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On this Veteran’s Day it is good to consider those who served, for those of us who served to reflect on our service, and for the nation to enjoy a moment (rare as it is) of unity of purpose. Not all who served did so with honor, and some have dishonored themselves after service, but — for the most part — veteran identification says something meaningful about an individual. It is this honor, and the nation’s gratitude, that some in the State of Washington hope to make the means to their nefarious, dishonorable ends.
As I was walking into the grocery store today I saw the table set up. It seemed a little early for the paid initiative signature gatherers to be stationed already (the election was last week for crying out loud!), but there she was. Some poor sap with no idea what she was asking of people stood behind a table with signs imploring people to “Support Veterans!” As a veteran I was interested to learn exactly how this particular initiative would support me and my cohort, so I stopped to read the initiative (something almost no one in this state does before signing the petition.) To my horror I discovered the measure has nothing to do with veterans; rather, the initiative reinstates affirmative action in the state.
In 1998 the people of Washington voted on another initiative and banned both affirmative action and the use of preferential treatment in government actions such as employment and public education. This new measure hopes to overturn that law by redefining both terms [pdf]. The voters of this state have every right to rethink their positions on the matter and to rework the law. They do not, however, have any right or permission to take my name in vain to do so. Sure, the initiative adds veterans to the ever growing list of protected classes, but that is obviously not the point of the proposal. Selling it as a veteran’s initiative is egregious. I am infuriated. I told the ignorant signature gatherer that her signs and her petitions were a fraud. It is taking an act of will to prevent myself from going back to the store and warning every passer-by of the blatant lies hung from that table.
I’m not against the initiative power. It has been used for both good and ill in this state. What I am against is the evil and dishonesty all such powers engender in people. I am mostly against people wielding power as haphazardly as they do by reading the dishonest signs on the table and then signing their names to initiatives without ever having read the truth printed so clearly on the back of the signature page.