Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Palate Cleanser

Last night, I got to go to a black tie event, the Consortium for Catholic Schools Dinner.  It was hosted by Congressman John Boehner, Senator Joe Lieberman and former DC Mayor, Anthony Williams.  The goal was to raise money for four Catholic schools that served children in the district who would otherwise be trapped in failing institutions. 

Kids were on hand to showcase their work and their school and their talents.  There were also displays and videos and examples of their work from various grades.  Looking at the materials, these were not cherry picked kids who would have succeeded anywhere, they were kids.  They reminded me of every class I'd ever taught, and every class I'd ever been a part of, and every class I'd ever witnessed.  There were the very smarts, the jocks, the popular, the struggling, the funny, the rebels, the confused, but above all, all of the kids still had that glow of being the ages they were and not rushing towards something or away from anything that kids should have when they are in grade school.  They were happy and believed the future for them held something even better than the very good they were experiencing at the present.  That spirit, which pervaded the student bodies of all four schools,  The men who hosted this event, talked about meeting the kids, going through their schools, hearing their stories and it was very moving. The event has had as sponsors in the past, Senator Kennedy, and host Tim Russert, Bill Cosby and others from all stripes of the political spectrum.

There are times when living just outside the beltway can lead one to believe that all civility between the two political parties is gone, that bi-partisanship is as mythical as the unicorn, and that our system of government is so locked in battle with itself, that no good can come of it.  I admit, I had felt as of late, almost as if the truest position was fundamental distrust of everyone and had very little faith that electing people was anything more than a sham action designed to give comfort to the workers as those in power continued to spend every last sou on every last thing with nary a thought to the cause, effects, consequences or long term gains/losses and then demanded more. The corrosive power of years of vitriol thrown at both sides had left me erring on the side of "A pox on all of you."   

The government that had railed against prior deficit spending under Bush, had spent three times as much in two years.  I was unwilling to back "anyone but the incumbent" but equally disgusted with all of the incumbents.  The existing body of the Senate and House had shown contempt for reading the bills, for listening to anyone but themselves, for actually crafting something designed to do what they said it would do, or for engaging in a fair and legitimate process of deliberation.  They'd spent. They'd passed bills on the fly and with massive bribes to get it done rather than examine why a bill might be hard to pass, i.e. unworkable/unpopular and utterly unreadable.  They'd accused anyone who disagreed of the most vile of motivations, racism, ignorance, insanity, bigotry, and absolute wilful malice to quash any attempt at discussion let alone debate.  I felt honestly, as if anarchy almost seemed appealing by comparison with cowards and toadies and people who viewed everything through a strictly partisan lens, but then used that lens to paint opposition as immoral, ethically bankrupt and stupid.

But last night, I got to hear three very different politicians speak about the same cause, helping to raise money to finance the tuition for four K-8 schools that served some of the most under served, unpowerful and needy children in the area. All three men spoke about creating an opportunity for children, a level playing field by providing not simply education but excellent education, one child at a time.  The crowd was more GOP than DNC based on the laugh lines this year Senator Joe indicated, but the promise on the kids' faces was real, it made everything else unimportant.  People were here, and this was the sixth year of doing this, and in the course of those years, six million has been raised to ensure opportunity for some of the many that need it.

The dinner was delicious. Everyone looked beautiful, and it raised over 6 hundred thirty-five thousand dollars and that's before they made the pitch to encourage people to donate once again.  That's a lot of kids going to school for a lot of years thanks to one night's repast.   What I loved most however, was hearing Senator Joe and Congressman Boehner and Mayor Williams talk about why this was important, because the public realm involved more than just government, it was a collaborative effort of the worker and the corporate, the public and the private, the clerical and the secular, the GOP and the DNC, and that in isolation, none of these entities were capable of addressing the multi-layered needs of society competently, capably or consistently in the way that all of them working in concert, could.  

Now I know it was just one dinner and it was just four schools, but it is four schools that today, have what they need, and didn't yesterday. Fixing society's ills is an imperfect ongoing every changing struggle that will require everyone to be on the same page about the goal, not shouting to demand that everyone agree with them about the means.  I felt hopeful that at the very least, two members of the deliberative body of our representative republic have a firm grasp of that reality, something lost in the translation of the daily barrage of news via Internet, television, newspaper and radio.  I had to imagine, there had to be more, but like planes landing safely and food that isn't unhealthy, they didn't make the news cycle. What I saw yesterday, was part of what could be, and should be, and might be. 

Here's hoping there are more occasions like last night in the future of our country, and that they get the attention they deserve. Because in the world where the twitter feed and ten second sound bite rule, we will always get no more than a glimpse and an opinion.   The most memorable will be those most shrill, evocative or graphic. But if we get the opportunity to listen, we might find this country using both the public and private, using the collaborative capacity that the original government was constructed to foster, between big and little states, urban and rural, blue and red, has the capacity, competency and will to do far more good than the left or right dreams, without the price tag being either liberty to act or the possibility for success.   


Maria Fernanda McClure said...

there is hope yet... :)

MightyMom said...

One can hope

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