Friday, September 04, 2009

A Controversy That Touches Me To The Bone

I'm having trouble laughing off the manufactured controversy over President Barack Obama addressing children at school next week.

My own feelings are similar to Jonathan Alter's, as he comments in this interview:

Of course, regular readers know that I teach at a public school in this community. One could make the case that these virtual visits from a President of the United States, for the traditional "hey kids, stay in school and learn to read!" pep talk, might not be the best use of class time. This is an argument I can respect. What I would offer in response, with this particular president, is that more than half of the children at my school are non-white. What it means for them to see Obama's face in the Oval Office, telling them an education is worth their effort, telling them it can help them take charge of their life, is perhaps more than you considered at first.

Of course, that has not been the complaint. The complaint has been that this President is different. There is a very mean-spirited and unpatriotic campaign afoot to embarrass and de-legitimize this President in the eyes of the public. There was no controversy over the previous Presidents giving their own variations on this speech; but when Obama addresses the children, somehow this is socialist indoctrination.

It is ridiculous and yet for this I cannot laugh. Something about this has made it past my sense of humor and my cynicism. The difference, I think, is that this political hit job is coming at the expense of children. It's coming at the expense of my kids. Does Michelle Malkin, or Jim Greer, or Tim Pawlenty, or any of the demagogues (some of them elected officials, some of them media professionals) trying to scare parents into boycotting the speech, even if it means keeping their kids home from school -- do any of these people really care about the welfare of Clarixa, Bernabe, Sophia, Salvador, Eli, Dominique, Jesus, or any of the kids I teach here in Deming?

Of course they don't. These are kids who will never matter to them, except to be used in their politics of personal destruction, to act out their sour grapes over an election that put a black man in the White House.

I'm even sadder than Jonathan Alter seems in that interview above. My school has been compelled to send out permission slips, while other districts are just canning the very idea of showing the speech. That would mean the kids are in class as usual, which is not a bad thing; the kids will be fine either way.

But what about the rest of us? How are we doing? Really, America: are we no better than this?


Pam said...

Our schools are showing it. Parents can choose to opt out their kids.

Both my boys will watch it.

quid said...

I'm saddened by what I call ... the "dumb doctrinaire" movement in this country (small and vocal as it may be) where nothing our president does is right.

It is particularly disconcerting when he has raised our profile of leadership as viewed in other countries.

He is a biracial man of great education who rose from the ranks of the economically disadvantaged.
(As opposed to the last president, a white, educated man from a wealthy family). His differences, regardless of what is said, inspire
children to dream in a higher direction for their lives.

I'm sure there is more than just racism on the part of the reactionaries...but I can't help but believe that is the largest part of the reaction. It is truly small minded and turns out to be unpatriotic. And, it will continue, as long as he is in office.

So I've decided to get used to it, speak out against itand learn from it.


Robin said...

Thanks for posting this video - very interesting comments. I campaigned for President Kennedy as a 2nd grader, so I know our future voters are watching and soaking it all up ... regardless of what their parents do or say ... all this controversy just makes whatever President Obama says, more interesting to them.

So that is our hope for the future ... that these kids will grow up and form their own opinions. It was pretty wonderful, a dream come true, that President Obama was elected and no sour grape folks can ever take that joy away from us ... kids are smart. They can see quality ...

Let those bigots keep their kids home from school ... the news media will just repeat ... over and over ... everything that was said anyway.

The times they are a'changing ... we must have faith in the future.

Algernon said...

Sadly, what is happening in some districts is the complainers have intimidated the schools into canning the whole event, so no one will watch it.

I think it is snivelling cowardice. A school district may have its own reasons not to interrupt a school day and show it, but otherwise they should have the courage to say, "This is not a controversial speech, and the kids will benefit from a positive message from our democratically-elected command-in-chief."

quid said...

So now it is time for the pushback. If the school decides not to air it, the overwhelming majority of the parents, who want their children to have the same message as the majority of children across the United States... they need to speak out.

The silent majority needs to speak out for what is right.


Kayla said...

Both the school that my children attend and the school I work for delayed the speech and showed it later in the week. I found it heartbreaking and indicative of how fear-based politics have rooted into our culture. We watched the speech together as a family that night and when my son turned to me and asked why they had not been allowed to watch it at school, I simply said they were wrong and they made a decison based on fear. I hope his generation keeps an open heart and an open mind...this country sorely needs it.