Ignoramus, of the bloviating type

By Martin Hackworth

Most of the time I am unfazed when I see a politician utter something stupid on television. It’s just too common of an occurrence to get worked up over all of the time. In a political landscape filled with the likes of Sarah Palin and Allen West, entire careers are fueled by nuclear-powered levels of boastful ignorance. Don’t look at me that way, you voted for them.

But this past week I came across a whole new level of political idiocy courtesy of one Stacey Campfield, a state senator from Tennessee. Campfield’s claim to fame is his belief that assistance for poor families ought to be tied to student performance in school. He’s proposed legislation to that effect. If you are a kid from a poor family having difficulties in school, you get to feel even worse by being responsible for your entire family getting poorer.

Just so you know, I extended Campfield the courtesy of investigating his idea, thoroughly, before condemning it — much more than the consideration he extended to poor children before going on television to make a fool of himself. It turns out that I wasn’t missing a thing. Among Campfield’s other notable initiatives for improving Tennessee are making it against the law to say “gay” in schools and instituting a reporting system for suspected gay behavior. He also thinks that school bullying is an overblown issue. I kid you not. This guy is a piece of work.

To have reached adulthood enamored of such ideas is a disappointment; to have graduated from not one, but two institutions of higher education enamored of such ideas is social malpractice; to have actually been elected to a statewide office enamored of such ideas is tragedy. Yeah, Senator, that’s you. And since the children in Tennessee who would suffer from your mendacity don’t have the ability to communicate their side to the world, I intend to do it for them. I happen to know a thing or two about the consequences of making kids responsible for the welfare of an entire family. Yeah, I’ve got some wisdom for you, pardner. And you are about to get every bit of it.

Things were never really all that great in my family for as far back as I can remember, but the wheels really began to come loose when I was about 8. For a few years I was, most of the time, the closest thing to a responsible adult in the house. By the time I was 12 I was the head of the house. Most school days I was less concerned about isosceles triangles and sentence diagramming that what was going to be waiting for my sisters and I when we got home. My grades suffered. Homework is a little harder to pull off when you are not only too young to drive, but have to be worried about paying for rent and food and concerned about what to do if the jerk one of your parents brought around the last time you saw them comes back after one of your sisters.

Sometimes even getting to school was a problem. To make ends meet I worked early and late. I am reminded by the snow outside as I write of the huge morning paper route that I worked, and of the time that I crashed my bike on the ice, ruining it, and had to limp around carrying a paper bag. I remember accidentally breaking someone’s door window during that period and having to spend a week’s wages fixing it. I remember being so tired in school that I could barely stay awake.

But here’s the salient issue. What I remember more than anything else about all of this was understanding, at the age of 12, that it was all on me. If I screwed up, if I made a single mistake, the gig was up and what little family I had would disappear. Everything was all my fault. You think you’re tough? You try that on for size sometime and see how it works. And if Campfield were to get his way this philosophy would guide public assistance in Tennessee.

Stacy Campfield – you’d better hope, no, you’d better get down on your knees and pray that whatever Providence may exist doesn’t put us in the same room together anytime soon.

What kind of a nimrod makes kids the responsible party in a dim-witted ideology on poverty and neglect? I guess the same kind of childless ignoramus who thinks that bullying is not an issue. Well Stacy, pard, your learning is about to commence. On behalf of the poor kids everywhere, you are my new hobby.

Award-winning columnist Martin Hackworth of Pocatello is a physicist and the editor of MotorcycleJazz.com.