Tag Archives: commentary

Cashing in on Fear:  The Catalyst Behind the Trump/Devos Education Budget?

The current focus on public school improvement is flawed.  Politicians, the public, and even some educators are caught up in a oversimplified mindset that lumps all public schools into one huge cesspool of incompetence.  It is dangerous to generalize anything, and public schools are no different.  It is not public schools in general we need to fix, but what is happening within each individual public school that needs our attention.  Many public schools are doing an excellent job educating children, but unfortunately, they are being dragged down the rabbit hole with those that are doing a poor job.

To say all public schools are bad and in need of improvement is a generalization that is simply not true.  According to education researcher John Hattie, the single biggest variance between a good school and a bad school is the quality of the teacher in the classroom.  Dismantling public schools in favor of charter schools and creating an open-door policy for parents to send their child to the school of their choice will not resolve inconsistent quality issues in the classroom.  Due to the human element, classroom quality issues are as likely to show up in charter schools as they are in public schools.  It is not a public school or charter school that makes the difference in a child’s education.  As Hattie points out, it is the quality of what transpires in the classroom that makes a difference.  Simply being hired by a charter school will not make a person a better teacher.  Enrolling a child in a charter school is not a guarantee of academic success or teacher competence in the classroom.  With the future of public schools in jeopardy and a shrinking teacher pool, it stands to reason today’s public school teachers will be tomorrow’s charter and private school teachers, so unless we resolve the quality issue we are doing little more than transferring the problem from one school to another.   Proponents of charters will argue charter schools will only hire the best teachers and cull the weaker ones.  They may try, but I am afraid they may find as the public schools have found, there are not a lot of master teachers walking around looking for a job.  Pile that problem on top of current hiring practices in many charter schools such as hiring unlicensed and inexperienced teachers and you have a recipe for disaster waiting in the wings.  Unless, charter schools can find the magic teacher formula that has eluded public schools, their savior status will quickly fade.  Unfortunately, at that point, we will have to sleep in the bed we have made due to a misplaced focus.

Some will say I am putting the blame on teachers, and yes, I am, but there is enough blame to go around for everyone including school administrators, school boards, politicians, parents, the public, and the students.  Everyone must share in the blame when students do not learn, but in rank order, teachers, students, parents, and school administrators are the most responsible.  Sorry, educators, but that is the bottom line truth in a nutshell.  Sorry, parents and politicians, but charter schools and private schools will not resolve the issue, especially since those schools have the same problem of finding quality teachers as the public schools.  At least, public schools have minimum standards teachers must meet to teach while most charters and privates schools can and often do hire almost anyone off the street.  Therefore, being called a charter school does not make a school better.  Regardless of what politicians say, and many parents believe, parent choice is nothing more than a distraction that takes away from the real education focus needed to fix schools and ensure students learn.  For any school to be successful – public, charter, or private –  the focus must be on quality, attitudes, and commitment. Promoting dismantling public schools shows a lack of commitment in any of these areas, and that lack of commitment has escalated over the past 16 years mainly for one reason – fear.

Since 9/11/2001, America has been at the mercy of fear.  Fear is the root of our current state of dysfunction in all areas of our lives including education.  We are currently in a state of dysfunction that is more dangerous than maybe anything this country has ever faced; we fear terrorists, we fear immigrants, we fear the Republicans, we fear the Democrats, we fear conservatives, we fear liberals, we fear any belief outside our own, and we fear and mistrust the color of a man’s skin.  This is not the first time in our history we have been in such a state of distress, but it is one of the few times in our history we have allowed fear to rule our lives and distract our focus.   In the 1960s, we feared thermonuclear warfare with the Soviet Union, but instead of allowing that fear to distract us, we used it to sharpen our focus.  Out of that fear, we put a man on the moon, built a national highway system second to none in the world, put greater focus on math and science in our public schools, and created the Internet as part of national defense.  Fear created a constructive response rather than the unconstructive response we are seeing today.  Since 2001, we have used fear as an excuse to fight two wars against terrorism with little to show for the loss of blood of the brave men and women who served our country, used fear to turn our political system and nation upside down, used fear to turn citizen against citizen, used fear to isolate ourselves from the world, and used fear to create a dysfunctional education dialogue that threatens to destroy an institution that helped make America great – our public school system.  In the 1960s, we turned fear into productive action while today we have allowed fear to drag us into uncooperative thinking and inaction.

