Learning government the hard way

Most parents, at some time in their child’s early years, will look at the innocence in front of them and wish fervently that nothing ever happens to wipe that innocence away. Of course it’s a hopeless dream. Eventually commercials for Viagra and news about the workings of the state and federal government will intrude on their child’s consciousness, causing the innocence to flee.

This seems to be what’s happening to some students at the Polaris K-12 School.  For what must seem like an eternity when you are as young as most of them are, they have been working the ropes of state government to get the Malamute declared the state dog. They did everything they were supposed to do. They researched how state government works, learned all there was about the history of the Malamute in the Arctic, answered committee questions, and got support from many different groups in the state.

Eventually, the State House passed the bill. Now the kids watch as it sits in one last Senate committee where it is on life support because it if doesn’t get voted out to the Senate floor this session, it dies.

Welcome to your government, kids. It’s not a pretty sight.

Clearly this late into the session there are many other bills that are more important and need passage to keep our state going next year. Of course, that begs the question of why we always find ourselves in this time crunch. Why hasn’t it occurred to anyone down in Juneau to schedule budget votes before the last seconds of the session? It also begs the question of how the legislature found time to declare Marmot Day in Alaska.  Do marmots really have that much more of a powerful lobbying group than malamutes and school kids?

If I ponder this for awhile, I must admit that part of me comes to the conclusion that maybe the better lesson for these students to learn is that our constitutional guarantee of government by, for and of the people plays out in strange ways in the real world. Perhaps they should learn early on that corporations are people too and have a lot more money to spend helping government see things their way and getting their issues up first for a vote. Perhaps they should also learn that power comes from whom you know and what you know about them, not necessarily the merit of your cause.

This would wipe the last bit of innocence from their lives, assuming a viewing of the commercial for Victoria’s Secret nude underwear on TV hasn’t already achieved that. Better it happen while their parents are still there to hold and comfort them as they find out that the world isn’t always fair and we aren’t actually all equal in the eyes of the people we elect to represent us.

After all, wasn’t it our very own dear Don who made it clear that the threshold for getting his attention was whether or not you voted for him? All others go to the back of the line.

In the aftermath of the passage of the health care reform bill, I think it should be fairly obvious to everyone that we all need to learn to play much more nicely with each other.  Throwing rocks through windows and threatening violence to someone who voted for the bill is a level of childish frustration that these students were taught is not appropriate in kindergarten. So while passing the malamute bill would be a nice gesture, maybe an even more important lesson can be learned if it doesn’t pass and the students do not respond by rioting. Maybe their non-violent acceptance of the failure of their efforts would be a good lesson for some adults to learn.

Anyone who actually read the commentary the kids ran in the paper last week has to be impressed with the amount of due diligence they put into this effort. They deserve to at least see it go to an up or down vote in the Senate and not die for lack of action in some committee. It would only take a few minutes of the legislature’s time.

And really, the legislature found time to honor the marmot. Whatever did the malamute do to them that they wouldn’t give it the same chance?