Friday, 16 April 2021

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Parent Empowerment, HB-1 and Auntie's other musings

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Salaam Dearies,

I still don’t have my vaccine … so I’m still safe harboring at home mostly indulging in my passion for words.  There is really nothing like a ‘good word’ – the good words from the holy books that guide the faithful and the other words that we encounter in our daily lives.

What’s the good word?  What’s the word on the street?  Those are cheerful greetings with which we often start conversations.  Words matter … and sometimes we think we know what they mean but under closer scrutiny, they just don’t mean that at all.  Particularly when it comes to American English, I still have a lot to learn.  This is my second language, after all. 

For example, the phrase “Oh, that’s interesting.” Where I come from, it means that something evokes curiosity and thought and bears further examination. Generally, that’s a good thing.  In the U.S. of A., not so much.  In my experience, the words “that’s interesting” uttered by Americans who are too polite to say “get away from me.”  You eat what in your country?  Oh, that’s interesting …  So, being my communicative self, I elaborate and describe the cooking methods and recipes, and my conversation partner’s face turns greener and greener.  Until - after several cringeworthy minutes - I finally realize they were not 'interested’ at all and that they will likely lose their lunch.

 And then there are other words that keep me in a perpetual state of confusion.  Let’s take the phrase “Parent Empowerment” which is now being used by the “conservatives” in Florida government to effectively take more taxpayer money away from public schools.  Instead of properly funding the public school system and making sure that all children receive a decent education, parents are now to be “empowered” to use public money to put their children into private schools (all too often owned and operated by the friends and relatives of the “conservative” lawmakers who seek to “empower” the parents).  More money taken from school budgets makes the public schools even less likely to have the resources to properly teach our children … so the downward spiral is all but guaranteed, and we’ll end up with more and more poorly regulated private schools that work for profit.  At the end of the day … that’s hardly empowering. 

 Then there’s my favorite – the reason everyone comes to this country:  Freedom!  Yes, as Americans, we are all able to call our leaders finks as much and as often as we want to.  No one will arrest me and throw me in a dungeon for standing stand in front of the Capitol in Tallahassee with a sign that says “Gov. DeSantis an incompetent fink.” Bully for me.  It’s called ‘redressing your grievances with the government, and it usually doesn’t change a thing.  Just like the 4000+ people who wrote to their lawmakers in opposition to Governor DeSantis’ anti-freedom-of-speech bill – a/k/a HB-1, which passed its first committees despite all the opposition.  Thousands of people – just like the majority of Floridians who voted to restore felons’ voting rights and who voted to increase the minimum wage – simply politely (more or less) ignored.  In addition, those 75+ who braved COVID-19 and drove up to the Florida Capitol for the first committee hearing, herded like cattle through the committee chambers.  Each getting one (!!) minute to say their peace … all a pointless circus.  The committee was simply going through the motions. The decision was already made.  Vote along party lines … no one wants DeSantis to veto their pet legislation out of spite.  No one listens to people redressing their grievances.  Until of course they peacefully and effectively march against injustice … and garner support from people of all walks of life.  Like the BLM protests over the summer.  And how do we know these protests were effective?  Well … there is HB-1.  If these protests weren’t effective, why would we need a new law to make peaceful protesters and organizers think twice about protesting or worried about being run-over by people who would get a pass for injuring newly defined “rioters.” The banality of evil is in the small print. The peaceful protests worked, and the “conservatives” are scared they can’t “conserve” their power.   

 The story of HB-1 could not be more disingenuous.  “Conservative” lawmakers behind this bill will have you believe that the images of the Capitol rioters in January so shocked their conscience, that they had to suggest this law.  You know, those right-wing rioters and supporters of the former President’s unsuccessful re-election campaign.  Those, who had been lied to by “conservative” conspiracy theorists, bussed to Washington by “conservative” donors and then incited to raid the Capitol at a rally funded by more “conservative” donors and their failed leader.  So, to protect democracy, “conservative” lawmakers sponsored a bill that would re-define “rioting” to turn peaceful protesters into felons and then take their voting rights away.  Never mind that “conservative” lawmakers had actually drafted this legislation months ago in response to effective and peaceful Civil Rights protests and were just waiting for the right moment. 

So what does the word “conservative” mean any more when ‘conservatives’ are using a violent mob riot created by ‘conservatives’ to squash protest before it starts?  What’s with all the flag-waving and honoring the soldiers who fight for our rights when our rights don’t seem to matter?  When citizens engaged in non-violent protests have to fear that they will be charged with a felony if someone else in the protests causes damage or hurts someone?  And who can afford to be held without bail?  I guess “conservative” doesn’t mean what I thought it meant either.  Freedom!!

Prove me wrong, but ‘conservative’ politicians should be conserving a citizen’s right to redress their grievances.  They should be conserving family’s ability to make a living.  They should be supporting public schools and school lunches so children can learn.  They should be supporting and passing laws that make life easier for Floridians.  They should be conserving more than just their re-election chances in primaries usually dominated by the most extreme voters who think it’s o.k. to run over protesters.  That’s not conservative. That’s extremist.  Before all this happened, I had always thought of myself as conservative, but not anymore. 

But what do I know … maybe it never meant what I thought it meant.  This is my second language, after all. 

Salaam Dearies, till next time.

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