Editorial shorts: Desire for clean highways shared by many faiths

  • Updated: July 12, 2008 - 11:31 PM

Most of the time, those blue "Adopt-A-Highway" signs barely merit a glance. But the latest one to go up along a busy stretch of Hwy. 10 in Coon Rapids has a sponsor with an eye-catcher of a name: the Upper Midwest Pagan Alliance.

The group is the same one that garnered headlines in Minnesota a few years back with a rally in support of putting pentacles on Wiccan soldiers' tombstones. Its president, Nels Linde of western Wisconsin, said adopting the highway is part of the group's effort to give back to the community, in the same way that other church groups have service projects. It's also a "hands-on approach" for those in the earth-centered religions the alliance represents.

Recent clean-up efforts have proven to be a challenge. So far, members have put in about 150 hours, and they're only two-thirds done because there was so much garbage.

Among the things they've found: cell phones, church bulletins, pornography, tires and just about every kind of container possible. There were so many cigarette butts that members assigned to picking them up spent hours on a small stretch of roadside.

Litterers in the area can rest easy. Asked if the group might consider spells on offenders, Linde laughed, then noted members' strong, do-no-harm ethic. Instead, he politely requests that drivers dispose of their waste properly no matter where they may be. Said Linde: "It's all one earth.''

Community service appropriate for a lame joke

Maybe, instead of vilifying Max Sanders, we should congratulate him. After all, the University of Minnesota student was pledging to exercise his constitutional right to vote.

However, there is the little issue of his pledging to vote the way the highest bidder wanted him to. As a lark, he put that vote up for sale on eBay. Now he's facing one count of bribery, treating and soliciting, a felony. All that for a not-very-original joke -- and a total of zero bids.

The Minnesota secretary of state's office certainly wasn't laughing. "We take it very seriously. Fundamentally, we believe it is wrong to sell your vote," harrumphed John Aiken, director of communications. "There are people that have died for this country for our right to vote, and to take something that lightly, to say, 'I can be bought.'"

How could we ever take our vote so lightly? Nearly two-thirds of us turned out to exercise that blood-soaked right and chose the next leader of the free world in 2004, holding the candidates up to such stringent criteria as "Who would I rather have a beer with?"

However, Sanders did break the law -- an 1893 law, yet nonetheless the law -- but rather than play hardball with the 19-year-old, all parties should work out a plea agreement that will make him serve as an election judge.

In that role, he could be taught the lesson that, while some of us don't take our electoral duty seriously, there are many more who do.

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