Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dredging Up The Past -OR- Faux News' Newest Target Audience

First Published October 30, 1996

The closing argument of District 209 in the Westchester de-annexation hearings captured it in a nutshell. Through their attorney, District 209 claimed the title: Provider of high school education in and for Proviso Township District 209. Further, they labeled Westchester's effort racist and wasteful.

It doesn't matter that the district repels students, it doesn't matter that fully half of the students go elsewhere, all that matters is that they remain the only publicly funded game around and by virtue of squatter's rights, they are deserving of our tax dollars. The district is presented as an all or nothing proposition, but ends up as "all" being the only allowable selection.

The district wasn't on trial for falling short of its obligations; one community cannot hope to force that issue. If the district really has the confidence it expressed during the hearings, they should move to settle this question, district-wide, for all to see. A school district without the majority support of the people is a blight on everyone. The confidence District 209 puts forth is not in its ability to educate, it is only in its ability to defend its entitlement against isolated challenges and the inability of the feeder communities to unify their efforts toward a solution.

This kind of repellent thinking mirrors much of the bureaucratic structure that frustrates us as a nation. Our survival as a people is secondary to the need to keep the structures intact; even when the output of these structures is largely unfit for human consumption. It makes great fodder for comedians and columnists, but speaking for myself, I would love to be obsolete.

On one hand, we have people and their respective institutions at the forefront, who assure us that they have guided us to this point and thus, have demonstrated an ability to lead. Somehow, we owe these people something in the future, based on the events of the past. This is the dominant focus of what we see, hear and read. We are asked to believe that there is a wide chasm of ideological difference between the two parties, when the differences aren't fundamental at all, they are marginal, lying only in the minutae, labeling or blame.

On the other hand, there is a broad spectrum of unorganized discontent without access to the resources necessary to penetrate the mainstream. Dismissed as a whole, for the views of the few, they are lumped together for all practical purposes as kooks and malcontents. Into this group we have placed national names like Ross Perot, Ralph Nader, Harry Browne and other candidates for President, whose views do not fit the narrow band outlined by the two parties.

Fewer than half of the registered voters will exercise their right next week. Pundits, analysts and the candidate's spin-doctors will attempt to validate the vote by discounting the discontent. They will downplay the significance of this obvious lack of faith in the system, by saying that only those who vote matter. They point to the legacy, the unbroken chain, the presence of this continuum as proof that the system works, when it clearly is unsatisfactory for a statistically significant segment of the population.

Where it does work, and works well, you will find that trust and confidence are two-way streets. You find people working together to eliminate problems, a commitment to improvement by cooperative methods and leadership that doesn't try to blame its troubles on phantoms of the past. In simple terms, we are all both conservative and liberal. We strive to conserve that which works and liberate that which does not.

Where it cannot possibly work is where leaders presume to know without asking, refuse to listen when told and claim to be acting in anyone's best interests but their own.

Note: I'll be riffing off of this in the near future. On the surface, it would seem to support the recent tea party efforts. So why was this wrong while it was right in `96? Or at least that's today's plan.

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