Archives for category: Character

Dr. Michael Hynes is the Superintendent of Schools in Port Washington, Long Island, New York.

He writes:

My daughter Sadie has taught me more in her 9 years of life than I have learned in my past 52 years of existence. My wife Erin and I had no idea that our daughter had Down Syndrome when she was born. Sadie had to stay in the newborn intensive care unit for a few weeks and we met some of the most compassionate and amazing professionals in the world. Unfortunately, we also met others who were much better off keeping their thoughts to themselves.

I remember a doctor at the hospital telling me he was “sorry” after Sadie was born. On another occasion, a family member shared with my wife and I that “Mongoloids can be nice people.” She didn’t mean to upset us; it was her mental model about Down Syndrome. Initially, as parents we were surprised with the multitude of closed-minded comments we came across. As Sadie grew and we brought her to restaurants, stores or in public, people would stare at her longer than one should.

I’m sharing this with you not to complain; but doing so because we began to learn how the world can perceive others without knowing anything about them whatsoever, except through the lenses of their biases and assumptions. Little did they know our little Sadie has the best sense of humor and can read on grade level like here peers. She enjoys music and hanging out with her best friends like all children do. As parents, we began to advocate for more programs in her school and for the school districts we served in.

I probably should have started off this reflection by sharing both Erin and I are school Superintendent’s. She is an Assist Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction and I have served as a Superintendent of Schools for the past 11 years. Here are the lessons we learned from our personal lives that now transcend to our professional ones.

  1. You never know what others are going through. I have a much deeper respect for parents who have children with autism, Down Syndrome, ADHD, OHI, etc. They have incredible stories to share, and we need to support them as much as their children.
  2. Never place limits on your child or students. Don’t accept what professionals say at face value all the time. If Erin and I listened to what some professionals believed Sadie would never be able to do, her life would be so much more unfulfilled. She is flourishing.
  3. In the education system I have served in for over 25 years, we need to remove the word “special education”. This word places a label on a child that never leaves them and carries a negative connotation with it. Yes, the children are “special”, but they are certainly not less than “typical children”. By the way I loath that phrase as well.
  4. Inclusion is important. Integration however is critical. It’s great to be included but to be fully integrated is where the secret sauce is. Separating and segregating children is not the answer. Teach them to become independent and watch them soar!

Sadie is now in 4th grade. She continues to surprise people with her intelligence, humor and at times stubbornness. We are so fortunate to have her in our lives. There are other “Sadie’s” in every school in America. Are we as school leaders doing everything in our power to make our school system more inclusive and integrated? That’s for you to answer and my hope is that you strive to make that a reality. Every child will benefit from it.

Dana Milbank tells the sad story of Elise Stefanik, a promising moderate who was elected to Congress from Upstate New York. But when power beckoned, she threw aside character, ethics, and principle to join the Trump brigade. For this once-moderate member of Congress, there are no bounds to her willingness to go full MAGA. She echoes the Great Donald, walking in lockstep with him and his Big Lie, even endorsing the “great replacement theory” that terrifies MAGA-Carlson voters but inspired a massacre of ten innocent Black people in Buffalo. A week after the massacre of children and teachers in Uvalde, Texas, Stefanik said she opposes gun control, but favors more funding for mental health. Anything for the base. Anything for power. Sad.

When John Bridgeland left a senior position in George W. Bush’s White House and joined Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in the fall of 2004, an eager undergraduate got assigned to him as a student fellow and facilitator of his seminar.

“She was so excited because I was one of the few Republicans” then at the school’s Institute of Politics (IOP), Bridgeland told me this week. He remembered her as “extremely bright” and “through-and-through public-service-oriented.” She was so impressive in the seminar that he chose her to do a project with him selling Harvard students on the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps and other service opportunities. “I thought the world of her,” Bridgeland said.

The young woman’s name was Elise Stefanik.

Bridgeland secured her a job in the White House when she graduated in 2006, personally appealing to Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and other former colleagues to hire her. Bridgeland later encouraged her to run for Congress, which she did, successfully, in 2014 — and the New York Republican quickly established herself as a leading moderate. “I was so incredibly happy and proud,” Bridgeland said. “I viewed her as the bright light of her generation of leaders. She was crossing the aisle. She was focused on problem-solving. She had the highest character.”

