Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

What's the Deal, Am I Living in Iran?
Published in The Signal, 12-18-2005.

Darryl Manzer, 2005     I'm embarrassed. This week in Iraq, more than 70 percent of the voters turned out to vote amid bombs, rockets and gunfire. Santa Clarita sent some ballots to homes and maybe got 35 percent back. Folks couldn't even mail back a simple ballot in a self-addressed, pre-paid envelope. Not a bad voter turnout, considering a typical election here in the United States.
    No, it was a bad turnout. Maybe we should have some bombs, rockets and gunfire to get folks out to vote. I'm beginning to wonder if that is the answer.
    I'm embarrassed. Do I live in Iran? If I call it a "Christmas tree" or say "Merry Christmas," I might offend someone. At least here, unlike Iran, I won't be thrown in jail for having a Christmas tree or saying, "Merry Christmas."
    But is the day coming when I might be jailed for saying it? Isn't this the land of freedom and liberty?
    I'm embarrassed ... that at the expense of my own thoughts and beliefs, I must adhere, in some form, to the thoughts and beliefs of others. Is that what our country has become?
    True diversity is acceptance of the freedom and liberty to hear all sides. You don't have to agree. You don't have to like it. What you hear may even offend you, but you have to accept that those espousing beliefs, different from your own, have the right to say and do what they believe.
    In Chesapeake, Va., there is a gentleman called "Cowboy" who somehow gathers enough signatures in each city election to run for mayor. He attends every council meeting and probably knows more about the workings of the city government than any three sitting council persons, combined. He is called a "gadfly" and "crackpot."
    At one point, Cowboy and some others like him were arrested for speaking out during the public comment period at a council meeting. The city of Chesapeake lost that case, and Cowboy continues to speak. It is his right, and indeed his duty. I'm sure Santa Clarita has its share of "Cowboys" at every city council meeting. I'd be embarrassed if it didn't.
    I don't agree with 90 percent of what Cowboy has to say. I didn't like listening to him when I lived in that city and went to City Council meetings. But he has the right to espouse his beliefs, just the same as I have a right to espouse mine. It is the American way.
    Of late, I've been called "unpatriotic" because I disagree with the way the war in Iraq is being run.
    Let me set this straight. I served six years, 11 months and 29 days on active duty aboard submarines. I worked another 29 years designing, repairing, testing and certifying ships and submarines for the U.S. Navy.
    I'm not patriotic?
    Get a grip, Mr. President! If you let the military do the job you sent them to do, we would have been and out of Iraq long ago. Didn't you learn anything from Vietnam? Oh, you weren't there. Neither was I. I was on active duty aboard a submarine that carried 16 Polaris missiles, and I spent more than 20 months, total, underwater doing that. Don't you dare imply that I'm "unpatriotic."
    While I doubt that Sen. Kerry deserved the medals he got, he was dodging bullets on a small boat during that time. He sure as heck wasn't flying a jet over the hostile environs of Texas and Arkansas. You embarrass me, too.
    OK. I've been on my "soapbox" many times this past year because of causes I felt were the right thing — causes that in Virginia and in the Santa Clarita Valley that are near and dear to my heart, which I felt and believed were good for everyone to approve. Overall. I'm "winning" about 50 percent of the time.
    No — we all win when we voice our concerns, beliefs and espouse our causes. I'm not embarrassed about that. I rejoice in it.
    So at the risk of offending some and helping others have a day that's a little more joyful, I say to all of you — even if you don't want to hear it — MERRY CHRISTMAS AND PEACE ON EARTH TO MEN AND WOMEN OF GOODWILL.
    Now may I finish decorating my Holiday Tree?

    Darryl Manzer lived in the Santa Clarita Valley oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s as a teenager. He now lives in Virginia.

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