Sunday, November 09, 2008

Jan. 20 Funeral for America???

[UPDATE: Sunday, November 16, 2008: 8:35AM: Please see my more recent updated posting on the subject.]

A symbolic funeral for America on Jan. 20, the day when Barack Obama becomes officially the 44th President of the United States? Sounds like something Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh might conjure up, doesn't it? But, wait ...

I heard that such mock funeral plans are being laid locally by some very unlikely folks: students at Jesuit High School.


Now, I am an alum of JHS and I have to say I was shocked to hear this. The JHS of today, at least from what I can tell, is a radically different place as far as politics and ideology than when I was there. In a recent version of the school newspaper, The Blue Jay [which is regrettabley unavailable online], the senior class was polled on their preferences in the Presidential election, and more than 70% of those polled chose McCain/Palin over Obama/Biden.

Listen, I'm all for free speech and for students making whatever kinds of protest plans that they want; but planning a mock funeral for America when Obama is inaugurated? That's just too much. If this ever comes to pass, I promise that I'll personally stage my own little protest at the High School and hold up my own little protest sign on the corner of Carrollton and Banks. And I hope the local press sees fit to cover what would be an embarrassing display of anti-Patriotic "free speech" at the school.

Because I was disturbed by this news, I have thought a good bit about this over the past 24 hours. And my ponderings have left me to conclude two things about this: (1) These students must be shaped by a home environment that is extremely hostile to Obama and which sees politics through the lenses of ideological polarization, which leads to (2): the divisiveness of our politics over the past 16 years that I think has poisoned the well of a unified country.

All the more reason to be grateful that Obama is in the White House. God knows that our country needs desperately to escape the Dick Morris/Karl Rove, Clinton/Bush poles of poisonous politics. And I hope some folks with authority at JHS can talk some sense into the sophomoric behavior of these foolish kids.


JBarrios said...

Hey Prof. Huck,

When I first read this post, I immediately called my brother who is a junior at JHS; and he informed me that he has heard nothing about a mock funeral for America. Although this "funeral" may be in the works, it is by no means a fitting representation of how most of the students at JHS think (This is of course my own opinion based on the atmosphere I was in only a few years ago.) I will not deny that some of the teachers, especially in the religion department at JHS, are very conservative thinkers with whom it is difficult to have a completely honest political discussion (I don't put your brother in that group.) However, I think your use of "radically different" is going too far in describing the politics of the student body. I may be misinterpreting your use of the phrase, but just because most of the students would have voted for McCain/Palin I would not consider them radical.

Now, I am not somehow defending any display of this sort, especially at JHS. I am in complete agreement with you when you say that it would be very embarassing if this funeral were to take place. I would be the first one to stand next to you on Carrollton and Banks to protest such a display of ignorance. In regard to your two conclusions, it is hard for me to speak about the political environment in which these kids were raised; but I would like to think that these kids at some point could develop their own positions regardless of the political leanings (left or right) of their parents, teachers, etc.

Finally, something that is not entirely related to this: Although I did not support Obama in the general election, I am fully supporting his administration over the next four years because his decisions more than any other politicians' in my lifetime are going to have a direct impact on my life. Here's to the next four years that they be a step in the "right" direction and the new generation of politicians in the mold of Obama, Jindal, and Cao!

P.S. Go easy on me. This is my first post.

Huck said...

Hey, jbarrios! (I have a policy of referring in comments to people according to their comment user ID.) I'm glad you posted a comment and actually appreciate your doing so, because it gives me a bit more information. A couple of points: (1) when I said "radically different" I didn't mean their voting preferences, I meant the manner of expressing this preference. When I was a student there, the political preferences were probably more on the conservative side, too, but there just wasn't this kind of polarization and outspoken divisiveness in expressions of such preferences. There would never have been any discussion of staging a mock funeral for America.

That said, what I heard was probably something that came from probably just a handful of outspoken students, and even these students might have just been being silly. Frankly, I'd be surprised if any kind of mock funeral would take place; but it disturbs me that there was even the suggestion of it, even if only as a joke. When I was a student, we didn't have the Rush Limbaughs, Sean Hannitys, Randi Rhodes, and Keith Olbermans spewing their venom as part of the screaming head sensationalist journalism. The nature of political discourse was just much different back then.

