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The frustration of citizenship

By TJ Ray

Having never lived in a country ruled by a king or emperor, I thus have no basis for comparing life in a republic. (Note my hesitancy to use the word “democracy,” with a hint of doubt.)

In this country, the distance between the euphoric “one man—one vote” and the suspicion that individuals simply don’t count, is about one inch. They are alike in that neither can be authenticated.

Some years ago I wrote a letter to the senior Senator from Mississippi. Not having a copy of this missive in hand, I can’t assure you that it made sense, was polite or unreasonably demanding. I’m reasonably certain I didn’t use nasty language nor call the gentleman unflattering names.

At any rate, many weeks later came a response, the envelope itself prompting me to rip it open to read his agreement with me and his sacred promise to argue my side of the issue. Ah, but the aide who executed the letter chose the wrong trite standard reply to an entirely different issue. Conclusion from that and many other efforts to communicate with elected officials on the national and state levels is this: such people don’t give a fig about the individual.

Currently, I find myself tilting at a huge windmill, one operated by a juggernaut party bent on having its way in public affairs, even when wisdom and people’s views argue against their actions. This group has even gone so far as to deny to some members of the pack that they also may be denied the facts which the chief manipulators are hiding. The very notion that an elected state senator or representative is not allowed to see a contract between the State of Mississippi and EdBuild is ominous.

The nexus between this and my start above about the lack of power of the individual citizen is this: He can not trust his representative because that person has been cut out of the need-to-know loop.

So here citizens sit, waiting for the next shoe to drop on public schools. It appears that instead of having a thorough plan in place for reorganizing education funding, a placeholder bill is likely to be put on the table, which will give those novice education analysts at EdBuild the time to do due diligence. And, of course, that will reduce the time available to have debate on whatever scheme EdBuild dreams up.

Some might say that is acceptable. After all, there has already been 90 minutes of public hearing on this topic. Yes, 90 minutes to answer questions about what will impact every child in the state for years to come with plans fashioned by novices from outside Mississippi!

Ah, what is left to say about this? If challenging one of those folks — say, the Speaker of the House or the Lieutenant Governor — to a duel, I’d start for Jackson. Letters written have little effect. Name calling? Now that’s a possibility. Would calling the Republicans in Jackson Pernicious Hag-seeds or Sodden-witted Cacodemons or a Scurvy of Noisemakers or just plain Foul Nits have any effect? Worth a try, but don’t hold your breath.

TJ Ray is a retired professor of English at Ole Miss.