Thursday, August 28, 2003

Tucson Children Left Behind?

For those of you who might miss it, one of Tucson's favorite people, Molly McKasson, wrote a thoughtful and balanced piece in the Weekly about No Child Left Behind, which Dean has committed to reforming, for many of the reasons Molly highlights. Good reading with solid interviews with local educators.

Also in this week's Weekly a great short piece about the disappearing of the beloved school nurses, who may be becoming endangered species, but who are currently a major source of primary care for uninsured kids nationwide. Both stories highlight the importance of Dean's agenda, with his focus on delivering healthcare and quality education to children, our most vulnerable and promising citizens.

Dean realizes that those little people in schools and nurses offices across the nation are the future. Children must be an investment priority, not an afterthought. Can any parent say that they wouldn't sacrifice everything they have in the world to give their children better, happier, healthier, wealthier lives? So how is it that, as a society, we can neglect our nation's children as shockingly as we often do? They aren't our kids, but they will be, much sooner than one can imagine, our co-workers, our government officials, our professionals, our sons- and daughters-in-law, our friends and our fellow citizens. Shorting them now, only shorts us later. Our society is in bondage to the short term and the quick result.

Our leaders seem bereft of any sense of continuity, any belief in, or plan for, the future. Our public dialog lacks any sense of moral duty to our future. Howard Dean is the exception. He says that politicians need to stop thinking in terms of the next election cycle (2, 4, 6 years) and start thinking in terms of centuries. He's absolutely right; we may not survive as a nation, as a society, as a culture, or even as a species, unless we do. Nobody in this cold and pitiless universe is looking out for the as yet unborn generations of humans that, if the species is lucky, will come to be in the fullness of time; nobody but we humans now living. Many would say God does, however one conceives of him, but s/he seems to help most those who help themselves.

Dean's emphasis on children in his record and in this campaign, reflects a desire for a return to the traditional American values of family (ALL, families, not some group's narrow definition of family), community (that free and voluntary civil society built on volunteerism and citizen participation which has been dying a quiet death in the cities and towns of America for several generations now), and shared endeavor (the struggle to build something of value and wonder for ourselves and our progeny). These are the values that pull us together, encourage us to approach each other as equals in the struggle to better ourselves, our lives, and those of our children). When such values are made real in the works of our leaders, not just their slogans, it can remake this country a place of hope, love, and wonder - a beacon of human achievement and civilization where the true American spirit is available to all who believe in her. A place where belief in the goodness and rightness of your nation is not a pollyannish dream or a cynical pose.

I'm proud to be able speak of hope and love and equality in the same breath with the goals of my country again. I'm glad that there can be heard everywhere a rising whisper of American voices speaking out about what is really important to them. It's as if I'm waking from a dream of my own life, which was oddly drained of whatever makes life livable. These past 3 years, I have often felt like an exile or a stranger in my own country; one who cannot quite understand the language, nor understand what people in the news are trying to accomplish. I was afraid I wouldn't get the punchline or even see it coming. Now my fear is that it's not coming. In fact, I've stopped waiting for it.

I realized that there is nothing humorous here. America had become a very unfunny place. Like many others, I have started watching John Stewart's Daily Show for my news. Oh, I read the news online voraciously, so I'm not uninformed, but the sick amiability of the newscasters as they pertly spew lies, twist rhetorical drivel into news, and forthrightly shill for their corporate owners, is too sickening to watch. The few real journalists left, privately admit they are too intimidated and terrified to do their jobs with any integrity. Watching professionals soldier on with unseen guns to their heads is just unseemly; I won't watch their humiliation. Better to get a good laugh from John, who somehow finds humor in both the sadly unfunny and the simply absurd.

How to wrap this up?

Good news. The latest Zogby poll has King George flat-lining politically. His approval is pre-9/11 at 52%, off a high of 82%. His hard re-elect number is beaten by "anybody but Bush" by 48% to his 45%. People still think he's a personable guy with a favorability rating of 56% (40% think he's a shrub), but ask Walter Mondale or Jimmy Carter, or Mike Dukakis (and I apologize to them all for grouping them in such boorish company as Bush) whether the nice guy always wins the race.

No. The "Unbeatable" rap which Rove's flacks threw down with such persistence to create an aura of inevitability for Bush's re-election, is sounding like they scratched that record once too often. It no longer pops. Bush is going away. He'll be on a 100k-per-pound-of-bullcake talking tour and be invited to sit on the Board of Carlysle once again with papa (maybe this time they won't find him such a feckless bore that they ease him out after a few years) and become inordinately more wealthy from the wealthier of the world throwing scraps at his feet, as if he were a well trained, yet biddable, attack dog: not far from the truth, actually; just imagine the doggie with many well-camoflauged leashes and a crowd of weathy, anonymous handlers, trying to look as if they are following the dog. You get the picture. But with Bush, maybe it's even worse; maybe even when he's holding the leash, he's not one in control:


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