This congressional hearing [link is to C-Span video] happened yesterday (May 24). I want you to watch Betsy DeVos saying that in no case—none at all—would she deny a school federal funds for discriminating against black students, gay students, special needs students. Not even in the case of a specific (real) private school which expels students for the crime of having a queer or gender noncomforming relative. (Contamination!) Betsy DeVos still wants to give that school taxpayer money via vouchers.
DeVos’s slogan that we need to ditch a “one-size-fits-all” education is just a gloss on “separate but equal.” Which was itself code for “get your gross kids away from mine.” And it is hugely, hugely disrespectful to the millions (millions) of teachers and administrators who spend every day forging personal, individual connections with their students—listening to their fears, cheering on their accomplishments, and tailoring every lesson to their individual needs.
I want you to also watch Katherine Clark, the blue-suited woman asking the questions, who is one of my favorite people in the House of Representatives. (She happens to be my Rep. She’s the stuff.) You can tell she’s an attorney. Specifically, she used to be Massachusetts’ general counsel for the state Office of Child Care Services. She also chaired a local school board. She is not somebody who smiles at vague, time-wasting evasions about whether kids are being protected. She came loaded for bear. (No, I have not forgotten Wapiti.)
Nic says: Things like this are why I really hate the “politicians are all the same, liars, cheats blah blah” narrative. I am mostly in awe of people like this who are well informed, spectacularly clever and using their intelligence and strength to fight for the people they are there to represent. And I don’t think they are a minority. Just like I think most backbench MPs in Westminster are there solidly working for their constituents.
I think there’s some kind of success bias where a proportion of the bad ‘uns rise to the top maybe because they’re not so concerned with their actual responsibilities. But then again maybe not and it’s rising to the top that warps your moral compass, just as coming into huge wealth can completely change how you see people who are struggling. In any case thanks for so often sharing these great examples. And honestly if I was a hard working MP or Representative and constantly having to listen to people say what scum politicians were, I might think “well fuck em” and start doing what I could for myself. The fact that I might act that way is why I’m not a selfless enough person to become one in the first place though.
Sure wish we could drop the pretense that contentious confirmation hearings reflect “increasing polarization” instead of the nominees being unqualified crap.
Given that Betsy DeVos’s only qualification as education secretary seems to be $200 million in campaign contributions, and there are about 50.4 million children currently enrolled in U.S. public schools, we can figure that any senator who votes for her confirmation is willing to sell children for $4 per child.
How’s that for a word problem?
During the inauguration, comedian Katie Rich made (and later deleted) a stupid twitter joke that Barron Trump was going to be “the first home-school shooter.” It was a shitty thing to do. I’m disinclined to rake her over the coals too much because even before our President regularly tweeted offensive insults, I’d reached a state of twitter scandal exhaustion – I think in about 2013, when that PR flak got fired for tweeting a dumb AIDS joke. I just can’t put tasteless jokes at the top of my list of problems.
For what it’s worth, I suspect (this is pure speculation) Katie Rich didn’t mean to make fun of Barron, who is famously not homeschooled. (You hear it in every news report that mentions him: Barron and Melania will stay in NYC so he can finish the school year at his school.) Knowing how it is to be a creative person, I suspect Rich’s first thought was along the lines of “he looks like he wants to kill his parents for dragging him to this boring thing,” which is not a joke about Barron but observational humor about what it’s like to be 10, and when she tried to juice it up to make it less trite, she had Betsy DeVos on the mind and wound up firing off something muddled and unintentionally vicious. Dumb.
However, if you are ever thinking about writing something mean about Barron – not that I think any of you would – please don’t. This is personal for me. About 20 years ago, when Rush Limbaugh routinely mocked teenage Chelsea Clinton for being awkward and chubby and frizzy-haired and braces-wearing, I was a teenager who was awkward and chubby and braces-wearing. And I wasn’t even the president’s daughter.
At a developmental stage that was already difficult, it made me feel awful about myself to know that if I ever came into the public eye, this man and his thousands of listeners would laugh at me for something beyond my control. Fortunately, I was surrounded by compassionate conservatives who were not like Rush, who mentored me alongside the liberals and moderates. But I can’t say it didn’t have an effect. Those few years when Chelsea, Hillary, and Monica were relentlessly targeted are the same ones where my life goals switched from “empress of the universe” to “clever person working behind the scenes unbothered in corners where nobody’s paying much attention.” (Which I don’t exactly regret. It’s pretty fun.)
My point is, a vague and generalized joke about Barron doesn’t just hit Barron, or stick it to his parents. A vague and generalized joke about Barron is going to hurt other introverted 10 year olds who hear it. None of them deserve it. Stuff’s already hard for introverted 10 year olds.
I probably focused on a different thing in the Betsy DeVos hearing than most people, and that thing was the words “in Wapiti, Wyoming.” Wapiti!
I have discovered:
(1) It’s not spelled Woppity (am slightly disappointed)
(2) it’s an alternate name for Elk (from the Cree)
(3) It’s in not one but two Ogden Nash poems. Here is the first one, titled “The Wapiti”:
There goes the Wapiti
And here is the second one, titled “The Hobby Horse,” obviously a callback:
I'll tell you the kind of horse I've got
He'd rather gallop than trot, trot, trot
He can jump like a wallaby, run like a wapiti
He's my very own clippety-cloppety property.
He's herbivorous, so I call him Herbie
And if he were alive, he'd win the derby.
Best American poet of all time. I’m calling it.
It is possible Ogden Nash wrote yet more poems about wapiti (it is likely he could not resist writing futher poems about wapiti) but these are the two I could find.