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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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Posted by pam on January 14, 2011 at 10:13 pm

Originally published November 10, 2006

This column is reprinted with permission from The Hills Newspapers.

There must be an easier way.  As I tried to pick the right dessert at the bakery to take to a friend’s house for dinner, I was overwhelmed by choices.  The chocolate cake looked mouthwatering, but the fruit tart was colorful.  Certainly, the cheesecake and tiramisu were worth considering.  Not to mention the turnovers, cookies and brownies.

With the arrival of Election Day, I am also overwhelmed by choices.  In some cases, I can make decisive choices.  There is no doubt as to what or whom I will choose.  Like if I was selecting a dessert at the bakery for myself – chocolate cake all the way.

In other cases, along with the choices on Election Day, I am overwhelmed by the number of unfamiliar issues.  There are also candidates unknown to me (sometimes running for seats equally unknown to me, like the Member of State Board of Equalization on this year’s ballot).  In these instances, I have no choice but to learn the information beforehand.

The information, however, does not always make the choices easier.  As with some measures on the ballot this year, there are compelling arguments on both sides.  Even so, most voters make choices by following familiar tastes.  For example, no matter how hard someone tries to convince me to try the fruit tart, I still want the chocolate cake.

Sometimes, your choices can have unexpected results not suiting your taste.  For instance, if you believe the opponents of Proposition 86, the measure calling for a tax on cigarettes, they claim it will increase crime.  By raising the value of cigarettes, opponents say it will increase gang and organized crime activity around stolen and smuggled cigarettes.  So, otherwise good results of a winning vote might also have a downside.

As challenging as choices can be on Election Day, it is worth noting the good results of a winning vote, even one not directly influenced by the average voter.  The Oakland Museum recently hosted an afternoon called “Dreamgirls — Girls and Women in Sports”, described as “a tribute to the women and girls who have taken Title IX – and run with it”.  In 1972, members of the US Congress voted on and passed Title IX, credited by many with the extraordinary success of female athletes today.  Title IX requires schools receiving federal assistance to provide equal opportunities for women and men.  As a result, sport programs for girls and women have to receive the same funding as those for boys and men.  Before Title IX, with little or no money directed their way, female athletes in schools rarely received training or experience.

Events at the museum included a screening of “Dare to Dream”, a film about the US women’s soccer team.  As I watched the movie, I was inspired by the talent and determination of the women profiled in it.  Their talent was certainly helped by Title IX.  The movie shows, however, that developing their talent was not enough.

In order to receive the attention and respect granted to male athletes of the same caliber, these women had to do more than win Olympic gold medals, as they did in 1996.  In the years leading up to their 1999 World Cup championship, they worked tirelessly at a grass root level to promote their game and build the first widespread audience for a women’s sport.  In all ways, these women deserved the fair shot given them by Title IX.

Along with the good results of Title IX, there have been unexpected ones.  While the law has greatly benefited female athletes, according to critics, it has negatively affected men by taking money away from small revenue-generating sports in schools.  Others criticize the complicated nature of compliance and the innumerable lawsuits, many of which introduce issues having nothing to do with the intention of the law.

On Election Day, I will keep in mind that choices can have unexpected results.  This knowledge (or, should I say lack thereof) can make the choices seem overwhelming.  Instead of feeling overwhelmed, I am going to think about the women soccer players in the movie.  Whatever the downside of Title IX, there also have been inspiring results.

In the end, the only thing worse than too many choices is no choice.  It would be as awful as a bakery selling only fruit tart, when what you really want is chocolate cake.

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