Remember when Michelle Obama, upon her husband's nomination as the Democratic candidate for president, exclaimed, "Now I'm really proud of my country!" Do you also remember how, as a snide retort, Cindy McCain, wife of John McCain, reacted, "I've always been proud of my country"?
Well, let's get something straight as straight can be: Loving a son or daughter, or an organization, or a government or a country is by no necessity related to whatever level of pride someone might feel for that son or daughter or organization or country. Indeed, feeling a deep love for any of those might demand one, upon occasion, to feel excruciating embarrassment, or even eviscerating shame. Loving that son or daughter or other means wanting the very best for that son or daughter or other, for them to reach the very pinnacle of honor and success that accompanies that honor. This Army Infantry vet was shamed to the core too often to recount through the Bush years. And every decent American, whether he or she felt it, should have suffered those same pangs of remorse and shame that that administration heaped upon the nation.
While today that nadir is not quite so biting, I feel sincere remorse, embarrassment and shame for some policies that cannot be adjudicated other than remorseful, embarrassing and shameful.
I awoke this morning, the 7th of August, to read Bob Herbert's click hereNew York Times
column, "Putting Our Brains on Hold. "click here
=1&th&emc=th In it Hebert cites just how low we have allowed ourselves to sink educationally, relative to other nations around the globe; "allowed ourselves", no one or no other country did this to us, we did it all ourselves.
I offer one quote from the article: "The latest dismal news on the leadership front comes from the College board, which tells us that the U.S., once the world's leader in percentage of young people with college degrees, has fallen to 12th among 36 developed nations."
And one more: ". . . instead of exercising the appropriate mental muscles, we're allowing (There it is again: allowing!) to become a nation of nitwits, obsessed with the comings and goings of Lindsay Lohan and increasingly oblivious to crucially important societal issues that are all but screaming for attention."
As does Hebert, I also blame almost everyone; the parents, the teachers, the business professionals, and our politicians. How many parents, I'd like to know, are satisfied when the child brings home a "C', or who argue with the teacher threateningly for awarding that miserable testament to mediocrity to the child? How many parents, I'd like to know, took the baby home on that first day without expecting that a 4-year college degree was going to be an eventual, natural state of progression for that child? For all who were okay with that "C,' do not also try to tell me you gave much of a damn for that same child.
That is not to suggest that if the child somehow, in spite of every parental wish and effort, does not live to expectations, the parent has perforce failed as a parent. All one can do it to try. But to not even try . . . that's the crime of child neglect, and child neglect is child abuse.
Now I want to tell a true story about my 22-year-old son, Chris. On the 9th of this month he will have completed his last class, the one that will entitle him to a 4-year Bachelor of Science degree frm San José State University. He wasn't always headed in that direction. Years earlier he'd been kicked out of two middle schools, and two high schools; not for anything violent; it was just that the teachers and staffs did not have to put up with the nonsense he was constantly shoving their way.
A San José Unified administrator told Chris he was going to get "one more chance." He was assigning him to one of the district's "continuation high schools"; most generally the cesspools where the state gets off fulfilling its legal obligation to make an education available to every student. The continuation school to which Chris was assigned, however, was on the campus of San José City College, an environment where he'd encounter and associate with serious students of all ages, and where he'd have the chance to take a few college level classes with college students.
What you should also know about my son was that he paid his own way tuition and books and lab fees at SJSU, and that he was attending classes after working 8, 9, and 10 hours at AT&T! But what you should think about is how close he came to being a throw-away, and how this country is quite literally throwing away millions of young folks . . . all because, although we claim differently, we really don't care.
Those kids in the urban, crime-ridden neighborhoods are not by birth one bit less intelligent than those raised in tony, gated neighborhoods. Think, just think for only a moment, how much talent we're cheating ourselves of, when we need every bit of it we can get. How many Chris's are there out there, millions?
But what we try to do is to offer up lame excuses; at least the lamebrains do. The howls that "We can't afford it," or "Throwing money at the problem doesn't solve the problem."
One, can afford it. Right this moment, this country is spending more (MORE) on military defense than all the remaining countries on the face of the planet combined! I'm no raise-your-hands-around-the-campfire-and-sing-Kumbayah-guy. I'm more a step-on-my-foot-and-I'll-flatten-you sort. On the other hand, we don't need any of the three or four nuclear-powered aircraft carriers in construction and on the books. By the time the last injured soldier from Iraq and Afghanistan passes away we'll have spent more than $3 TRILLION, and no one from Iraq stepped on our feet, and no one in Afghanistan has the capacity to do so. Nor have we any use for quite the extent of the nuclear arsenal we're maintaining. Which nation is going to dare hurl a nuclear-tipped missile at us, without having at the same time the knowledge that, with what we'd have with half of what we have, his country would be wiped off the earth. Those threatening us would be driving cabs or trucks stuffed with explosives; a threat no ICBM can counter.
We have the money!
And not a serious soul is talking about "throwing money" at anything. Concomitantly, you cannot get something for nothing, and we've been busy a number of decades suffering under that delusion. (See California, June 6, 1978; Proposition XIII!) How many youngsters go to school in the morning, not having had a decent breakfast? How many attend schools that are nothing but warehouses? How many administrators have the option the administrator who gave my son his "last chance"? Why don't they have it; targeted and monitored options that have the potential to elevate, not cast the student into the pits? And with college, be it a vocational community JC, or a genuine state university, how can we justify the costs that cull not the unqualified but the economically disqualified?
We have the money! Great Recession or no, we have the money. Conservatives in both the Republican and Democratic Parties aren't worried the least about the money. They're preparing to extend the Bush tax cuts to the top two-percent of Americans who don't need it. Even David Stockman, Ronald Reagan's Director of the Budget, and ex-Fed chairman, very conservative Republican Alan Greenspan have recently warned about the likely consequences of extending the cuts. There exists no evidence that cutting or retaining current tax rates for the wealthy have any positive or beneficial effect on the economy.
This Thursday, Chris will have completed the last class necessary for his BS degree. A few weeks subsequent, he'll receive through the mail that degree. Sometime in September, he'll walk across the stage in the graduation ceremony.
I have always loved my son. I've not always been proud of him. I'm damned proud of him today. I have always loved my country. I've not always been proud of it. At times, I've been downright ashamed of it. I'm very ashamed of it right now.