Over the last 16 years, fear has ruled our lives and governed how we respond to events and issues.  Our answer to just about everything today is to lash out negatively, cast blame, and think in short term solutions.  The current dysfunctional focus on public schools is an excellent example.  In the 1960s, when we were caught up in an arms race with the Soviet Union, we did not scrap our education system or try to improve it with our heads in the sand.  Of course, back then, there was an “us versus them” mentality in America and not the present “us versus us” mentality.  Today, there is a political venom flowing through the veins of our country that no amount of antidote is likely to cure.  We are trapped in pockets of group think where outside views are considered a threat and too often solutions are reactions to distractions rather than the real issues.  Charter schools and vouchers are prime examples of such distractions.  These vehicles of parent choice distract from issues such as teacher quality and child poverty.  Such distractions can easily be seen in the education cuts proposed by President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy Devos in their 2018 education budget.  Instead of cutting vital education programs that support millions of public school children across the nation, they could have easily used a portion of the $21 trillion saved by dropping out of the Paris Climate Accord to fund their pet charter school and voucher projects, yet they chose to cut public education by over 9 billion dollars or roughly 14 percent.  Why?  Could it be they understand the best time to push a personal agenda is during times of fear?

Any budget is a statement of values, and the Trump/Devos education budget is no exception.  Anyone who looks closely at the suggested budget cuts and to the areas the cuts are redirected can see the ultimate goal is to dismantle public education in favor of parent choice options.  If passed, the Trump/Devos budget will cut the United States Department of Education funding by $9 billion and redirect $1.4 billion of that money to school choice.  The cuts will eliminate at least 22 programs including $1.2 billion for after school programs which will have a negative impact on 1.6 million, primarily poor, children; $2.1 billion for teacher training which is a vital component for developing quality classroom teachers in both charter and public schools; $27 million for arts education; $72 million dollars for international and foreign language programs; and $12 million dollars for Special Olympics programs.

President Trump and Betsy Devos say the federal government does not need to be involved in these programs.  According to them, the programs being cut can be more effectively handled and funded at the state and local level.  Maybe, they can be handled more effectively at the state level, but how can a poor state such as Mississippi fund these programs when it cannot afford to adequately fund the state public school programs it has?  Mississippi can’t, so where does that leave after school programs, arts education, foreign language programs, and the Special Olympics in the state?  It means either the citizens of Mississippi will pay higher taxes to foot the bill, or those programs will be discontinued.  Likely, the programs will be dropped or phased out.

Most people in Mississippi will feel some concern for losing after school programs, arts education, and especially the Special Olympics, but in a state where so many believe English is the only language needed in America, the loss of foreign language will barely be given a passing thought.  That is a shame.  I have a PhD, but by global standards I am illiterate.  I regret to say I speak one language, English, and although that has been good enough for me, it most likely will not be good enough for my grandchildren and especially my great grandchildren.

I recently read over 80% of the world’s population has access to a cell phone or mobile device, and within a year – a couple at the most – that number will grow to 90%.  According to David Rothkopf, author of The Great Questions of Tomorrow, we are possibly only a couple of years from every man, woman, and child in the world being connected for the first time in history through a man-made system.  Companies like Amazon have already gone global, and others will soon follow.  I am not talking about moving companies overseas; I am talking about Internet presence.  Amazon can touch anyone in the world whenever they please.  That is the future for all of us.  Our kids better be able to communicate with the world when that happens.  They will not only need the latest and the greatest technology tools, but they will also need a second language and preferably a third language if they hope to compete in the world market.  Speaking only one language will no longer be good enough even for Mississippi, yet, we have a President and Secretary of Education who want to cut foreign language programs.  Why?  How does that make any sense at all unless we are in such fear of the world that we plan to remain isolated indefinitely.

