Illegitimi non Corborundum
An Advice Column by Ken Andersen
A rough English translation of the possibly misspelled Latin words is: “Don’t let the _________ get you down!” I invoke this thought almost daily about actions in Springfield and in DC. I commend the advice to you.
Springfield! Every legislator I have heard comment on the current legislative session—yes it is still going on–has used such terms as “dysfunctional, a travesty, unbelievable, a disaster, a clash of egos,” and those are the words used when children may be present.
The Chicago Tribune, Sunday, October28, called for a constitutional amendment permitting the recall of the governor. The public response recorded by the Tribune on October 30 showed a majority in favor of such a recall with some wanting to include one or more of the legislative leadership. More than one legislator is now calling for term limits on serving in the legislative leadership.
Between the legislature and the governor they have as of October 31:
· Failed to address the structural deficit of the state.
· Failed to resolve the transportation crisis that may cripple metropolitan Chicago mass transit.
· Repeatedly played the blame game.
· Held numerous special sessions to no effect without taking any action.
· Failed to pass and fund a capital bill after going 5 years without one.
· Failed to achieve a compromise agreement on a host of other issues.
On the positive side they deserve plaudits for
· Fully funding the pension systems this year. (But remember the ramp up for SURS alone next year is $110 million and the following year another $115 million above this year’s appropriation. Where is that money going to be found?)
· Modestly increasing funding for higher education after years of cutting or freezing funding.
· Passing a bill to establish a P-20 Council.
· Passing although not funding a master planning effort for higher education.
Reason to worry: One state senator says we haven’t seen anything yet: “Wait until next year.”
· Both the President and Congress have approval ratings at historic lows.
· Democrats gained control of Congress only to be frustrated by the threat of vetoes and fear of “not supporting the troops.”
· Public sentiment increasingly opposes the Iraq war and wants our troops home.
· The administration threatens to bomb Iran—no troops available to invade. Some pundits believe that will occur before the end of Bush’s presidency.
· The President, recent Attorney General, the Vice-President and others firmly state the president does not have to obey the law. (Do we have a President or a King?)
· The nominee for Attorney General does not know what “waterboarding is” and cannot say if it is prohibited as torture despite general international agreement it is torture and despite the fact it has been described several times recently in the public press.
· The head of the Consumer Protection Agency is opposed to additional power for the Agency and additional funding for an admittedly understaffed agency despite the recall of three million toys for excess lead and only one full-time person testing for lead. When asked, she refused to comment on her reasoning or lack thereof.
Perhaps the clearest, most eloquent statement of angst I often feel is an October 14 letter to the editor by Mary G. Fran writing the New York Times in response to a Frank Rich editorial:
“I have written about torture, Iran, wiretapping, health care…. I have phoned my representatives, federal and state. I have signed petitions. I am an ordinary person, but there are millions like me who have tried to do something within our humble limits. Obviously, to no avail. We have been betrayed by our government, ignored by our representatives and failed by our press. Please tell me, Mr. Rich, what would you have us do now?”
I don’t know what Mr. Rich would say. But in my better moments I say, Illegitimi non corborundum! If we give up, the cynics and the power-mongers win. We simply cannot allow that. As Representative Bill Black said recently, “The system works better when people participate.” Barack Obama calls for downplaying partisanship and rancor and finding practical solutions. Others call for a better government, not less government.
Our citizenry needs to return to the civic arena as active participants, not pundits, with a healthy skepticism, not cynicism. Our educational system once stressed the goal of an educated citizenry committed to civic involvement possessing sound reasoning and logical thinking skills, communication skill, and a reasoned ethical stance to use in judging our individual actions and those of our nation. Surely it is not too late for us as teachers and scholars it see it as a patriotic duty not only to encourage civic involvement but also to provide the necessary understandings and tools prerequisite for such activity.