October, 2017: I pulled hard on my raft’s oars to set-up a run thru Horn Creek Rapid in Grand Canyon on the Colorado River. At low water level, this a challenging run. Ferrying into the current, I saw a motorboat upstream, but it was far away- or so I thought. Just as I reached the rapid, the motorboat swung around and entirely blocked my reference markers. I drifted too far right (there’s real danger in allowing a boat to do so) and when I dropped over the rapids’ crest, I headed straight for the large rock wall. I pulled hard and BAAAMMM!! The downstream oar broke, the raft’s tube shot-up the wall and WHOOOSH, I was under an upside-down boat in turbulent water. It took a minute, or longer, to hand-crawl out from under the boat, came up gasping for air, and shivering in the frigid water. Fellow boatmen got my boat to the rocky shore where someone pulled me out and ripped clothes off my hypothermic body. Wrapped in a towel, I slowly warmed while other boatfolk flipped my boat right side up. I slept like a baby that night.
Then, August 4, 2020. I’d been consistently working on my County Supervisor campaign: sending monthly newsletters, putting up yard signs, talking with voters and raising money for the long run. I visited four Navajo Chapter Houses with plans for more, then COVID-19 came and locked-down the Navajo Nation. Navajo and other leaders told me to stay home, don’t spread the virus. I followed their advice. I mailed ~7,000 postcards, 500 personalized letters, set-up 150 yard-signs, made over 1000 phone calls. The primary election came and early results showed me down by 150 votes, at bedtime with 30% of results, I was down by 200 so I said the serenity prayer and slept like a baby. I rose with the sun, checked the results – down by 300 votes.
Late morning, I called my challenger and she was herding sheep, didn’t have internet connection, didn’t know she had won. Judy Begay is a wonderful Navajo woman who put herself through grad school, served several years on the Tuba City School Board, worked to create housing for Navajos, and raised her kids while caring for her elderly mother. I endorse Judy Begay for County Supervisor, District 4.
The parallels between the two stories are obvious, but what’s the lesson? I didn’t pull hard enough into the current — only 30% of the eligible voters voted in this primary, meaning that 3 people have decided what the other 7 can now do. I didn’t take the motorboat seriously – the COVID-19 upset my campaign and I needed to reach more people, more quickly. I knew I had to stay off of the wall at the rapid –I got advice that seemed wise at the time but I needed to double my efforts– earlier. In all, I needed to do what we now need to do for our country.
Our democracy is on the ballot. The analogy, while intriguing, is real. We need ALL hands-on deck:
- to find, read and understand verified information (not the Fake-News or Twitter hyperbole),
- to make sure that we have a quality census that represents everyone, per the Constitution,
- to properly fund the Postal Service and the viability of mail-in ballots,
- to seriously consider how our vote impacts our children’s future and the society they will live in.
We can’t afford another upside-down election. We need a FLIP, but in the Arizona House and Senate, in the US Senate, and in the White House. Anything less and we will betray the dream of true patriots’ who fought against tyranny in 1776 which is similar to the tyranny we face today. But now, we do so with our vote. I may have lost my race, but I won’t stand by and lose our democracy. Please, get involved.
Bryan Bates, Citizen