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Talking Story 
by Polo

From The Asian Reporter, V27, #9 (May 1, 2017), page 6.

Democracy here and now

Democracy means so many things. Democracy means one thing in, say, the Democratic Peopleís Republic of Korea, while democracy demands a world of difference for folks in the Federal Republic of Germany. Likewise for us living here and now. Sure, we share the same generous continent, but because weíre so many kinds of Americans, our work is weaving our many differences in ideals, in aches and appetites.

The rub of our differences is good for democracy. The expectation of important differences then their delightful blending, are essential to healthy governance. According to international research on this, on humankindís never-ending experiment, institutionalizing kindness and creativity are at the core of our pretty little planetís best democratic unions.

Tests of democracy ó loud protests, agitated press, crazy elections ó are regular and necessary. Often provoking enormous anxieties. Take last yearís U.S. national election. Candidates for the presidency and for congress always grab at big themes, competitors overstate differences so each can cut dramatic distinctions between themselves and their opponents. Lots of theater.

Candidates for local office are usually more pragmatic. Local voters are too. Local democracy, particularly non-political party seats, functions best when campaigns offer practical problem-solving skills. Whatís more, local competitors and voters alike know they still have to be neighbors after election day. Civility is central. Community building trumps ugly politics.

We are in one of those local election cycles right now. Lots of school boards, water district and recreation district boards, will soon be filled in middle May, many with a lot of different, but all dutiful, local volunteers. Portland Community Collegeís Board of Directors is among these. And among the candidates for a seat is Mohamed Alyajouri.

Why this means so much

Mohamed Alyajouriís candidacy is evidence of our metro areaís political maturity. Our high level of democracy. Heís a Corvallis High grad. He brings an OSU public-health degree and a health administration masterís degree to whatever he does. Mohamedís day job is integrating public-health services, improving family outcomes, and sharpening delivery efficiencies all over Oregon, including Washington and Multnomah counties. Mohamed and Kamili, a Nike professional, raise three bright and beautiful sons.

Mohamedís supporters mention his skills, his connectivity, and his record of community commitment ó the unavoidable glare of his name notwithstanding. Thatís two checked boxes on the advanced democracy scorecard. Two big markers of a vibrant, diverse community moving forward together.

While his backers will surely set out the specific skills heíll bring to Portland Community College, if you persist, each will just as certainly add their concerns about how erosive last yearís shrill national elections were to our most fundamental notions of democracy. And how contrary all that is to the community-building role of the PCC Board of Directors.

Which brings us to where this essay began: Democracy may mean many-many things, but among our precious planetís best democracies, voters and leaders expect their many individual and communal differences to be engaged in building a bigger us. A better us. Our metropolitan areaís 2017 Special Election Votersí Pamphlet is full of all that.

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