BY MENCKEN'S GHOST | NOVEMBER 21, 2012
Republicans should accept that government is kind, caring and cuddly
To most Americans, government is kind, caring and cuddly. That’s why they will keep voting for Democrats and against Republicans until they discover that government is not kind, caring and cuddly.
For 90 percent of Americans, their first experience with the government is not negative. It is not waiting in line at the drivers license bureau, or being frightened with a tax audit, or watching the confiscation of the fruits of their labor, or trying to start a business while dealing with government red tape, or, since the end of the draft, enduring the mind-numbing experience of military service.
Instead, their first experience is both long and mostly positive. Their first experience is public school, or, if you will, government school. Most people, especially suburbanites and country folk, have fond memories of public school, in spite of the regimentation and tedium of monopolistic schooling.
They recall their kindly and caring third-grade teacher Ms. Smith, they recall the excitement of football games, they recall their first kiss, they recall classrooms decorated for holidays (within proscribed non-sectarian guidelines), and they even fondly recall the institutional sights and smells, such as overheated classrooms in the winter, the shine of waxed hallways, the musty odor of the gym, and the peculiar smell of rest room disinfectant.
Starting at the age of five or six, or even earlier when kindergarten and pre-K are counted, most kids know only two worlds for 12 years or more: home and public school. In fact, they are immersed in public schools for about 20,000 hours. At the end of that time, they graduate with the feeling that they were well-served by the experience – that they are above-average in intelligence and education, as in mythical Lake Woebegone.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that many of these same Americans support nationalized medical care and other socialist programs. After all, if the government can be trusted with something as important as children’s minds for 12 years, then it is rational and logical to believe that it also can be trusted with people’s bodies.
This trust in the government’s monopoly over children’s minds is so entrenched that even intellectuals don’t question it. An anecdote illustrates the point.
Years ago I debated an executive from the ACLU at a public forum. Not surprisingly, she was well-educated and articulate. The debate topic was the supposed consolidation of the media by a few big corporations. Her position was that the consolidation would give media outlets monopoly power over news and information. My position was that they would never acquire monopoly power because of the Internet.
In my opening statement, I pointed out that the ACLU was a strong supporter of the government monopoly over K-12 education. Then I went on to say that instead of the ACLU being concerned about this real monopolization of information, it is concerned about an imaginary media monopolization of information. The audience applauded, and the ACLU executive never recovered from her gross intellectual contradiction.
In her defense, she was probably taught by public school teachers like Ms. Smith; that is, by teachers who were kind, caring, cuddly, warm, fuzzy, and completely silent about the true but hidden nature of public education. The true nature is reflected in the leftward tilt of public schools (and colleges of education), in the political power and greed of teacher unions, and in the sordid history of the public education movement, including the goal of putting Catholic schools out of business with Blaine amendments, as well as the Progressive goal of schooling students to be unquestioning cogs in business and government instead of educating them to be independent thinkers.
Of course, positive feelings about government don’t come from only public schools. For an ever-increasing number of Americans, positive feelings also come in the form of money--in welfare payments, housing assistance, food stamps, Social Security benefits, Medicare and Medicaid coverage, unemployment payments, disability income, earned income tax credits, and income tax refunds. And for the burgeoning number of children who don’t live with their fathers, the government has become the new breadwinner.
Of course, as Americans will discover, governments are not kind, caring and cuddly. The sooner that Republicans let them discover this, the sooner that the nation can be put back on the path to prosperity. The best thing that Republican can do for the nation and their party is to accelerate this discovery by giving Americans everything they want and by going along with the notion learned in public schools that the government is like Ms. Smith: kind, caring and cuddly.
Mencken’s Ghost is the nom de plume of an Arizona writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.