brought me back? I think it was the realization that I really had nothing left to rebel against. No one had stopped me from being a free individual. Heck, I was individually free to drop as far into a hole as I wanted. So now it was just a matter of taking those values I'd nurtured and see if I could ride them up instead of down.
       There's a point to this autobiographical scribbling. An election is coming up. It may be the most consequential election of our time. Don't worry, I'm not here to throw out facts and figures and try to convince you to vote one way or another. You're getting enough of that already from TV ads, flyers in the mail, people at the coffee shop, and who knows where else. No, what I'm recommending is that you listen instead to yourself. Only you know what you care about most, what your true values are.
       What has this got to do with voting, you might ask? Just everything. There's not a single candidate, not a single ballot item that doesn't reflect some value system or world view. Just living on the Westside is a value choice many of us made. For instance, do we need bigger government to protect us from harm, or is it the cause of the mess we're in? How important is a strong family? Do the successful have an obligation to the unsuccessful? Does our society give everyone the chance for upward mobility, or should there be more programs to "level the playing field?" Are greenhouse gases a true threat or an expensive bogeyman?
       So that's it. Vote your conscience, and that long ballot won't seem so weird. Oh yeah, there's another for-instance I didn't mention: How high a priority should be placed on preserving individual freedom? You can guess my answer to that.

- K.J.