And then, he said, “this switch went off.”
Today, the world sees a much different Stefanik. This past week, after the racist massacre in Buffalo, attention turned to her articulation of “great replacement” theory, the white-supremacist conspiracy beliefs said to have propelled the alleged killer. Before that, she had been a prominent election denier, voting to overturn the 2020 results after the Jan. 6 insurrection, and then using the issue to oust and replace House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (Wyo.) because she refused to embrace President Donald Trump’s election lies.

Now, Stefanik has thrown her support, as the No. 3 House GOP leader, behind a proposal to “expunge” Trump’s impeachment for his role in the insurrection. She has joined a small group of extreme backbenchers as co-sponsors of the resolution, which casts doubt again on Joe Biden’s “seeming” win, citing “voting anomalies.” The resolution has no purpose (there’s no constitutional way to expunge impeachment) other than to sow further distrust of democracy.

It’s a story told a thousand times: Ambitious Republican official abandons principle to advance in Trump’s GOP. But perhaps nobody’s fall from promise, and integrity, has been as spectacular as the 37-year-old Stefanik’s. “I was just so shocked she would go down such a dark path,” said her former champion, Bridgeland. “No power, no position is worth the complete loss of your integrity. It was just completely alarming to me to watch this transformation. I got a lot of notes saying, ‘What happened to her?’ ”
The answer is simple: “Quest for power,” Bridgeland said. “But power without principle is a pretty dark place to go. She wanted to climb the Republican ranks and she has, but … she’s climbed the ladder on the back of lies about the election that are undermining trust in elections, putting people’s lives at risk.”

As a candidate in 2014, Stefanik refused to sign Grover Norquist’s no-tax pledge, a Republican purity test. Then the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, she became a co-chair of the Tuesday Group of Republican moderates. She boasted about being among the most bipartisan lawmakers. She criticized Trump’s “insulting” treatment of women, his “untruthful statements,” and his proposed Muslim ban and border wall.

But Trump’s huge popularity in her upstate New York district changed all that. She became one of Trump’s most caustic defenders during his first impeachment. After Trump’s 2020 loss, she embraced the “big lie,” making a stream of false claims about voter fraud, court actions and voting machines, and urging the Supreme Court to reject the results.

When Bridgeland saw his former protegee’s lies about the election, “I was shattered. I was really heartbroken,” he told me. Alumni of Harvard’s IOP petitioned to remove Stefanik from its advisory committee, and Bridgeland signed it. “I had to,” he said, “because Constitution first.” Stefanik called her removal a “badge of honor” and a decision on the school’s part “to cower and cave to the woke left.”

Bridgeland, a career-long policy innovator who still considers himself a Republican, retains a flicker of hope that his former student might return to her early promise, recant the lies, and prove true Ralph Waldo Emerson’s belief that if a “single man plant himself indomitably on his instincts, and there abide, the huge world will come round to him.”

“People become totally ruined by their failure to stand up for the good and the true, but I do think she has the spark still and could awaken to it,” Bridgeland said. “It’s not too late.”

For our country’s sake, I wish I could believe that.

We know now that the extreme crazies are determined to create “universal distrust” in public schools, as far-right extremist Chris Rufo said in his infamous Hillsdale speech. We have seen how they insult dedicated, hard-working teachers as greedy, lazy, even implying or saying that some are “grooming” children for sexual perversions.

The gutter snipes of the extreme right never rest, so they quickly leapt on a statement by President Biden praising outstanding teachers. The haters cleverly deleted one important word from his statement to turn his praise into a claim that the state “owns” the children.

Wonder what that one word was? Open Peter Greene’s commentary for a demonstration of how the omission of one word was used to promote demagoguery and deception.

Russia’s Counselor to the United Nations in Geneva resigned. I hope that those few readers of this blog who have been stridently defending Putin and making excuses (“clear out the Nazis,” “it’s NATO’s fault,” etc.) for his brutal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine will read this.

The New York Times authenticated the letter.

Robert Hubbell is a wonderful, sensible blogger. I enjoy reading his posts. Here is one that ties together our current “gloom and doom” about the politics at home with the defiance and courage of Ukrainians who are standing up to a brutal invasion.

He wrote:

The media doomsday machine is in overdrive.

