October 2008

Political thistles

By David Feela

I’ve got an acre crammed with thistles. I didn’t do anything to deserve them, and they didn’t do anything to deserve me. When I walk through my field to reach the irrigation gate, I can’t help but think of politics. Thistles have a way of bringing out the tenderness in a person.

One thing I’ve noticed in the short time living at my new property is that I have basically two varieties of thistles and because I don’t know enough about botany to say for sure, I’ve resigned myself to classifying them for my own ease as Republicans or Democrats. The Republicans always seem to outnumber the Democrats in this county as a general rule, but one never knows how the seeds get blown about by the wind, and change happens subtly. Naturally, a few Independents must be mixed into the tangle, but from my porch they all just look like thistles. They pop up just like all those campaign signs you can’t help noticing around the county. Different colors, but they’re everywhere.

My neighbor says I should spray the whole bunch, but he also claims no matter what I do it’s impossible to get rid of them. He recommends going down to the County Extension Office for a little advice. I haven’t gone yet, mostly because I can’t imagine how I’d explain myself.

“Excuse me, I understand you have resources available to help rid me of my thistles.”

“Yes, sir,” the county agent might reply, “but can you tell me which type of thistle you want to eradicate?”

“I think they’re Republicans.”

“Can you be more specific?”

“They look like ranchers wearing big purple hats.”

By then I’d be kicked out of the office, maybe out of the county. Around here people are obnoxiously serious about noxious weed control.

But I’d also like to know why I can’t get a little help in reducing this proliferation of campaign signs. With the November election so close at hand, a person would think the newspapers couldn’t find space for all the articles written by the candidates themselves who hope to be elected. A ongoing debate, for instance, between opponents, in print, responding to each other’s goals, ideals, and ambitions. Long, carefully written essays about life in America and the road we are on. Could it be that despite all the campaigning, in the end nobody running for office has anything to say?

I get the feeling our politicians are experts in signing their names. What the public gets is a noxious infection of political signs, as if the most qualified candidate is the one that can plant his or her name along the most ditches, at the most traffic intersections, and on the most lawns of America.

A similar problem chokes out any healthy discussion of politics on our electronic horizon. A barrage of expensive TV ads designed to discredit one another and reduce political thought to an encounter with a thistle.


Do I need a herbicide, or is a chemical engineer close to developing an effective pestisign?

David Feela writes from rural Montezuma County, Colo.