There are times when the arrogance of my own country, particularly toward its citizenry, is so shocking that something must be said. The chutzpah displayed by President Obama in his first term to get a national health care bill into law, while admirable, has proven ill-conceived, poorly-promoted, and terribly presented to the American public. From a document that is so long few will read it, to hiring a company with a proven record of failure to computerize it, the health care bill has been, and I fear will continue to be nothing short of disastrous. Rather than simplify matters further by delaying implementation until the whole damned thing is ready, the President and the Democrats use the arguments that “the other side” is just being – once again – the party of “No.” I don’t care for John ‘The Orange Man’ Boehner; neither do I have any great love for Mitch ‘Lizard Lips’ McConnell, but when they say that this is not a good bill, they are correct. So it’s “Fuck you Americans and full-speed ahead because we just have to prove a point.”
Before you think I’m fully praising the Republican Party, hold on a second. They have shown their arrogance and “Screw you citizens” in equal measure. It all depends on which party is in power. When Georgie involved us in an unwinnable war in the Middle East, he was merely proving that he was born with the proverbial silver foot in his mouth. Going after Osama bin Laden by attacking Iraq makes about as much sense as Bush’s comment regarding Afghan fighters, “”And they have no disregard for human life.”
However, it is now evident that it’s not only Washington that has a complete disregard for the public in general. Well, perhaps there have been a few signs before this; you know, things like the mortgage tragedy; the fact that parts of Louisiana still haven’t recovered from Katrina; bailing out the auto industry and big Wall Street Firms while allowing one in four American children to live in poverty. Now it’s extended to the field of collegiate athletics as the cancellation of a domestic airline flight to fly the University of Florida basketball team to Connecticut has shown. Here is just another case where the lives of average Americans were usurped because something as stupid as a collegiate hoops contest was deemed to be more important. To compound this travesty, passengers were told that their plane had mechanical problems. Meanwhile, the passengers were watching the Gator basketball team board ‘their’ plane.
Don’t get me wrong; I admire Billy Donovan and the job he’s done at Florida. I was a big fan of former UConn coach Jim Calhoun as far back as his days of coaching at Northeastern. This isn’t about the two programs; it’s about the manner in which Americans were treated by other Americans because some idiot thought that transporting a college sports team was more important than anything the other passengers had to do. One person reportedly missed a funeral over this stupidity. I’m surprised the airline – Delta in this case – didn’t say that they had polled every passenger. What the hell; if you’re going to tell a lie, you might as well make it a big one. Do you suppose that if this had been the University of Florida Drama Club and orchestra, preparing to present Camelot in a national competition at the University of Connecticut, the same courtesy would have been extended? No, of course not, but this is ‘D1’ basketball which brings millions of dollars into the coffers of the two teams involved as well as into the treasury of the NCAA. As one newspaper reported, “At the end of the day, a game was put ahead of people’s lives—and for that much, there’s no worthy explanation or defense.”
This mentality – athletics taking precedence over common sense, politicians exercising their right to use power over understanding – is a disturbing sign for our country. Recently, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development administered the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exams to 15-year old students from over 60 countries. About half a million students from North and South America, Europe, Asia and some countries in the Middle East took the exams. America failed to reach the top twenty in any of the tested subjects. Overall, the USA ranked 36th in math, reading, and science. I cannot recall when, if ever, an American athlete has been that far down the rankings in any Olympic event, can you.
In fairness, the United States has never faired all that well in the PISA test since the testing began in 1964. Despite this, we are still considered the world leader for innovative development. It’s somewhat difficult to understand the dichotomy between standardized testing and real world production, innovation and economic development. Do we have a problem with our education system in this country? Yes, yes we do; our problem is that we are willing to spend more money on athletics than we are on academics. Does athletic participation help to broaden the individual? It appears to be so for those who wish to participate and are sufficiently talented to do so. Even the term “dumb jock” is heard less and less, particularly in intercollegiate athletics although it seems to be getting replaced with criminal behavior on the part of athletes.
It seems to me that the politicians in Washington don’t really understand their constituents, what they want or what they really need. It’s time that we understand that our political process is broken and needs some serious revision. And it seems to me that much of this country’s fascination with athletics needs to be toned down to the point of sanity, and a greater amount of money, time, and research done to guarantee that our children – from kindergarten to terminal degree – receive the very best education to allow them to continue to compete in a real world environment.