A contributing factor to fear is the unknown, and since 2001, as a nation we have been grappling with fear of the unknown:  fear of unseen and often unknown terrorists, fear for our livelihoods amid fluctuating markets, fear of leaders who so often put their personal agendas above the good of the people, fear of losing our guaranteed rights as citizens, fear of changing attitudes and values, and fear our public schools are no longer in capable hands.  We have seen our leaders grasp at straws for solutions, and turn against each other in the process.  We have witnessed politicians wage war on science somehow ignorant to the facts that throughout history governments who denounced science often lost.  We have watched as our leaders and our people have grown closed minded to the diversity that made us the greatest country in the world.  And, now rather than focus on the real issues, of teacher quality, academic support systems, and poverty, we are watching helplessly as our leaders slowly dismantle a once proud education system that produced Americans who revolutionized land and air transportation for the world, turned simple farmers into a skilled labor force for industry, and lay the knowledge foundation that led to the world’s first heart transplant, harnessing of nuclear energy, put the first man on the moon, and produced some of the world’s greatest literary giants.  Unfortunately, our leadership is in the market for a new vehicle, and they will not be satisfied until that vehicle is sitting in the garage with or without wheels.  It is sad, they do not understand there is no need to reinvent the wheel; all that is needed is to fix a spoke or two in the old wheel, so we can focus on what really matters – our children’s future.

JL

©Jack Linton, June 18, 2017

20 Life Tips all Graduates Should Remember

The end of another school year, and a new batch of graduates are ready to take on the world.  Ready or not, they are about to collide with reality.  The biggest collision for most graduates will occur in accepting responsibility.  For most graduates, during thirteen years of K-12 school, responsibility has primarily floated precariously on the backs of family, friends, and teachers, who enabled them to taste and play at responsibility, but never really commit to it.  That will change dramatically after graduation.  Graduates will learn quickly the world is big, robust, and wonderful, but contrary to high school lore, it does not revolve around them.  Unlike high school, they will learn they are not the center of the universe.  They will come to understand that responsibility is not optional, but a prerequisite for everything of worth in life.  Along with learning to love and respect one another, it is the center piece that provides balance to the world in which they live.

Keeping life in balance is a full time job; therefore, to all graduates, I have a few tips I would like to offer.  Tips from an old guy who has been there is about as fair as it gets in life, so listen up:

20 Life Tips all Graduates Should Remember. . . .

  1. Life isn’t always fair, but it is still good;
  2. Don’t take yourself so seriously; no one else does;
  3. Make peace with your past, or it will screw up your present;
  4. If a relationship must be secret, you shouldn’t be in it;
  5. You are either living, or you are dying; the choice is yours;
  6. If you want to be a writer, write! Don’t talk about it;
  7. Don’t save the good stuff for a special tomorrow; today is special;
  8. Responsibility for your happiness begins with you;
  9. What other people think of you is none of your business, so leave it alone;
  10. Believe in Santa Claus and miracles;
  11. All that really matters in the end is that you loved;
  12. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up;
  13. If you don’t ask, you don’t get; if you don’t play, you don’t win;
  14. Life is not tied with a bow, but it is still a gift;
  15. Try as hard as you like, but the past cannot be changed – move on;
  16. A good cry is okay if you move on after it is over;
  17. The opinions of others do not define your reality;
  18. You miss every shot you don’t take;
  19. Surround yourself with people smarter than you; and
  20. Your most valuable asset is you; invest in yourself.

Congratulations graduates!  Your greatest journey is just beginning.

JL

©Jack Linton, May 21, 2017

100 Days of Madness

Over the past eight years, many people blamed President Obama for the growing divide in the United States, and there is little doubt he was a party to the problem.  However, he has been gone for over 100 days, and we are more divided than ever.  In the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s madness, the nation has been besieged with riots in the streets, claims of fake news, outright lies and twists on the truth, growing threats of nuclear war, continuous Presidential tweets that reek of schoolboy bullying and narcissism, and White House jockeying that appears cloaked in scandal and coverup.  As a nation, we have watched as a once proud political party jerked the power of the Presidency from the hands of their political adversary only to become mired in madness and drown in its own vomit.

This past week, President Trump continued to pile coals on an already blazing fire when he fired FBI Director James Comey.  Whether the firing was justified or not is debatable, but the timing and how it was handled was amateurish.  In what seems to be the norm with this President, he makes decisions on the fly, loosely coordinates a cover story with his staff, and later kicks their feet out from under them when the story begins to unravel.  For example, in an interview after firing the FBI director, he acknowledged his people had not been one-hundred percent accurate in their initial portrayal of the events surrounding the dismissal.  He said he is such an active President that there is no way his people can keep one-hundred percent up to date on everything going on with his Presidency.  If that is true, he has serious communication and logistical problems with his staff; however, it is more likely his staff cannot keep up because the President’s stories keep changing.

