Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Board Club Notification Follies

The performances of Elia, Faliero, Valdez, Olson, Edgecomb, Griffin, and Lamb at the club-notification blowout last evening were epiphanies for students of the Board.

The power is shifting from administration to Board members.

Olson’s performance was significant. She is intelligent. But she has not always been brave. She was remarkably forthcoming in a stream-of-consciousness outpouring on the notification debate and admitted that her own daughter had belonged to GSA. So does my granddaughter at Plant. The kids don’t have a problem with gays; older prejudiced people do.

Ms. Edgecomb waxed philosophical and pondered the epistemological implications of “aware,” in parental awareness of their children’s lives. Ms. Edgecomb looks to be coming into her own as an independent voice on the Board.

I have requested a copy of the Board minutes so that I could examine especially Ms. Olson’s and Ms. Edgecomb’s thinking.

There was Board consensus in condemnation of parental indifference to children’s school lives, with Plant’s parent night’s nearly empty auditorium as summary of this sad fact. So Elia’s and Falliero’s threnodies on the primary importance of parental rights got refutation in this citing parental indifference except when the administration and their Board followers use it to punish gay kids. A remark that appeared several times from Board members was that, if parents were concerned about their children, they would see to the situation themselves without sky-high-paper notification protocol to load more work on teachers, the aim of which notification not being to notify parents except those who would kick out their gay children from home if they found out they wanted to belong to the GSA club. This notification rigmarole festered with cruelty at its core.

Ms. Valdez’s voice has ramped up since I saw her a little while after her election. She is more poised and emphatic. She has grown.

New member Ms. Griffin preserved a delicate balance between humble ingĂ©nue and insistent new voice. She negotiated her desire to re-examine the contract for the elementary school that started at an offer of over $600,000 and plummeted to $300,000 as negotiated by the Keystone Kops of the administration—the same ones, we infer, that supervised the crooks who ripped off the taxpayers in the real-estate scandal that Ms. Elia et al claimed not to know about. The administration has forfeited all rights to trust in its real-estate fiascos.

But the astonishing revelation of Board-member psyche came from Falliero. Falliero is an authority junkie. She reminded me of Goebbel’s wife, who gave her seven beautiful children cyanide in the bunker and joined her husband in being set afire as final tribute to the ultimate authority figure: the fuehrer. Such psyches are obedience driven to worship whatever or whoever is in power. To them, as Pope says, Whatever is, is right. She replicated the administration’s drumbeat of propaganda that the most important thing in the notification issue was parental rights.

One hears Elia attended Falliera’s victory party after election. Elia is the symbol of authority, blowsy though she be in the symbol department, so Falliero followed her lead. A blowsy authority figure is better than no authority figure at all to authority junkies. If Billy Bob Thornton were in charge of the administration, power-junkie Falliero would follow Angelino Joli's ex.

In her statement after audience comment on club notification, Falliero spat contempt at people attending the meeting who had “agendas,” meaning the kids and their supporters who opposed allowing the right-wing homophobes’ using notification to alert any parents who didn’t know to their children’s sexual orientation as a way to animate nutty parents to kick out their poor children and make their lives more miserable than those lives presently be with societal squeamishness about gayness. Falliero didn’t acknowledge that the homophobes had an agenda too—an unlovely one aimed at savaging gay children through any homophobic parents they could flush out with the notification ruse.

Ms. Elia came off as insecure, mentally and physically disheveled, and ineffective. She delivered her rationale for notification in strident monotone that hammered “parental notification” as the holy of holies—one to which the administration owed long-time allegiance. Significant from back-of-the-room vantage appeared the body language of the tableaux: Board members used to turn for guidance to Elia but now faced the audience and danced their own solos without checking in with Elia.

Objective analysis observes that Ms. Elia is an unsteady administrator who buckles under pressure from bigots. This club-notification pas-de-deux reminded me of her staggering performance on the religious-holiday issue. She first accepted the committee recommendation to begin to reach out to other religions in the changing face of America’s religious population. Then bigots showed up at the Board meeting, hollered, and Elia flip-flopped. In the Club scenario, the first committee recommended no notification. The homophobes pressured Elia into forming another committee with bigots as members. It came out with the bigot club-notification resolution that Elia endorsed and that the Board considered last night. This Elia flip-flop of Elia her somersault on the religious-holiday issue. I record a tardy salute to Ms. Edgecombe’s having the guts to stand alone in opposition to that cave-in to bigots.

