07 September 2009

Conservatives: Keep Obama out of the classroom!

During a speech to junior high school students in November 1988, then-President Ronald Reagan exhorted the values of low taxes and the American version of self-government, and told kids about the time he received a letter from a man while he was governor of California:
"I got a letter from a man in San Quentin prison, and from the prison he wrote me the letter to tell me he was in there for burglary. He was a burglar. And he said, ``I just want you to know that if [a gun ban] goes through, here in San Quentin there will be celebrating throughout the day and night by all the burglars who are in prison because'' he said, ``we can watch a house we plan to rob for days. We can learn the habits of the people living in that house, to know when is the best time to go in and be a burglar -- rob it.'' He said, ``The only question we can never answer is: Does the man in that house have a gun in the drawer by his bed?'' He said, ``That's a risk we have to run.'' He said, ``If you tell us in advance they won't have a gun in that drawer by their bed,'' he said, ``the burglars in here will be celebrating forevermore.''
I have no memory of of this particular speech, and neither does the rest of America, apparently, as conservative pundits have been spouting off for days about how this represents Obama's desire to brainwash America's children into wanting socialized medicine and government abortions.
I, for one, think the reaction this planned speech has gotten ("They do this type of thing in North Korea and the former Soviet Union ... very cultish" - Andrea Tantarnos, FOX News) is completely misreading the message. The prepared text of Obama's speech can be found online, and after reading, it, I found that I approved of its basic message of hard work and planning educational goals. I find this a marked contrast to Reagan's speech, with its conservative anthems of low taxes and no gun control. I also find it difficult to believe that a junior high student, as the remarks illustrate, would care enough to ask a question about whether or not "Saturday Night Specials," small, cheap handguns, should be banned. I can almost hear the grandfatherly chuckle in Reagan's response:
"Well, I don't have very much of a quarrel with the very cheap weapon and
so forth that makes it so easy for the wrong people to have a gun. I would like to see us
concentrate on what I described in California: of making sure that anyone who buys a
gun is a responsible citizen and not bent on crime."
Can you imagine what would happen if Obama's speech even contained the word "gun?" Conservatives would be howling for blood, and I can envision countless Americans racking their shotguns just in case Mr. O wants to take them away.
In short, this whole brouhaha is scandalous - not because of what it is, but because of what it isn't. If we've gotten so polarized politically that a president's speech asking children to work hard in school is something worth fighting against, then what is the point? If our two-party system, which it seems to have become, is so hell-bent on tearing the opposition down that everything else, including decency and common sense on both sides, goes by the wayside, then what is the point of even having the system in the first place? Is this endless and pointless political one-upmanship the sort of activity the Founding Fathers had in mind?

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