Wednesday, September 29, 2004


Well, it’s come to that
flip a coin when stasis sets in
John the Ambiguous was always 
a great one for a coin toss to decide fate
like have a kid, or break up, or get married
So whatever flummoxed him was reduced to
a 50/50 chance, the odds were in his favor
because that way he didn't have to choose
A good thing coins aren’t dice cubes 
It would have increased the odds
We were a gamble anyway.

rev 1/2/14

Friday, September 17, 2004

Letter to President Bush on Public Schools

In the National Mobilization for Great Public Schools petition box provided for personal comment I wrote:

Dear President Bush,

Having worked in nearly 100 California schools since 1979, I can emphatically state that the public schools have NEVER been in such dire straits as they are now, thanks to increased federal and state legislation that has negatively impacted our schools—coupled with a growing lack of state and federal funding. A deadly coctail for education. As a result, schools are seriously overcrowded. New legislation, including the futile "Leave no Child Left Behind" campaign, has left schools so crippled, that we've lost sight of what a school does: to educate children.

Public education is no longer about educating students but it's about crowd control, and it's about teachers jumping through meaningless administrative hoops in order to meet legislative mandates. A teacher's politically mandated curriculum teaching hours leaves little or no troom for actual meaningful teaching.

In addition, to become a credentialed teacher is now an expensive, time-consuming, meaninless pursuit, harbinger of things to come, namely, dealing with bloated school beaurocracy. Compound that with overcrowded classrooms, lack of funds for basic classroom needs, and poor salaries, no wonder new teachers are leaving the profession at alarming rates.

Thanks to government lip service, our children are becoming increasingly illiterate with little or no critical thinking skills, let alone, basic job skills—and they are America's future! Public education needs massive state and federal funding incentives ASAP to save the current generation from being left behind, because, Mr. Bush—and you are not  MY president: My president would give more than lip service to education, he would nake it a top priority.

Your lack of foresight and negative legislative actions have all but crippled what once was the best education system in the world. Sadly, these children are the victims you have left behind with your policies and they will be our future citizens of tomorrow. Alas, they will inherit this future.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Lesson Learned: Vote

If there was a lesson to be learned, the Presidential election of 2000 taught us that every single vote literally counts. Some cast votes were counted incorrectly and some chads were pregnant, spawning an election where, several days after the polls closed, we still didn’t know who our president was. It proved to be a bad omen, and here we are, four years later, convincing friends to vote in 2004.

There’s a saying, Friends don’t let friends vote Republican. Here, in the Bay Area where, where the majority of voters are liberal, we’re preaching to the converted. But what about preaching furhter afield, what about family? What do you do then?

Like a dark secret, lately many of my liberal friends are confessing that their families are staunch Republicans. I have never before admitted in public that my enormous ecelctic, whacky family too is Republican to the bone. As in Orange County Republican. We have more than our fair share of laywers, judges, policement and doctors. 

At family gatherings, politics are always a hot subject. One of my earliest memories is of my grand uncles and aunts pounding the table, whiskey jars jumping in unison like amber soldiers. But you can’t divorce an entire family. I tried that for a few decades but it only isolated me from my roots. I mourn those lost years when many of my relatives died.

There’s a popular anti-Republican joke set in the Midwest, where a Republican teacher asks a class to raise their hands if they’re Republican. The whole class raises their hands except a lone student, Mary, dissents. She claims that she’s a Democrat by virtue of the fact that both her parents are Democrats.

You wouldn’t find me raising my hand in that classroom either though I’m from a family where both my parents are Republicans. And their parents were Republicans. And that’s about as far back as it goes. 

In Ireland, before and during the 1916 Rebellion and the development of nationhood, to be a Republican meant you were against the tyrannical rule of Britain. When my grandfather came to America from Ireland in 1904, he was a freedom fighter. A Republican. It meant something different in 1904 as compared to today’s definition.

 It was during the Vietnam war that I cut my political teeth. I was from a generation of young activists, who were children during the Civil Rights movement. Though the action was happening on the Eastern Seaboard, California  was a long way from Washington DC, or the South for that matter.

While an entire high school, marched from San Anselmo to San Rafael and shut down the Draft Board. We made the national evening news. That was a big event  when there were only five TV channels to choose from.

In fact, my partner, who is from Scotland, said he could never live with a woman who smoked, or who was a Republican. Well, I was a registered Democrat, I didn’t smoke (not even after intercourse, and pot by that point, was passe), but I lived with him seven long years before I confessed to him that my family was Republican. We were having an argument. He was dissing. Cat slipped out of the bag.

The next family gathering, a wedding, I noticed that he was looking at my family with new eyes. I think he was looking for horns and cloven hooves. These people he’d grown to like and love. But what he discovered was that they were merely human with all their foibles on their heart sleeves after all. Like our Cuban friends 

in Miami. If you’re Cuban, you’re Republican. If you’re Black, you’re Democrat. If you’re Irish, your Party persuasion depends upon when your ancestors left Ireland, pre -or post-Famine years. If your family managed to survive the Famine, and they weren’t Protestant (pro British), then they were Republican. As in The Republic of Ireland. The IRA.  

How do you talk to rabid Republicans, fighting Irish, who volley back Republican vetted sound bytes as if it were truth? There’s no room for meaningful conversation. 

All I can hope to tell them is that under the Bush administration, social welfare issues have been all but destroyed. I can no longer make a living, after 25 years of working in the schools as an artist in residence, the repeated recessions have all but destroyed the funding sources, and gutted the schools to such an extent that arts education is no longer offered in most California schools.