Dr. Lamb chaired the meeting in a dither of parliamentary dishabille. He was in perfect Uriah Heep humble mode, garnishing his deportment with fawning amiability. Dr. Lamb’s disguise hid his obeisance to the administration agenda, no matter its being despicable.

Board-attorney Mr. Gonzalez does not sound like a Gonzalez. There’re no Cervantes or Lorca accents in his delivery. He’s generic country cadences. Mr. Gonzalez features the identical corn-pone country-speak of the boys who hang out at the filling station in my birth hamlet of White Oak, Georgia. These are the town layabouts who maintain our area’s venerable garage culture. President Carter’s brother Billy was one of this ancient fraternity. Mr. Gonzalez’s country accent is a great disguise for mental acuteness. There is a stock character in Greek classical comedy called the Eiron, who fools people by pretending to be dumb. Mr. Gonzalez’s accent gives him Eiron credibility.

Unlike White Oak’s garage-culture yokels, Mr. Gonzalez is hell on wheels with Robert’s Rules. He split a question three ways to fit the convoluted expression of Olson’s formula for discussing the club issue. He squared it. He threw it up in the air. He hung it out to dry. It is reassuring to find an island of competence in the center of any Board Perfect Storm. Peace, peace: be calm: let us hear what the attorney says according to the liturgy of Roberts.

The use of the English language in such community gatherings as the Board meeting last evening astonishes. A person from another planet familiar with Standard English would have a tough time figuring what everybody is talking about. Circumlocutions were rampant. Lofty allegiance to high principals was constant theme. Nobody got to the hard nut of meaning at the center of all the oblique verbiage: a dirty little story of hate-filled prejudice.

The issue was bigotry: the homophobic bigots had secured Ms. Elia’s cooperation in perpetuating their ugly attempt to punish gay students. They had found out that the law didn’t allow them to abolish GSA clubs. So they found a niche way to punish gay kids whose insecure parents might savage them and kick them out of their homes in the middle of the night for being gay. Ms. Elia attached the authority of the school district to this foul scheme.

I am in the middle of the last of three of Dr. Peter Gay’s books on the Victorian era. He is current star history-of-ideas star with a flossy endowed chair at Yale. Dr. Gay’s third book explores the use of cruelty in social organization.

The morphology of bigotry is that in-groups must have an out-group to scapegoat and onto which to project their fears of their own repressed flaws. Jews have functioned template scapegoat for the world. But in boutique pockets of prejudice, gays are current scapegoat. Homophobes are afraid that they themselves may be gay, so they project this fear onto gays—even gay children in Hillsborough County classrooms—so as to eradicate them from the group. The club issue is not Auschwitz; but it’s in that vile area of human vice.

Darwin’s epochal work Origin of the Species came emerged the Victorian century. The bigots jumped on Darwin’s survival of the fittest and extrapolated it to excuse exploitation of the poor and helpless; they used it to go to war against what they chose to consider inferior peoples—a phenomenon that continues in Bush’s Iraq war. Dr. Gay says Americans were particularly taken with social Darwinism and applied it with zest. De Tocqueville echoes this observation.

The homophobes with which Ms. Elia allied the school administration—joined by two concurring Board members Falliero and Lamb—aim to use societal cruelty to scapegoat gays and drive them out of the clan.t
Prejudice is seductive. Freud says that prejudice is hard to kick because it gives the prejudiced the pleasure of feeling superior to others, and pleasure is hard to give up. This phenomenon explains the Republicans’ co-opting the solid Democratic South by conducting a campaign of slogans that signaled Republican willingness to continue states’ rights so that the segregated South could continue to scapegoat Blacks. Thus even poor Southern whites could experience the pleasure of feeling superior to Blacks.
Now when I go back to my home state of Georgia for family events, I see poor white Southerners-- who depend to survive on liberal-generated-Republican-opposed Social Security and Medicare--driving pickup trucks with Bush bumper stickers above the gun racks. That situation is what intellectuals call cognitive dissonance. Southerners are into it big time.

Cognitive dissonance is alive too at the Hillsborough County ROSSAC building of the administration. But, thanks be to the maker, be it Jesus, Allah, or Buddha, only two Board members joined in the ugly phenomenon of homophobia to punish gay kids in the school system.

This can’t but be good news for the children in the schools and the voters in the communities who depend on the Board to aim for the highest and the best for the children, not the lowest and the ugliest.

lee drury de cesare