Look at the the story behind James Comey’s firing as originally reported by the President’s spokespeople to the news media.  They initially reported the Russian investigation had no bearing on the firing whatsoever.  However, the President later contradicted them when he admitted Director Comey’s investigation into Russian interference in the Presidential election and possible White House collusion played a key role in his decision to fire the director.  We also learned the President took issue with Director Comey’s refusal to pledge his loyalty to him.  Bravo for Director Comey!  Such a request was not only unethical, but in direct conflict with the Constitution of the United States.  Like the President’s oath of office, the FBI Director takes an oath of loyalty to the Constitution of the United States and not to any individual, including the President of the United States.

The White House madness has now escalated from Russians to pledges to possible taped conversations with President Trump’s tweet to ex-Director Comey threatening the possible existence of secret tapes made of their conversations.  Maybe the President needs to study history!  In 1973, President Richard Nixon got into a hell of mess with secretly taped conversations, which led ultimately to his resignation in 1974.  Maybe the tweet was simply the President making up garbage once again – who knows!  Made up garbage certainly fits the bill for the madness surrounding a President who says whatever he feels his supporters what to hear regardless of authenticity, shrugs it off when called to task, and moves on without an ounce of accountability.  That is madness!

Some people say such madness would have never occurred under a Hillary Clinton Presidency, but I am not so sure.  If she had been elected President, I believe things in Washington would be much quieter, but I don’t believe she would have accomplished any more in her first 100 days than President Trump.  I am afraid, she would have consumed her first 100 days sitting in front of the mirror admiring the new President of the United States.  That would be madness of a different kind, but nevertheless madness.  Of course, everyone knew when Clinton and Trump became nominees for the Presidency we were in for a long maddening four years regardless of which one was elected.

JL

©Jack Linton, May 15, 2017

Jimmy Kimmel Stands Tall!

After David Letterman and Jay Leno retired from late night television, I thought the end had come for quality late night talk shows.  However, I have been pleasantly surprised by three of the four new late night hosts.  Jimmy Fallon with his boyish charm, sappy games, and decent interview skills emerged as my favorite, but to their credit Jimmy Kimmel and Steven Colbert are close on his heels.   The only miscast has been Seth Myers.  Poor Seth can’t seem to shake himself free of his old Saturday Night Live routines.  His show comes across as a SNL rerun, especially the first half of the show when his skits are often little more than SNL rip-offs down to the writing style and intonation of the delivery.

Up until a week ago, my order of preference for watching late night television was . . . .

  1. Jimmy Fallon: Fallon is a multi-talented host who comes across as extremely likeable.  He is the best interviewer of the four.  His biggest flaw is he plays it too safe, and has hit on a formula that with time is likely to grow old.  His house band, The Roots, is by far the best late night band on television;
  2. Jimmy Kimmel: Like Fallon, Kimmel comes across as approachable and likeable, which makes him a perfect late night host.  His video challenges are fast becoming legendary although at times controversial.  Unlike Fallon, he does not always play it safe.  He has been known to joust in murky waters with needle tongued jabs at politicians, but almost always with a mischievous little boy smirk on his face;
  3. Steven Colbert: Unlike Fallon and Kimmel, Colbert’s commentary can sometimes be down in the dirt mean.  He is not above outright attacks against those in the public he personally finds despicable and in need of having their faces rubbed in the mud.  Although I enjoy watching Colbert, he can sometimes go too far and pummel his audience with his personal politics.  However, there is no denying he is awfully good, especially when he is so often “point on” with his views; and
  4. Seth Myers: Seth Myers is by far the weakest of the four hosts.  His interviews are extremely thin, and as an added distraction every interview is saturated with his silly school girl giggles.  Myer’s biggest handicap is he can’t seem to shake Saturday Night Live from his system.  That is unfortunate since it is obvious the man has standalone talent.

However, that was my list several days ago.  Recently something happened that made me rethink my rank order.  No, Seth Myers was not fired.  Actually, Seth has shown some improvement, or maybe he is growing on me.  Lately, he seems to be wittier and more in tune to with his subject matter.  He is no longer simply reading jokes someone wrote for him, he is delivering his lines with authority and an underlying message that is not only funny but scary as hell.  He is still a little too much SNL, but he is growing.

