Thursday, April 24, 2014

Quick and Dirty Thursday - the patriot, the teacher, the wrestling coach and the oligarchy

After asking for some topic ideas on my Facebook page this morning, I decided to write about all of them, plus another one that was going through my head already.

Because, you see, I have a special version of crazy. I'm going to try to keep each story brief (haha), so that I can cover them all in time to actually take a shower and get to my son's classroom celebration.

Speaking of which, he is kicking ass right now. Considering that he started out the year as one of the youngest boys in the class, having missed almost the entire year of preschool the year prior for health reasons, with a speech articulation problem that made communication almost impossible, and we are where we are now, I think he gets a high five. Seriously. We were looking at possibly retaining him a few short months ago. Now he's reading.


And he's pretty dang adorable, if I do say so myself.

Sometimes the most important tool in teaching kids is just giving them time to figure it out.

Anyway, on to the topics of the day.

Cliven Bundy, the patriot?
If you haven't heard about the drama in Nevada, I'll try my best to summarize. Rancher's family owns ranch in Nevada for many generations, grazes cattle on public land. BLM comes in and takes over rights to the land because of an endangered species, begins assessing fees to graze cattle (pretty sure the state was charging fees before, that were paid). Anyhow, Cliven Bundy refuses to pay grazing fees, keeps grazing cattle. BLM sues him for unpaid fees and wins. He still refuses to pay. Feds threaten to take his cattle into custody, and manage to round up a few. Bundy puts the call out to anyone wanting to help protest, hundreds (maybe thousands) of pissed off gun toters show up. Stand off with feds occurs. Feds release the cattle.

If you listen to anything the far right is saying, Bundy is a patriot. A hero. Many elected officials have rallied behind the guy, claiming that he is fighting for liberty and state's rights, and against the intrusion of the federal government. Some of them are already regretting that affiliation today after a story broke about what a ridiculous racist the guy is, on top of everything else. He actually said, and I'm not even kidding, that blacks might have been better off as slaves than as the recipients of government assistance.

In 2014. He said this. On camera.

I'll wait for you to pick your jaw up off the floor.

Here's the thing. This guy isn't a patriot, as much as he wants to pretend that he is. He's mooching off of federal lands, lands that other ranchers pay for access to. He just wants special treatment. He's refusing to comply with orders of both the federal government AND the court system, which has resoundingly ruled against him. Defiance of the law doesn't make someone a patriot. It makes them a lawbreaker. He just happens to be a horrendously racist one too.

The First Amendment and The Teacher 
David Foggin is a high school teacher in West Virginia. On his Facebook page, he posted a rant about the gay-straight alliance club at the school, one that makes my grammar loving ways cringe. Here it is, hopefully you can read it.


Oh, my eyes. Anyhow, he posted this on his Facebook page and promptly was suspended by the school. Students and others are now rallying around the guy, saying that it isn't offensive if you know who he is, that his First Amendment freedom of speech should protect him, and on and on.

Here's the thing. The First Amendment freedom of speech is nowhere near as absolute as people think it is. You can say whatever you want, you can write whatever you want, you can post whatever you want on Facebook. What you can't do, though, is insulate yourself from the effect and consequences that your words might have. In this case, he's a teacher in a public school. Most districts I've had any exposure to have specific rules about posting anything or saying anything about the school, the district, the students (or anything else school related) on social media. There are also often restrictions on political posts that have nothing to do with the school itself. 

The reason - teachers are agents of the district, they hold themselves out as affiliated with the district. The district can absolutely discipline them for doing things like he did. 

The issue of whether what he wrote is offensive, is I suppose, subject to interpretation. Some of the LGBT students at the school stand behind him, others are glad he was suspended. It's hard to say these days, as the vast majority of anything we write or say can be deemed offensive by someone, which is why it's particularly important for people with jobs like his to be careful about what they do. This was an intentional post on his part, intended to be a rant, intended to target the alliance. It was intentional. 

Besides, he should be ashamed of himself for the spelling and grammar errors. For the love, he's a high school teacher. Editing is so important. Honest.

