The bits of America
By DS Gands
Jun 17, 2004
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During the services in California for former President Ronald Reagan, the American flag, positioned at the left of the casket display, waved ceremoniously, almost on cue, as the children spoke of their father.  It was as if the hand of God swept gently above the scene and stirred the American symbol to steady the pained hearts of a mourning nation.  When Mrs. Reagan broke down at the end of the final moments of the service, this nation openly wept. 


No matter one’s position on politics.  No matter one’s feelings about this president or that one.  A National Funeral is something that brings to us the reminders of discipline, honor, respect, dignity, and National focus.  It gives us a moment to see the ceremony of America, and that is something that is not shared often enough.  It seems that whole generations have been skipped without a true understanding of the ceremony that defines us.  Whether it is a day of national honor, celebration, or mourning, the pomp and circumstance of ‘ceremony’ has withered away from the people.  It is a unifying element.


Then I read another news alert - It was the anniversary of the execution of Timothy McVeigh and the day the jury in McAlester, Oklahoma, said they felt sorry for Terry Nichols, who allegedly has found God since being on the inside, and did not invoke the death penalty.   I bristled a bit and stiffened in my chair, but I bit my tongue.  I continued to read.


Monday, the Supreme Court issued an opinion to reverse the ruling of the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on what has come to be known as the ‘Pledge’ case - On Flag  Day, no less.  Several reports in the media have admonished the Court for not addressing the issue, and for taking the easy way out on what has been called a technicality.  What many do not realize, and I am sure that those slanting their articles and op/eds do not intend to imply, is that continuing a case with a party that does not have standing in federal court would set such a bad precedent that the law, overall, would be turned on its ear.  Three of the Supreme Court justices indicated that they wanted to have the case argued on the merits, and they wanted to rule on this issue because there were two questions in this case before the Court, but it could not be argued in this particular case given that the respondent had no standing – the first of the two questions.  It does not resolve the questions surrounding the Congressional Act of 1954 to include the phrase ‘under God’, nor does it address the California law requiring school districts to implement a ‘patriotic exercise’ at the beginning of each day.  No doubt, there will be another opportunity, here in America.


Last weekend, there was a call for relaxing the restrictions on stem cell research, made on behalf of Nancy Reagan by the media and spokespersons, and by John Kerry, presumptive Democratic nominee for the presidency.   The incumbent Bush refused the calls, and Scott McClellan said that the president did not understand creating life to destroy life, and that this was a moral issue.  I submit to you that given the scientific creation of life goes on each and every day without moral considerations, how can creations of children in test tubes be supported by law at all?   The comeback is that people that need assistance in having a child have this advancement in science to help them.  I say if you can make six babies in a glass dish, plant one or two in a womb leaving the rest to exposure and death or discard them, and this is considered acceptable (?), then someone has either got their morals or their standards (or both) way out of balance.  There’s natural conception without moral consideration for which there are all kinds of laws and policies written regarding the aftermath of those burdens – from abortion to welfare, costly removals for adoptions, drug programs, healthcare burdens, etc, etc., etc.  Bush, who allegedly said that women would be the ruin of Yale, is a pro-lifer that should stand up and say that the unnatural production of embryos for fertilization is immoral, if creating life to destroy life is the standard.  We cannot have it both ways – the Bush standard would eliminate fertilization assistance for many.  The question still wandering in and out of the courts of America, is when does life begin?  Depending on that outcome, we have parental responsibility considerations on natural and assisted conception and criminal considerations for ‘lives’ lost.  And, the battle rages on.


A little over a week ago, though it seems like years, we saw the CIA Director ‘resignation’.  This week we are seeing the Senate and 9-11 Commission reports trickling out.  We are seeing Iraq oil pipelines destroyed, interim government officials being assassinated, more Iraqi people and soldiers dying, polls showing that the Iraqis are angry about the invasion and occupation of their country, reports that several defense/intelligence/military operations were studying a hijacking attack on America months before 9-11, world leaders continuing to reject assistance for Iraq, more kidnappings and threats, the European Union struggles and in-fighting, the Attorney General accused of possible Contempt of Congress, and speakers campaigning in Florida stating that Iraq was connected to bin Laden.  There were reports that the president was losing his cool in the White House, quoting scripture one minute and screaming obscenities the next directed at those he considered to be unpatriotic because they did not appreciate his views.  The most recent report was that he had traveled five hours to give a speech to seniors about the discount prescription drug card program in Missouri, almost immediately abandoned the message and started talking about his war on terrorism - off message and lost as to what to discuss after fifteen minutes on the stage.  Apparently being president isn’t such a cushy job.