However, Seth Meyer’s improvement did not cause me to rethink my list.  Jimmy Kimmel’s heart-felt message about the medical problems faced by his new born son was the catalyst behind rethinking the list.  Although critics, primarily Republicans, screamed he used his son to make a liberal political statement about Obamacare, nothing could be further from the truth.  It takes courage to put potential harm to your ratings aside and lay yourself open like Jimmy Kimmel did a few days ago on his show.  He spoke from his heart, and spoke a message that any father – any human being – can understand.  He was not speaking for The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and trying to sway political winds in favor of the embattled healthcare act!  He was not taking a political stand!  Jimmy Kimmel was speaking with the heart and voice of a father and with the passion of a human being pleading for all human beings to have compassion for those less fortunate.  He said no parent should have to watch their child die because the parent cannot afford to save their child’s life.  If that plea was political, in the name of God on High, we desperately need more such politics!

Jimmy Kimmel spoke from the heart.  Politics speaks from the pocketbook.  Jimmy Kimmel did not have to worry about paying for his son’s operation; his pockets are deep.  His plea was for those without deep pockets.  His tears were not only for his son, but for the realization that all children are not as privileged as his child.  His heart was breaking for the parents who without proper health care might have no choice but to watch their child die.  In the greatest most affluent nation on earth the health of a child – the life or death of a child – should not depend on the wealth or lack of wealth of the parents or guardians.  Thank you, Mr. Kimmel, for having the courage to publicly show your humanity.  You, Sir, are my new number one late night host!

JL

©Jack Linton, May 9, 2017

Teachers and Administrators don’t Enforce Rules:   A Case against School Dress Codes!

 

Teachers who do not consistently enforce school rules are not always bad teachers or irresponsible individuals; sometimes some of the best most dedicated teachers in a school do not follow the rules.  Some teachers, like some school administrators, hate confrontation, and enforcing rules means confrontation with the student, confrontation with parents, possible confrontation with the administration, and often negative vibes from students as well as other teachers.  For some, enforcing rules makes their lives messy, uncool, or even unpopular.  Others don’t enforce the rules because they feel they have more important things to do, and then there are those teachers who do not agree with the rule, so they simply ignore it.

So, why have rules in school?  If so many teachers look the other way rather than enforce the rules, why should schools bother with rules in the first place?  The textbook answer is that rules ensure a safe and orderly learning and teaching environment, but do they really?  It can be argued that rules provide a fighting chance to bring order to the chaos; however, is that what educators really want?  No!  What teachers really want is for kids, parents, and school administrators to leave them alone.  For many teachers, rules are tools of convenience frowned upon as an inconvenience and waste of time that creates negative confrontations.  They see teachers and administrators who dodge the rules as the smart ones.  Maybe, they are right, and if so, maybe, rules are not needed in schools!

However, regardless of what some may think, there must be rules!  Rules are necessary to enable teachers to teach and students to learn.  Unfortunately, like all things, there are good rules and rules that are questionable or make little or no sense.  For example, rules dealing with dress codes most definitely fall into the questionable category.  As a former teacher and school administrator, I believe dress codes are necessary, but it has been my experience few teachers agree with me.  Very few teachers really care what students wear to class.  I say this because very few teachers write up students for dress code violations, and the ones that do are often ridiculed by their colleagues.  So why have rules, especially a dress code?  Why hold a student accountable for a dress code that five out of six teachers in the school day ignore?  What is the school administrator to do when the sixth-period teacher turns a student into the office for coming to class naked when that student attended five previous classes in the buff and not a word was said by previous teachers about exposed wingydings in class?  The only option the administrator has at the end of the day is to give the kid a hat and send him home.  Now, I am slightly exaggerating, but when it comes to dress codes, it is truly almost that bad.  I realize correcting a student for a dress code violation shaves precious seconds off teaching the test, especially when there is not a single question on the state assessment that deals with student nudity, unless, maybe, someone slips in a liberal writing prompt.

Over the years, as a school administrator, I developed and enforced more than my fair share of school rules including rules governing dress codes.  To this day, I have forty year old former students walk by me in the mall and intentionally pull their tucked shirttail from their pants with a wink (tucking shirttails was probably the most despised rule I ever implemented as a principal).  I was a stickler for rules, and maybe too much so, but I believed then, and I believe now if you have a rule it should be enforced.  I also believe using a rule for any reason other than its original intent (i.e., allowing students to break the rule as a reward) is counter-productive and sends a mixed message to students, parents, and the community.

