Sneeze, Yes! Sneeze, No!
Grinburgh had never been more divided. A political campaign to change a long established tradition had split this bedroom community into two fiercely contested campaigns. Neighbors who had been friends from childhood hardly spoke to each other. And strangers, thrust together by controversy, became like closely knit family members.
One could tell by the hundreds of signs that peppered manicured lawns which houses favored keeping the existing practice and which ones felt an update was well overdue. One week it appeared as if those who would vote against change had more Sneeze, No! placards. On the other hand, some weeks Sneeze, Yes! outnumbered them.
By mid-June the campaign was well underway. And every politician who wanted to remain in office knew that this hotly contested issue would determine their political career.
Jim Dougherty, a veteran Councilman with twenty years behind him, favored an amendment that would alter the longstanding custom. But members of his Party could not come to a majority consensus. On the other side of the aisle, Mark Sandstone’s Party was totally united. This tradition had been in force for more than one hundred years. Why change it now?
And so the controversy raged on. Lobbyists for and against showed up like weeds out of control. As the time to take a vote drew near, a group of well-organized conservative activists decided to ratchet up the rhetoric, to take a firmer stand against the opposition.
Why should this town be taken over by a coalition of upstarts, troublemakers, and progressive radicals? Some people called them “radical rascals” who very effectively demonstrated their determination to drown out the voices of anyone who disagreed with them.
And so a closely guarded secret meeting was held one night at the largest church in town – Sixth Baptist of Grinburgh. As a leading proponent for the preservation of traditional standards of conduct and an assistant to Sandstone, Dillon Peabody felt compelled to devise new strategies to counteract what was becoming a likely victory for the “Sneeze, Yes” Party. Even Mr. Peabody was surprised at the number of people that attended the meeting.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he began, “I’d like to thank you for coming to show your support for this very important meeting and for supporting this important cause… Excuse me, I feel a sneeze coming…Achoo!”… “And”, he continued, “to stand united against what could very well change the face of our town forever. We need to come up with new strategies to make sure voters understand the importance of voting on the right side of history. After all, the future of the next generation is at stake.”
“You got that right, brother!”
Heads turned, and necks strained towards the back to see from whence came this booming voice that was deeper than the lowest octave of a bass fiddle.
Mr. Peabody continued, but not before Ms. Maggie, seated in the front row, let out an even louder sneeze.
“I sure hope I’m not responsible for THAT one,” Peabody quipped amidst the chuckles. “And I certainly hope it doesn’t mean our side is going to lose. Whatever we do here tonight will not only keep the face of our community from changing forever, but will also decide what the next generation will look like. We must win this fight!”
The rafters echoed the crowd’s thunderous approval. By the time the meeting ended, new campaign plans were formulated.
Flyers, bumper stickers, and buttons would be made with their new slogan, “Keep Government out of Your Face.” Volunteers, wearing a Cheese, Yes,” button would go to every house, explain why cheese was better for the community, and invite them to a pre-Election Day, come- one- come -all barbeque to be held in the center of town. During the middle of the affair, Mr. Peabody would demonstrate with his camera and his beautiful five- year old granddaughter why a campaign for change had to be defeated.
Backslapping, cat calls, and high-fives ended the meeting, and high hopes followed them home.
Election Day came much too quickly, but each party appeared certain of victory. The voting booths opened to a long line of enthusiastic voters. The turnout defied all predictions, forcing the voting centers to extend their hours. In the early hours of the morning after Election Day the results were in.
"Say,Cheese" had won. And from now on, anyone caught saying, “Sneeze” when taking a picture would suffer a heavy fine.
At least for now, an embattled tradition had survived.
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