A few days ago, there was the unveiling of the Clinton portraits in the White House.  A comedy routine, at best, but the portraits were phenomenal.  It is particularly interesting to note that they were commissioned to the first African-American artist to paint a presidential portrait.  Bush noted that Clinton was extremely dedicated, after all, he jabbed, anyone that would give up six months of their life to run the McGovern campaign in Texas…?  On top of  all of that, Clinton has started his book tour.  ‘My life’ is the title. It is reported to be 957 pages in edited form, and expected to be a major best seller.   I’ll have to wait and see, but I think I know just about all I want to know about Clinton’s life.


Then there’s all that other stuff in the news bombarding our brains and emotions and running the scales on feelings of fear, disgust, and anger.  There’s the economy, and the inflation, and the trade problems, the unemployment, and the Blair defeats, and the EU voting disappointments, and the recalls in Venezuela, and the rocky road to peace and its never-ending violence between Israel and Palestine (with a new twist of Egyptian influence thrown in), the prison scandals, and the ethics charges, and the bombings around the globe, the threats of attacks, and the trials.  [Pause: Refilling pen.]  The handovers or claims of success for this-that-or the other, the energy prices, the pipeline sabotages, and the abhorrent displays of failure and complete disagreement all across the papers, screens, monitors, and airwaves.   The 9-11 Panel, the Senate Armed Services and Intelligence committees, and the British Parliament say it is one way based on the evidence, and the Bush Administration and Blair continue along the same line.  Now, that’s confusing. 


Back here at home in Texas, we are still waiting for the other shoe to drop on school finance reform, while the world swirls around us in chaotic disarray.  With regard to this particular one, I have determined for myself there is an answer, but no one in a position of authority seems to be actually looking at the cause of the problem.  It seems that there are different management styles of funds in every school in every district in the state when reviewing the Comptroller’s breakdowns of school budgets and funding along with the facilities expansions, reviewing information about bond monies, administrative to teacher salary comparisons and subsequent benefit cuts, and the vast array of competitive curriculum materials and how they are managed and approved. 


The claim that there isn’t enough money is a perspective that skips these areas or fails to adequately scrutinize them in the evaluation process.  I felt a little better about my world after I had decided that I had figured out the root of this evil and ‘Robin Hood’ wasn’t a failure at all.  In fact, it appeared that the sheriffs were the ones with questionable tastes and tactics regarding budgets, and it doesn’t seem to be the smaller schools that have the problems, either.


Property tax sweeps are going on at present, too.  In case you have not noticed, the appraisal districts have been instructed to ‘sweep’ their counties for every penny they can get before the caps are lowered by the School Finance Reform legislation.  Some of the elderly have had their taxes quadrupled, even given their homestead exemptions, due to the failure of appraisal district management who have ignored valuation increases/decreases, property expansions, interface with building permits, etc. in years past.    It boils down to the taxpayers being penalized, as far back as five years accumulation, for the appraisal districts not doing their jobs.  Those over 65 may have the option to allow taxes to accumulate, with an interest penalty, against the property until it is sold or passed on to the estate, which may be very helpful to those who cannot afford their food or medications any longer, and all they really have left in their lives is their home.   Taxes may go up – fixed incomes don’t.  There are a lot of difficult issues that need to be addressed for the seniors – this is just one of the burdens they carry.


I asked a single question in Austin, because all this tax heat, no money stuff , and budget management hoop-lah was puzzling me.  ‘How can we have equal schools if we do not have an equal school system?’   Well, that’s the problem that they are trying so hard to address, you may say, but it is the way they are looking at it.   I was not talking about spreading the money around.  I was talking about how it is spent.   The response is usually complete silence.  [Hello?]   As my husband used to say, ‘They’re looking at it plum backwards.’


A Golden State sunset
I poured over the balance of the news alerts sent to me, weary though I was of all the upheaval and divisiveness in them.  After a review of the press for the week past, my mind slipped back to the breath-taking golden sunset in California, last Friday.  My heartbeat calmed, and my mind eased.  I sank back in my chair and quietly soaked in the warmth of that moment remembered, of the sun slipping into the Pacific Ocean horizon beyond the Santa Rosas.  The death of a president brought the only positive moments in the entire week – how ironic is that?


‘America the beautiful – with liberty and justice for all’, I thought to myself, savoring that scene in my mind’s eye. 


I put my hand over my heart and whispered to myself, "Thank God."

Copyright 2004 by DS Gands - All Rights Reserved

DS Gands ( is a freelance journalist living in North Texas.