A Few Thoughts On National Events……

Dear friends,

It’s only a week before the various events in Washington D.C. I’m hoping, mostly, to have fun and for a sufficient size to not look foolish! As you can tell, I do my best to keep my dreams in check—but ye not abandon them! Being a long-distance runner has its drawbacks—even as one gets to one’s final laps.

On my mind: how to stay in the game”—or “who am I trying to convince of what?”

I was reading a story in the NY Times about the Tea Party’s take on schooling and realized that they were not going to be allies even on some narrow agenda—as I once had assumed. Still maybe some of those attracted to their political dramatics might be.
There are aspects of their seeming paranoia that overlaps with mine!

I read some of the Murdoch, Bloomberg stuff these days and realize that in this period of history there is no overlap in our message. Maybe there occasionally is/was with Gates.

But even when the overlap is there, it’s true ONLY about the immediate future of schooling in America. Have to remind myself that schooling is only one part of the jigsaw puzzle—and I got into it sort of by accident and the fight going on today involves all the other agendas that matter to me. Poverty, after all, is best alleviated with money, jobs, power.

We’re facing an “ideological” divide between those who truly believe that the winners of vast wealth deserve to be winners and that our future lies in putting our faith in them-no questions asked, no quid pro quo.

There is no way any of us can any longer count on the winners to even pretend to be selfless—or embarrassed. Naked greed is not shameful. It’s possible to say to ones fellow citizens: “I owe you nothing, although I may out of the kindness of my heart make a contribution now and then.”. That I make in an hour what you make in a year, that I spend on my child’s education—broadly speaking–far more than you make in a lifetime is just ‘one of those things.’ That we once – faced with a mutual stake in our nation’s future—were willing to pay 90% in taxes is just plain unbelievable in retrospect—and unlikely to even trouble our minds again.” Am I being unfair to “them”?

Imagine claiming that given our “deficit” it’s the poorest and oldest who must bear the brunt. “We” aren’t willing to contribute even a 1% tax increase. None. Our way or no way.

Obviously I’m not out to convince them—although I truly think that in the long run their “way” will be a disaster even for them. But I do think that their arguments, and their “stance” has persuaded many others who are convincible. So, it makes it hard to narrow the audience.. Usually I just aim my remarks then at teachers!

The idea of a more equitable and fair republic so clearly rests—as our funding fathers (sexist and racist virtually all) agreed on moderating the extremes of poverty and wealth. They were not men who gloried in their wealth. I’m not making paragons of virtue out of them, but I’m struck by their efforts to appear “modest”. It’s an “appearance” that many presidential hopefuls have put on every four years as well—so that part of our heritage has survived. But the disguise is so thin and so phony—and mostly takes the form of appearing dumb–that it takes very little to see the greed that it covers.

Imagine how easily they have raised the stakes for educating and caring for the poor onto the backs of the poor themselves and the relatively lower middle-class teachers and public employees who work with them., while also removing resources from them to do the job. Money suddenly doesn’t count.

Imagine how easily they have witnessed the burgeoning of a vast population of imprisoned fellow Americans with ease—perfectly willing to build a vast prison system for them.

I just got finished watching a show about chimpanzees “in the wild”—which of course means in their natural habitat-versus those essentially in prison. The speaker reminded us that any animal kept in conditions of captivity is likely to soon become mentally ill.

But we’ve increasingly done that to our fellow citizens. Even our schools—which now occupy a greater and greater portion of young people’s waking lives—are more like prison, places where we grow accustomed, socialized to expect no “rights” and plenty of obedience.

We need to counter this trend every place we can; we need to praise ornery, feisty resistance—which will sometimes be wrongheaded. We need to arouse anger when its alternative is passivity and withdrawal. We need to look for hope, for alternative paradigms, and for allies—even when it seems utopian to do so.

Next week—in Washington—some of us will gather to do so. More from me afterwards.


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