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Crisis of Opportunity

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Message Jayne Stahl
Obviously, somebody needs to tell Senator Kerry when to go off script. After urging students at a college in California yesterday to make the most of their educational opportunities, the Senator said "If you don't, you'll get stuck in Iraq" which he later described as a "botched joke." (AP) There is a botched joke in here somewhere; it's not in Kerry's statement, but in the absence of swift, and effective Democratic party leadership to turn the spotlight on an issue that deserves to be in the Republicans lap; namely, the issue of opportunity, or the lack thereof. .

While, clearly, this was not Mr. Bush, or Mr. Rove's, intention, what better time to add the issue of an ongoing campaign to limit the chances for our young people to advance themselves to the Democrats talking points. What better time to bring to the table the fact that there is a crisis of opportunity in this country, and that many of the youngsters who join the armed forces do so right out of high school, not only because it validates them, but because it provides them with income, and a direction.

Thanks to the unspoken, and unadvertised, Bush domestic doctrine of privilege, more often than not, the military gives many youngsters their only prospect for achievement, social acceptance, advancement, and upward mobility. So, indeed, in the words of President Bush: "Bring it on;" as one can think of no better time than now to turn a crisis of opportunity into a window of opportunity.

Try as he might to massage, and twist Kerry's remark such that it would appear Mr. Bush's previous presidential rival said our service men and women are of inferior intellect, there is no getting away from the fact, yes, no getting away from the issue of oportunity, or the lack of it, belongs squarely, and irrevocably, in the laps of those who occupy the seats of government in this country now, and for the past 6 years.

Just as there is disparity of income, among the most egregious disparities in modern times, there is disparity of opportunity. We have seen the cost of a college education skyrocket, affirmative action rolled back, and it has become flat out tougher for a working person's child to get a college degree in America since George W. Bush took office. period. With every passing year, it is not a question of intelligence that determines who goes, or does not, go to war, but a question of income. Why this isn't on the list of Democratic talking points is inconceivable.

Why Mr. Kerry would allow a dispassionate neo-conservative to grab the ball, and run with it is unfathomable. Why it is that the Democrats have yet to come up with a Karl Rove of their own to stand up, and point out the gross inequality that tries to pass itself off as "patriotism" is incomprehensible to anyone with even a modicum of sense. The egregious inequity of the reality that there are more young men of color in our nation's prisons than in our nation's universities. Why it is that no one is standing up, and throwing it back at the president that, were he to be born to John and Martha Dogood of Ames, Iowa, he'd never have gotten away without doing his duty in Vietnam. Moreover, now is the perfect time to point out to this empire of the privileged that they're exporting those with fewer options to fight, and die in the front lines of their prefab wars.

Most of all, someone needs to tell John Kerry those who can make the most of their educational opportunities are those who are gifted with opportunity, a gift that this White House has shown to be seldom earned, or deserved.

It becomes likewise increasingly apparent, with every passing year, that we have a government that believes the value of human life is more before birth than after birth., and one that praises those who do battle over those who debate, and dialogue. So, we see our youngsters, fresh from high school, without a clue as to what they will do, or where they will go, turn to the military in much the same way their grandfathers did as a means to escape a life of poverty or, worse still, crime, and gangs. Military service thus becomes the refuge of the economically disenfranchised, and service in Iraq has less to do with studying, and doing homework than socioeconomic status, and the state of one's finances.

Yes, thanks to this president, and his failed policies, we not only have a crisis of leadership, but a crisis of opportunity. Yet again, there is a desperate effort, on the part of this administration, to blame the Democrats for dropping the ball as they've recently done with North Korea, and Al Qaeda; only this time with a flagrant, and transparent attempt to twist an ambiguous,if dumb, extemporaneous remark into a way to deflect attention away from the core issues of this election.

If Karl Rove wants to change the subject, there must be a reason for it, and the reason is, obviously, the Republicans are losing, and losing bad. If the Democrats want to win back Congress, they need to take the samurai's sword out of Kerry's hands, and put it squarely where it belongs, in the clenches of this president and his party of privilege; there must be focus, focus, focus. Only by disarming the opposition, and addressing disenfranchisement in the most direct, and immediate way can they hope to win not merely the vote, but the hearts and minds of the American people.
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Widely published, poet, playwright, essayist, and screenwriter; member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA. Jayne Lyn Stahl is a Huffington Post blogger.
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