Wednesday, November 03, 2010

After the Deluge

On the morning after the deluge of an election we just suffered, I dragged myself out of bed at 5, only a half hour earlier than usual, and walked the dog through the silent cool morning. I have been enjoying seeing Orion peer over the trees of late. Orion's appearance is a sign that Christmas is soon to be upon us. I was up early so I could make my way down Highway 1 to California State University Monterey Bay for an all-day Registrars meeting.

The drive down Highway 1 is one of the sweetest highway drives on the planet I am quite sure. This morning the mist lay low on the water and in the cliffs. The surf has been outrageously high, so even in the dim morning light, the side of the road was graced by smoking hot surfers struggling with their wet suits. I saw a bevy of red-tailed hawks, and any number of silhouetted herons and egrets.

The drive was about a hundred miles to Seaside which is just shy of Monterey, the town made famous by John Steinbeck. And as I got past Santa Cruz, the great agricultural fields of that part of the world hove into view, replete with their armies of migrant farm workers.

The election just past is about a population that rejects the notion of a world that changes. You need only drive by fields of artichokes to know that this is not the world that they imagine. This is not the world which has made their infernal greed and self-absorption possible. But no matter, they are stamping their feet, and they are demanding that tough politicians call a halt to it all and remake their world into what they fantasize that it once was.
The proof of their lie is certainly visible at the austerely modern and almost vacant campus of CSU Monterey Bay. Don't get me wrong ... this is a noble experiment staffed by people who are dedicated to its expansive mission. That mission is evident all over its web presence. The experiment talks a lot about quality education, small classes, dedicated professors, and especially diversity. What was readily apparent, even in vastness and absence of humanity, was that the student population here is disproportionately Latino and Black. The long and the short of it, tea baggers be damned, is that the children of the exploited laborers who pick the tea baggers' artichokes and mow their lawns and change their discarded elders diapers are the future of California. Their education is the highest calling, higher indeed than the gold standard stuff that is the mission of the sainted and essential Major Research University (MRU) that keeps my lowly lifestyle supplied with shekels. The CSU Monterey Bay's 2008-2018 Strategic Plan (pdf) has a telling graphic that states its entire case.
Look at the middle figure in each of the two graphs. A perfect example of a picture being worth a thousand words. Anyone who needs this explained is not paying attention.

My purpose here is not to argue the obvious good of a society educating its residents, be they "legal" or "illegal". And my purpose is only partially to note that ineluctable and eternal rule of history that "people move" ... yes they do. More so, my point is the enormous good that is done by rational and sensible government. CSU Monterey Bay is built on the decommissioned Fort Ord; its spare architectural quality is a combination of its newness, the flat local geography, and the fruits of resurrecting decommissioned concrete bunkers, as it were. And it is an enormous contribution to the possibility of a fruitful and prosperous future, funded entirely by government money.

More than anything, though, my point here is what I turned over in my mind as I drove north on Highway 1 after the meeting. The afternoon was unseasonably hot, there was more traffic, and the mist and mystery was overlain by the haze of traffic and human invention. I did see another smoking hot surfer, and a white-chested raptor that I could not identify. But mostly I thought about how the Democrats cannot defend a place like CSU Monterey Bay, how they cannot use it as an example of how rational government raises all.

The madness that has swept this country did not come from nowhere. It came from that perpetually frothing 20% who are just mad at everything and so overwhelmed by the simplicity of their own obviousness that they gurgle when they are not frothing. But moreso it came from the Democrats who insist on acting like Jimmy Carter. For that is what Obama instantly became the moment that his heels were rested from dancing the inaugural night away. He forgot that the failure of the previous two Democratic presidents was written by their pandering to their enemies, their failure to motivate their own followers, the fear of using their own power.

I am utterly pessimistic about this country, my adopted refuge. The home of the greatest scientific inventions in human history, its politics immune to reason.

There will be plenty of time to think about this as the Republicans go about systematically ruining our future in the next two years, and as Obama finds ever greater depths of craven apology.

But for today, I at least enjoyed a long drive on this spectacular coast, and was able to amuse myself with speculation.

All photos, except the graphs, by Arod, taken today at California State University Monterey Bay