More than one friend has brought to my attention this piece from Salon, taking up the cudgels for a schoolgirl here in South Carolina:
Criticizing Ty'Sheoma Bethea
thought it would come from Michelle Malkin or Rush Limbaugh, but Malkin
is too busy planning her anti-tax tea parties while Rush gets ready for
his close-up at the Conservative Political Action Committee this weekend (which is a collection of nuts so nutty even Sarah Palin stayed away).
No, it was the conservative Washington Times that cast the first stone at Ty'Sheoma Bethea,
the Dillon, S.C., teenager who wrote to Congress seeking stimulus funds
for her shamefully dilapidated school. Obama used her statement, "We
are not quitters," as the coda of his speech Tuesday night, but now the
Moon-owned paper tells us what's wrong with Bethea, in an editorial
with the condescending headline, 'Yes, Ty'Sheoma, there is a Santa
Obama "presented" Bethea "as a plucky girl from a
hopeless school who took it on herself to write the president and
Congress asking for much needed help," the Times began, ominously.
Wait, she's not a plucky girl from a hopeless school? The editorial
depicts her instead as a player in Obama's "mere political theater"
because the president has been using her school, J.V. Martin, as a
"political prop" since he first visited in 2005. Wow. Dastardly. I'm
getting the picture: Obama, that slick Democrat opportunist, has
repeatedly visited one of the poorest schools in South Carolina, a
state that voted for John McCain. You just know he leaves with his
pockets stuffed with cash every time he makes the trip.
And you can read the rest of Joan Walsh's piece here.
You know, I long ago got cynical about these regular folks that presidents of both parties put on display
during their prime-time speeches. I'm actually capable of understanding that public policy affects real people without such smarmy concrete evidence. Such faux-populist gimmicks are the rhetorical equivalent of those insipid man-on-the-street interviews that local TV news shows do, the ones that make me want to scream, "I don't care what this person who has obviously never thought about this issue before thinks! Either tell me something I don't know, or go away!" Such things tend to strike me as manipulative, phony and insulting.
So I'm not here to imbue this little girl with some sort of oracular power or something. But come on, people — picking on a little kid who just wants to go to a decent school? This is where ideology gets you. You get so wrapped up in your political points you want to make, you forget that there's a real person there, even when she's staring you in the face.
Earlier this week, I called a guy in Latta who had rung my phone (according to caller ID) at least 10 times that day, refusing to leave a message. (As I've probably told you, ever since my department ceased to have a person to answer phones, I have to let the machine get it and get back to people when I can, if I'm to have any hope of getting the paper out each day.) But I called back on the chance that he was disabled or something, or there was a problem with my voice mail.
There was no phone problem. He just wanted me to be the latest of several people at the paper he had berated for saying J.V. Martin school was built in 1896, when PARTS of it were built much later. Some of it, I seem to recall him saying, in 1984. Does this seem like a huge distinction to you? It didn't to me, either, but it was VERY important to him. He wasn't saying it wasn't a substandard facility, mind you; he just had that one objection, and he maintained it was the height of irresponsibility on the part of the newspaper not to point out that distinction.
Anyway, the situation is what it is. J.V. Martin is a facility that stands out in a part of the state not exactly known for stellar school facilities, as you've read many times before in our paper, seen in Bud Ferillo's "Corridor of Shame," and read in Kathleen Parker's column last week. You know, that wild-eyed liberal Kathleen.
Is that Dillon County's worst educational problem? Probably not. There's the bizarre governing setup for local schools there, whereby the high school football coach, by virtue of being the only resident member of the county legislative delegation, decides who will be on the school board. The caller and I discussed that, and he thought it was worse that a certain other party — the son of the late South of The Border founder Alan Schafer — has too much influence. I don't know anything about that, but the Coach Hayes thing has always been weird and Byzantine enough for me.
South Carolina should be able to do better than J.V. Martin, and if it can't, that's an argument for getting some federal help, as much as I dislike federal involvement in school matters. All this kid did was ask for something better, and a newspaper derides her as an emblem of "irresponsibility." That's a hell of a thing.