Saturday, September 8, 2012

JNS BLOG EDITORIAL: When Garden Gnomes Run For Public Office, Grammar And Punctuation Suffer...

Creative stock photo, taken at FOB Salerno, Afghanistan, blog post by John Hoff

I recently came into possession of political literature distributed by Roger Smithrud, a perennial Northside "also ran" candidate whose most recent masochistic self-flogging was in the race for Hennepin County Board of Commissioners, District 2.

Smithrud, who early in his political career resembled a garden gnome, has been slowly but surely evolving as a candidate by, for example, trying to look more like a wise professor than lawn art.

Unfortunately, Smithrud has far to go as a viable candidate for, well, anything.

People close to this blogger say stuff like, "John, why are you picking on sweet little Roger Smithrud?" but then, hiding smiles behind their hands, these same folks forward a copy of Smithrud's political literature in PDF form knowing very well it will offend this grammar Nazi all the way down to the soles of my jackboots. (OH MY GOD!!! Apostrophes on plurals? OVER AND OVER?! Where did Smithrud learn to write, in PRISON?)

I have to HELP this sweet little garden gnome. Yes, he's going to make shrill gnome screaming sounds and cry out that I'm chipping his paint, but THIS HAS TO HAPPEN. Through a painful process of public criticism verging on outright mockery and soul-scarring one-liners, this blog is going to help Smithrud grow as a person and as a candidate so one bright, glorious day, Smithrud can place second in a four man race or even third in a seven man race...

First of all, Smithrud's political "literature" was found tucked into chain link fences all over North Minneapolis. While this is a common method of distribution by low-end candidates, this blogger has to ask, "Which voters are you trying to reach, Roger? The ones without permanent addresses walking around all day on sidewalks?" Serious candidates put their literature on doors or even (here is a thought) MAIL IT TO PERMANENT ADDRESSES.

Distribution is a minor issue compared to the issues with the literature itself. Click here to take another hard look at what Smithrud was distributing at election time. This two page print out contains apostrophes used on plural words, as in the following Smithrudian sentence fragment:

Having living wage Jobs, having employer's that are capable and willing to provide living wage jobs.

For those who care about English and might even TEACH English sometimes, the use of unnecessary and incorrect apostrophes on plural nouns is a sort of "punctuation mark of Cain." Right away I think, "Oh, this is a person who struggles with written expression." And then right in the middle of sentences Smithrud starts capitalizing words like Jobs, Street, Family, Funds.

Why are these words being capitalized? Is it because they contain Important Ideas? The archaic rules of English still used by garden gnomes may have similarities to rules used in the 18th Century when nouns were capitalized, for example, "The Lad went to the distant City, upon a grand Adventure."

But if you are running for office, and you can't write clearly according to the rules of modern English, first of all you should STOP RUNNING FOR OFFICE. But if you're going to run anyway then, for god's sake, find somebody to proofread before you make a fool of yourself in public. This is not just good advice for Roger Smithrud. You know who you are.

Particularly poignant is Smithrud's mention that he came in "not in last place" in one election. To which I say, "Yeah, Smithrud, if you could get all the other candidates to allegedly push their purported mistress from a moving vehicle in the next race, you might even come in FIRST."

In closing, here is one big free advice for Roger Smithrud.

Roger, your maximum level of political effectiveness is probably chair of an ad hoc neighborhood committee to deal with some kind of vexing but temporary issue. You do not have what it takes to be a county commissioner, a city council person or even, for that matter, chair of a neighborhood committee. But it's obvious you give a damn and people think you're a very nice and sincere person; so why don't you try to have a positive impact on some specific issue, instead of submitting yourself to brutal public spankings in one election after another?

Oh, wait, here's MORE free advice.

Roger, your literature doesn't say ANYTHING noteworthy. It's full of vague generalities and promising platitudes. Why don't you pick some kind of hard and difficult issue and take a stand with a creative solution? I'm not going to SUGGEST any issues or solutions because, frankly, those ideas would be wasted on a hopeless candidate. But if you could find a burning issue, and propose a creative solution, you might add something worthwhile to a political race instead of just, "Oh, look, Roger is in the race, too!" which is EXACTLY what it looks like to most of us; a meaningless attempt to make Roger look meaningful and finagle opportunities to eat pizza at somebody else's victory party.

Here's a Smithrud joke.

How do you know when Roger is planning to run for public office?

Answer: He's already working on his concession speech.

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