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Saturday, May 11, 2013

SENATOR SHANK PERCEIVES TWO MARYLANDS

   I attended the Post-Legislative Forum for the Western Maryland delegation the other evening. As expected, since I try to stay informed about what goes on in Annapolis, there wasn't anything new revealed. However, I found it interesting and quite refreshing to hear Senator Chris Shank honestly state:
They don't even pretend anymore that there is One Maryland [a MD slogan from several years ago]. There are two different states.
He went on to say that "West Maryland" as in "West Virginia" begins at Frederick County [minus Senator Ron Young]. He gave an example where he read an article in the Montgomery County Gazette entitled, Montgomery Leaders Celebrate 2013 Annapolis Session, where their delegation was celebrating the victorious session. The article states:
Maryland’s gas tax increase, repeal of the death penalty and sweeping gun control legislation were cause to beat the drum Wednesday in Montgomery County.
They clearly see the world differently and speak another language. Our delegation, except for maybe Delegate Donoghue and Senator Young, all voted against all of these bills...as they should. We elected this delegation to speak for we-the-people of our districts and we expected their votes to represent our beliefs.  Needless to say, this room on this night did not have the feel of a celebration. 
   I found his forthrightness to be especially brave and commendable because Senator Shank was recently applauded in a Herald-Mail op-ed for "representing the county well in his new role." To paraphrase the op-ed, it stated that he was ineffective as a delegate but that he is now more effective as a senator because he isn't causing as much trouble.This is highly unusual for Senator Shank to be spoken of in any way but with disdain by this newspaper. Senator Shank could have rested in the open arms of this Liberal newspaper and those who are in their camp. He could have decided to go along to get along as our senator in the past was known to do. He may have even brought home more pork next session and used it for his re-election campaign as other senators past and present do. But no, Senator Shank represents the people who elected him. He didn't take the political bait. He said:
I don't have a solution for you. I want to be positive, but I am not going to sugar-coat it for you. We are a minority in Annapolis. They don't even look our way unless they need something. They don't even pretend anymore. There are two Marylands.
   The gun-control issue is a prime example of the differences between the two Maryland states. He said that this issue created the most passion than any other issue past or present. He received approximately 10,000 emails and hundreds of phone calls asking him to vote against the bill, most coming from Washington County. I personally witnessed the turnout at the hearings that often went way into the night with people wanting to testify against the bill. There were people lined up from the hearing room all the way downstairs and out the door! Yet, the majority went along with Martin O'Malley's agenda. Our delegation did not, except for Senator Young.
   During the Q&A part of the meeting, a man stood up and asked what we all have been asking ourselves since the last presidential election and then maybe even more so after this horrific legislative session: 
Why should I vote? We are powerless.
   I thought that I would hate to be the one expected to answer that question. I thought this is going to be painful to watch. Not so. The delegation spoke without hesitation, beginning with Senator Shank:
During the gun-control debate I had several military veterans who said to me, "Do not make my service in vain and do not make me a criminal." Continue to vote to honor and support them. We have to exercise our right--our obligation--to vote, to run petition drives, and use the courts to fight for our rights and our freedoms.
   Senator Edwards said:
Many times in history one vote has made a difference. We have to let the opposition know that we are there. Many people died so that we can vote. 
Delegate Parrott said: 
We in the delegation feel the same way sometimes. We see  those typically on the other side come to us and say, "I agree, but we have to vote with the leadership." Our votes encourage them. Who knows they may be in leadership one day and vote with us.  One vote can make a difference. They scramble in Annapolis for that one vote!
Delegate Serafini said:
There are consequences if they don't vote with the leadership. They will take your chairmanship, move your office...petty stuff. 
    It is clear to me that there are indeed two Marylands. In fact Maryland looks like a microcosm of our country. The United States is deeply divided with each side having a different perspective and speaking a different language. For now it looks like the Conservatives are a helpless, hopeless minority. But I'm old enough to remember when it was the reverse. I used to think that one campaign could turn everything around. I wonder if this time though there has been permanent damage to our rights, our Constitution, our monetary system, and to our system of economics to be able to turn it around again. One thing I do know...we have to keep fighting and we have to keep voting, just as our delegation so aptly explained. 
   Many (not just a few as in other times) are talking about secession on the state level and the national level. Is that crazy talk? Is that extreme? Can it be done peaceably?  I guess that's a topic for another time.  


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