Therein lies my issue with current dress codes in schools.  Instead of teaching a lesson or addressing a safety issue, dress code rules in many schools today have become a part of the school reward system.  If students exhibit good behavior for the month, if there is a big district game, if a student collects the most Popsicle sticks, if a student brings a dollar to school, and the list goes on and on, they are allowed to break the dress code rule on a specified day such as Friday.  For example, they are allowed to wear clothing such as jeans or apparel outside of school colors.  That may sound innocent, but if the rule was important enough to be created, it should be important enough to be enforced consistently five days a week.  If it is okay to excuse students from the dress code on a game day, as a fund raiser reward, or for any other excuse, why have the rule?  It is counterproductive to the intent and purpose of a rule to permit students or adults to break a rule as a reward.  I am not against rewarding students, but don’t reward them by allowing them to break school rules!  Schools always talk about teaching kids to be good citizens; how can teaching them it is okay to break rules be good citizenship?  We have enough rule breakers in our society without training more.  If it is okay to reward students by letting them break a rule, maybe that rule is not relevant and should be done away with for every day of the week and not just on special occasions.   If eliminating the rule for one day is not a problem, the odds are good it would not be a problem if eliminated completely.

When it comes to school rules, it is fairly simple.  If a school is going to have a rule, it should be enforced consistently across the calendar.  If a teacher signs a contract to work for a school district, the teacher should be up to the task of enforcing the rules of the district or look elsewhere for employment, preferably in another profession.  Enforcing rules is not a fun job for administrators or teachers, but it is a necessary job made more difficult when a rule is used contrary to its intent.  If a school ever finds it okay to allow students to break a rule, it is time the school re-evaluated that rule.  If wearing jeans to school is okay on certain days as a reward, then it is ludicrous to ban them on all other days since it is obvious jeans do not pose a threat to a safe and orderly school environment.

If a school rule can be suspended as a whole or in part as a reward, then the rule has little if any bearing on the orderly function of the school and should be eliminated from the student handbook altogether.  The purpose of a school dress code is not to teach kids that rules are made to be broken or to provide a cash cow for local clothing vendors.  The purpose of the code is to enhance school safety and student learning five days a week.  Giving students permission to break a rule periodically sends the message to adults and students alike that the rule has little to do with safety and learning – at least not every day of the school year.  The bottom line is enforcement of rules must go beyond convenience; teachers and administrators should enforce the rules (dress code or any other rule) or dump the rules!

JL

©Jack Linton, February 12, 2017

Six Quick Questions for President Clinton or President Trump

The name calling, theatrics, and worrying are almost over.  After nearly two years of scandal, controversy, and boisterous policies that often beneath their rumbustious surfaces lacked sensitivity and understanding of the fears and vulnerability of the American people, the race for the Presidency of the United States is thankfully coming to an end.  Political campaigns traditionally offer little substance, but the 2016 campaign will most likely go down in history as the loudest campaign with the least substance of all.  Fortunately, come Tuesday, voters will decide which of the two most despised presidential candidates in history will lead the nation for the next four years.  Some will rejoice for the victor, but most will sigh in relief that it is over regardless who wins.

Wednesday morning, November 9, will definitely bring a sense of relief and hopefully peace.  In America’s most contentious and bombastic election, the American people have been played and manipulated to the fullest.  They have been baptized in ignorance, misinformation, and deception to the point they are disgusted with the whole ugly process.  The credibility of both political parties has been greatly compromised and both will most likely be stained for years to come.  Most people will agree, it would have taken a complete “do over” to lend any credibility to the campaign, but that was impossible once the political machine was rolling.

Politics have always been about sleeping in the bed you make, and unfortunately, during the 2016 presidential campaign, the people were forced to sleep in the lumpiest, most bizarre, uncomfortable political bed of all time.  Millions tuned into the news and social media each evening hoping to gain insight into a campaign that often resembled caricatures of the blind leading the blind.  During a campaign conducted more for the benefit of the two parties than the American people, few of the voters’ questions were answered in a sincerely honest way on either side of the fence.  Their questions and concerns were lost under the smoking cover of deleted emails, lies, misinformation, barroom antics, and locker room talk.   As a result, America is likely to remain doomed to crawl under this rhetorical fog for at least the next four years and possibly much longer.  Therefore, in one last attempt to get some clarity, there are six questions, as legitimate as the 2016 campaign itself, that the winner needs to address before he or she takes a two month hiatus from the public to begin the transition to the White House.  The questions may be uncomfortable, but no more so than the discomfort experienced by most Americans during the travesty of the election campaign.