Christ Helps Me Wrestle?
Oh lord. Literally. So there is a school in West Virginia with a wrestling team and a coach who loves Jesus. Awesome. Public school teachers and coaches can love Jesus all they want, or be Atheists. Or be Scientologists. Whatever. What they can't do is pontificate to students, they can't force prayer on anyone, they can't be tossing bible verses around, and they certainly can't use bible verses as team slogans.

That's exactly what happened, though. 

Apparently, the wrestling team has used a bible verse as their slogan since the 90's, and recently painted said slogan on the gym walls, and everyone was just fine with it until someone wasn't. That someone is a team member and his family who challenged the motto. They didn't threaten legal action, but cited all the Supreme Court decisions that clearly state that public schools cannot promote religion.

The school agreed to paint over the motto and it has been removed from the website. 

Here's the thing. In our current universe in this country, there is a push, again, by conservative Christians to allow prayer in schools, to alter science curricula and more. Most often they cite religious freedom as their right, and claim that those rights to exercise freely should exist within the walls of a school as much as outside them. The trouble is, though, that not everyone believes the same things. Not everyone is Christian, and all those people have the same rights as the Christians. Public school is not the place for Jesus. 

Besides, I'm pretty sure Jesus would be more focused on hunger and illness, homelessness and oppression, war and turmoil than wrestling. 

The Oligarchy in the United States
A new study out this month challenges the very foundation of everything our country is built on, namely democracy. We are taught to believe that every person's vote matters, every voice should be heard, that we are all equal and all that jazz...except anyone who has lived more than a few years here knows that isn't exactly true.

The United States is very much an oligarchy, it just took this long for someone to call it what it is. 

An oligarchy is defined as a governmental system where the power rests in the hands of a few. It is usually used in reference to monarchies, but in our case we have elected officials, so it's not that type of oligarchy. Instead, ours is one based on wealth, because money is what drives everything. Money is what gains access to elected officials, money is what allows commercials to be run on television hiding behind seemingly innocuous sham institutions, money is what paves the path to control. 

Do our individual votes and voices matter? Sure, but we are all pawns in a game being played by those with the biggest stakes. 

The best example I can think of locally is the manipulation of information in the oil and gas industry. Here in Colorado, we seem to have taken Sarah Palins "drill, baby, drill" advice a little too literally. Even people who are generally pro-industry are starting to cringe a little at the rate in which wells are being erected all over the state.

People have concerns and a lot of them. People are worried about contamination, about pollution, about traffic, about property values, about seismic activity, about the short term gains being made at the long term expense of the area. Those concerns, if you believe the ads on tv and run in the paper (the ones in the paper are carefully crafted to appear just like another section in the paper, not an advertising supplement), are all unfounded. We should just embrace the wells popping up everywhere. Sure.

Organizations like Coloradoans for Responsible Energy Development have sprung up. Even their acronym sounds legit, CRED. They tell us that fracking is safe, that the families who sell off rights to their lands are all happy, that there is no danger to the environment. They ask what is in fracking fluid but never tell us. They tell us that the water supplies are fine, but don't tell us how many shares they are using. 

Oh, and CRED is funded by oil and gas. They just appear objective and fair.

It's things like this that skew public opinion, because individuals watching at home don't necessarily understand the money behind these ads, the manipulation being done. So, are their votes always going to reflect a truly objective decision? Hell no

Of course the US is an oligarchy. I'm just glad someone finally said it. 

"We may have democracy or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both" ~Louis Brandeis

4 comments:

  1. Dude. This is a stellar round up of WTF!? stories. I am with you on all counts and blown away by your ability to be inside my head.

    And more importantly, I love that your little dude is kicking ass. Love love love it.

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  2. "We may have democracy or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both" ~Louis Brandeis. That sums it up for me.

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  3. The most important post in this article is how well your son is doing.

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  4. Bundy had no "ancestral rights", his parents only having bought the land in 1948. The guy is a thief and a liar (among other things).

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