Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Town Meeting

Earlier this month we in Vermont practiced our annual exercise in direct democracy. It is such a rush! This year in our town about 150 voters gathered for 6 hours (with a break for lunch) to discuss and vote on local budgets, whether or not to have a winter sports program in our schools, which social service agencies should receive local tax support and other issues. And, oh yes, we voted by a 3 to 1 margin to ask our US Representative to impeach the President.

In this era of political spin and manipulated votes it is so refreshing to take part in a direct democratic process in which 'one person one vote' is the rule not the exception and in which people are not afraid to stand up and participate in a reasonable discussion of the issues.

I know my bro is a big Nero Wolfe fan and am reminded that Mr. Wolfe, always reluctant to leave his home, would never miss an opportunity to vote. I wonder if he would have liked town meeting.


Nero Wolfe and town meetings? Interesting question.... Nero Wolfe is an unusually richly developed character, to the point that many people accept him as being "real." Throughout the stories, he often does or says things that are unexpected or seem out of character, but turn out in the end to be in character, much as you expect from real people. This makes it very hard to predict how Wolfe would have reacted in a supposed situation.

As you point out, Wolfe considered voting to be a sacred duty. Supposing he would have overcome his reluctance to confront crowds, and attended the town meeting, what would he have done? He enjoyed debate and was widely read, so on the one hand I could see him taking part. On the other hand, he was completely intolerant of those he perceived to be fools, and was quick to cut and insult, so it seems hard to think that everyone would appreciate his presence, or that he would himself enjoy it. Wolfe was also very partial to creature conforts, and wouldn't have appreciated a long sit on a seat that was either too hard or too small. Or both.

In the end, I'll guess that he would decide in advance how he was going to vote, and would bring a book to the meeting, and sit in the very back, read, and try to ignore the proceedings, putting aside his book to vote.

Come to think of it, that's probably what I would do, too.
It's interesting. Women tend to bring needlework or knitting. (Linda did much of our wedding certificate at town meeting). Men tend to not bring any distractions - make of that what you will - but some of us do sneak in a crossword.

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