Stay What Course? Or Cut and Run—to Where?

By Darryl Manzer
"Way Back When"
The Signal
Sunday, September 17, 2006

    "The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese."
    — unknown

t appears that even the congressional elections this year can't get much news in the SCV. Things seem just a little boring at my old home valley. My e-mails have been pretty bland with respect to "news" in the SCV, and even the local blog sites have stopped the incessant fighting I so enjoyed reading.
    Is peace breaking out among the residents of my favorite valley? Really, Vallarta Market is opening in Old Orchard Shopping Center, the Hispanic Excelencia Awards were held at the Hyatt in the middle of GOP territory — and with the Democratic congressional candidate, Roberto Rodriguez, in attendance; Carl Boyer is going to speak at a West Ranch Town Council meeting in October, Canyon Country still feels like the stepchild of the rest of the valley, and the William S. Hart Union High School District is spending tons of money on projects of doubtful value.
    Even this newspaper was said to be offering more coverage of places west of Interstate 5. Strange happenings in the sleepy little place once called "the sticks."
    So I guess maybe I should turn up the heat and stir the pot a little. Something has to be done. What the heck, even the fire near Castaic has an inane name, the "Day Fire." because the "Labor Day Fire" was already used. It deserves a better name, like "OUT."
    We've all got some hard choices to make, come this November. Here in Virginia, the Senate race is between Sen. George Allen and former Republican, now Democrat, Jim Webb. Let me see, a senator who recently made racist remarks and reveres the Confederate battle flag, and the former Secretary of the Navy under President Reagan.
    You've got a viable Democratic candidate challenging you current congressman. Tough call there, too, isn't it?
    Our president tells us to "stay the course" but gives no hint of what that "course" may be. War on terrorism? Democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan? What is it, Mr. Bush?
    I've stood many watches as a mate on the research vessel I was once in charge of, and I know that "stay the course" means to continue in the direction we've been going. In the case of our current elected officials, I have little doubt that they don't know where we've been, what direction we're headed, and what we're going to do when we get there. We and they don't even know where "there" is.
    I listen to the speeches and all too often hear, "We have peace in our time," just like the world heard prior to World War II. If my confusion was strictly from what I hear from Republicans, I would know how my vote would be used. But I hear the same thing from Democrats. Neither side has a POA&M (that's military speak for "Plan of Action and Milestones").
    Oh what to do, what to do? "Stay the course" or "cut and run?" I just can't decide. So I've got to keep my options at a local level. Which man is best for Virginia? I don't know, but that means I've got to listen to both of them, look at their records and make an informed choice. You've got the same situation in the SCV.
    At this point, it's not an easy choice for any of us, even those who vote the party line in every election. It's not that easy, this coming election.
    It took Mr. McKeon three years to introduce the bill that could stop Cemex from mining in the SCV, but at the same time he did get funding through for the cross-valley connector. He also managed to get increased interest rates on student loans. Has he delivered the goods to the people of the SCV?
    Not that Mr. Rodriguez knows the SCV, but he would be a change. Would that change be good for the valley? What is his experience? What is his platform? Where does he stand on the issues? In fact, what are the issues?
    Yep, you've got the same problem I have to solve. Different places and candidates, but the same problem for all of us: How do we vote this time?
    I fear that what will happen is that in all this confusion, doubt and rhetoric, people will simply not vote.
    This election is a time when every registered voter needs to get to the polls. We need to show the world that we can have the same voter turnout as the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. It is pretty hypocritical to say we are democratizing other nations when we don't even bother to vote ourselves.
    Maybe, just maybe — though I doubt it — we'll get some idea of what course to stay and how we'll know when the job is done. If we don't get those answers, I know the voters will turn elsewhere for answers. They'll turn to the "second mouse" and hope to get a little cheese.
    Just who is the "second mouse"? Sorry, my crystal ball isn't working today. Y'all are just going to have to decide for yourselves and vote — because if you don't, all y'all will be the first mouse.

Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley and eventually relocated to Boulder City, Nev. He can be reached at His older commentaries are archived at; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].