Questions for Mr. or Mrs. President

  1. A question for the Democrats if they win the White House: President Clinton, how do you plan to convince America you know the difference between the truth and buggering the truth?
  2. A question for the Republicans if they win the White House:  President Trump, if you put a stop to immigration, what will become of IHOP?
  3. A question for the Democrats if they win the White House:  President Clinton, to qualify for the tax breaks you promised middle class families, how do I set myself up as a non-profit organization similar to the Clinton Foundation?”
  4. A question for the Republicans if they win the White House:  President Trump, how do I set myself up as business corporation to avoid your middle class tax increase and take advantage of your proposed corporate tax cuts?
  5. A question for the Democrats if they win the White House:  President Clinton, this presidential campaign has shaken America to its core, and exposed American insecurities.  How will you help Americans, especially those on Facebook, feel good about themselves again?  You know the ones who post such messages as – “If you are truly my friend and care about me and my dog and also my cat, you will like and paste this post to your timeline and my timeline, so I can leave you a comment;”  and
  6. A question for the Republicans if they win the White House:  President Trump, you have said climate change is not a real issue, so do you also see explorers who visit both the North Pole and South Pole as bi-polar?

To some, these questions may seem a bit shallow, but the odds of getting a legitimate deep response to any question after the election are even greater than the odds prior to the election.  Face it, the Democrat and the Republican Parties, have taken Americans for an old fashioned hayride soiled by bull poo.  Though it is highly unlikely the election process is rigged as claimed by some, it has been clear for quite some time the legitimacy of either candidate for the presidency is highly flawed at best.  The only consolation is that maybe when we tackle this process again in four years, we will pay closer attention and get it right the next time.  Until then, Americans will sleep in the bed they and their political parties, which lately only pay lip service to representing the people, have made for themselves.  The coming four years may be rocky, but we will make it through them.  How do I know?  It’s simple; there are too many deep rich pockets involved for the future of this country to go any other way.

JL

©Jack Linton, November 7, 2016

The One I Took for Granted

Yesterday, I watched a leaf dressed in orange, red, and yellow let go its hold of the mother tree and spin lazily to the ground.  A leaf,when green, I barely noticed.  Watching its descent, I marveled at the grace frozen in that simple moment.  No struggle, no effort to delay the journey, the leaf simply let go.  The green leaves whispered goodbyes as it danced downward pass them limb to limb before breaking free beneath the canopy.  It spun, dipped, and hovered over color clad siblings waiting in loose piles; piles until now I had barely noticed.  Settling, it lent its color to the harvest hues of others, and there it lay stirred only by the slowly dissipating murmurs of its brothers and sisters turned brown at the edges.  The leaf, when green, I barely noticed – the one I took for granted – closed its eyes and slept.

Today, I chose to stay glued to my cell phone while visiting with family.  There was nothing they were saying we wouldn’t talk about later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My family, I took for granted.  Today, I chose to go fishing with buddies and miss my daughter’s recital.  There would always be another I could go to later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My daughter, I took for granted.  Today, I failed to call my parents just to say I love you.  It was nothing I had not said a million times that I could not say later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My parents, I took for granted.  Today, I chose to be miserable and unthankful.  I felt like wallowing in self-pity; I could be thankful later.  Whatever special memories I might have made today could be made up tomorrow.  My life, I took for granted.  Unlike the leaf sleeping at journey’s end, I chose sleep as my journey.

Life is at its fullest when we live to make memories with those that matter.   When the leaf was green and full of life, I barely noticed it at all.  I missed it budding, the first time it celebrated the warmth of sunlight, its first taste of rain, and the spider that wove its web from its stem to the branch.  I took it for granted.  Not until, by chance, I caught the leaf’s last dance did I understand the finality of waiting for tomorrow – tomorrow can never replace the warmth and joy of the present.  The time to embrace family, friends, and even a leaf is before each becomes a memory.  As sad as it may be, candles often burn out before tomorrow.

JL

©Jack Linton, October 31, 2016