I, too, would hope that all Jesuit students would think for themselves, but I don't think these kinds of things come out of thin air. They have to come from somewhere. And the three most influential environments for High School students where these ideas can come from are their home environments, their school environments, and the digital media (blogs, internet news sources, chain email, youtube, etc.) It's probably some kind of reinforcing combination of all of these that leads to the sharp polarization and ideological rigidities of our current national political environment. And this is as true for liberals as it is for conservatives.

I'm glad you posted your comment and you are most welcome (and encouraged!) to come back and do so regularly. Sometimes the passions and disagreements run high, but it's almost always a respectful space for dialogue. And I'm sure I can learn from you, and also expect you to keep me honest!

Eric said...

"these students must be shaped by a home environment that is extremely hostile to Obama and which sees politics through the lenses of ideological polarization"

When people have political goals that are driven by fundamental beliefs, isn't ideological polarization a natural and even acceptable consequence? For people who feel that "eat the rich" economic policies are inherently immoral and destructive, or that making healthcare a government backed entitlement is an incredibly bad idea, how would you suggest they voice their concerns, if in fact their concerns are that these policies will ruin our nation?

I mean, I assume you praised Obama and his policies in your household to your children, becasue you agreed with them. How is that any different, in terms of polarization, than somebody who disagrees with them and hence is very critical of Obama around their kids?

Calling for a "funeral for America" is extreme (certainly so in a public school setting, perhaps less so in in some other settings), but for many people who see Obama's ideology as a significant shift away from the very American tradition of encouraging self-reliance and independance, there is a palpable feeling that we are in danger of losing something important. While I understand that you believe such fears are irrational and exaggerated, are you also saying here that people who feel this way have a responsibility to mute their criticism in the interests of national unity?

Anonymous said...

Someone tell these kids that this has already been done. We had a jazz funeral for democracy in 2004 with thousands of protesters and several brass bands in attendance.

Huck said...

Fair questions, Eric. First, while there is certainly an environment in my household that encourages positive views of Obama, we have never encouraged nor even tolerated talk of the other side in terms that would demean and denigrate them. As passionate as I and my wife are for Obama, we never tolerated our kids trash-talking McCain/Palin nor their supporters nor the country at large. Why? For goodness' sake, I have siblings who are staunch conservatives and McCain/Palin supporters. My daughters have schoolmates whose families were McCain/Palin supporters. I would never support my kids going around and translating their enthusiasm for Obama into a public display of the impending "death of America." Of course, respecting their free speech rights would mean that I couldn't prevent them from participating in a mock funeral for America, but I would certainly be disappointed in such participation and would not keep my disappointment secret. These high school kids have friends sitting next to them in classes who may think that an Obama administration represents renewed life for this country, not death; and to subject your friends who feel this way to this kind of mockery is just uncivil and mean.

So, I don't retract anything I've written. It's one thing to be enthusiastic about your side, and disappointed when your side loses. It's another thing altogether to think of the other side, at least in our country, as the death of you. That's just excessive, especially for kids whose civic knowledge is only just beginning to bloom.

Unlike some on the left, I have never translated a loss at the polls into a death of our country. I have been disappointed and dismayed by many of the policies of the last 8 years, but I never questioned the resilience of our system and thought of the Bush Administration as a death blow to it. Maybe many did; but if they did, it is an inherently anti-patriotic gesture. It presumes that only one group of Americans is worthy of this country, and another group of people, by contrast, are bearers of its death. That's unwarranted extremism and cynicism at its worse -- and though I have known many such folks, I have never known such extremism and cynicism among high school students. The fact that kids who have the prospect of their whole lives ahead of them think that their future is dead before it even starts is disturbing and disheartening.

Eric said...

"I have been disappointed and dismayed by many of the policies of the last 8 years, but I never questioned the resilience of our system and thought of the Bush Administration as a death blow to it."

Kudos to you, because I voted for him twice and I think he may well have done us in.

He certainly has pushed us to the edge of the cliff, and now Obama seems poised to give us one final shove.

Look out beeelooooooooowwwww.....

Don_cos said...

I agree that this is a bit much. However the left has been much more active in flagrant displays of displeasure with the political climate. Your otherwise good article is tainted by your attempt to blame this on the Bush admin.

Don_cos said...

Sorry, I do need to concede that you included Clinton(s) in the blame for this polerization.

Sorry, I should have read that part closer.