Readers are again filling my inbox with stories that predict disaster for Democrats in the midterms. All I can say is that we should be thankful that the journalists declaring defeat are not in charge of defending Ukraine. The current narrative is that the only issue that matters to voters is the economy. Of course, except for inflation, the economy is strong—a fact universally ignored by the media. But in the “short-attention-span” media, the criminalization of abortion is a story that has run its course and is baked into the outcome of the midterms. Such a view denigrates the role of voters in the political process and ignores the possibility that the attitudes of voters can change over the course of an election.

So, let’s reset where we are at this moment in time. Most primaries for midterms have not yet occurred, so Democrats don’t know who they will be facing. But we have strong signals that Republican candidates will be more extreme, less qualified, and more vulnerable than the GOP had hoped. The surge of activism that should follow the criminalization of abortion is just getting off the ground. The final opinion was expected in late June; the leak in early May caught many grass-roots groups by surprise. Republicans and the mainstream media want to create a narrative that says, “Nothing to see here, move along. The fight over abortion won’t motivate Democrats or persuadable Independents.”

I believe the above narrative badly mis-reads what is about to happen. We are no longer arguing over abstract legal principles. We are facing a situation in which abortion will be a crime, and teenage girls raped by family members will be ordered by the state to bear children forced on them by violent attackers. The narrative ignores that a strong majority of Americans supported the Roe / Casey paradigm for balancing individual liberty and societal interests. And it ignores the fact abortion is far more common than many believe. Per the NYTimes, “25 percent of women will have an abortion by the end of their childbearing years.” Telling those women, even retroactively, that they are “felons” or “criminals” will surely have some effect on their view of their Republican accusers.

So, what should we do? First, we need an attitude adjustment. If you see a story predicting disaster, you must summon the fighting spirit to say that pundits and “conventional wisdom” do not control your actions or your destiny. The fighting spirit of the Ukrainian people is instructive. The “conventional wisdom” predicted their defeat in two weeks. Our first clue that the Ukrainians would not allow conventional wisdom to determine their destiny was Zelensky’s statement, “I need ammunition, I don’t need a ride.” The second indication came from the defenders of Snake Island who were ordered by a “Russian warship” to “surrender” before being shelled. The reply, “Russian warship, go f**k yourself” will live in legend. [Note: The “warship” in question was later sunk by Ukrainian missiles.]

We all need a bit of the “in-your-face” confidence to tell the doomsayers what they can do with their predictions. In that regard, I recommend the video in a tweet by MeidasTouch, “Hey, Republican Party. Go f—k yourselves.” Fair warning—the video includes about a dozen profanities, which are usually unproductive and distracting. But the sentiment expressed in the video captures the fighting spirit that all Democrats need at this moment. Republicans are busy telling the mainstream media that the 2022 midterms are over and that Democrats should surrender. As the Ukrainian defenders on Snake Island said, “Russian warship, . . . .”

Christopher de Vinck taught English in New Jersey for many years and lives there now.

The following lovely piece appeared in The Dallas Morning News today:

Time ran out. My mother was ravished with arthritis, often tired, but always filled with optimism and joy.

She read The Guardian, The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times. She was an author of many books. (Her next collection of poems Journey to the Morning Light will be published by Paraclete Press in September.)

My mother continued to write every day. She had just finished reading Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China, the extraordinary novel written by Jung Chang.

Time ran out. My mother was 99 years old and said one afternoon a few months ago “Always keep in mind the secret name of beauty.”

My mother remembered that a few hours before I was born she was baking a peach pie. She was my first teacher: introducing me to the color of the autumn leaves, and reading aloud Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit. We collected wild flowers together in the spring. In grade school my mother gave me Kenneth Grahame’s book The Wind in the Willows. In middle school my mother placed on my pillow Sterling North’s book, Rascal. In high school she introduced me to the books of Loren Eiseley and William Carlos Williams. When I met a girl, my mother gave me her engagement ring to pass along to my wife of 45 years.

My mother endured Nazi occupation in Belgium for four years, nearly died in Dunkirk bombing raids, raised six children here in American…including my brother Oliver who was born with no intellect, was blind, mute, unable to chew.

Time ran out.

“Day by day, we cross over into the future,” my mother wrote in a poem. My mother is buried beside my father in a small Benedictine cemetery in Weston, Vermont.

When I visited my mother at the house where I grew up we sometimes sat on the terrace just outside her bedroom. In spring the wisteria dripped those beautiful purple flowers. In the fall the green leaves protect us. Often a chipmunk joined us on the terrace as my mother and I reminisced about weddings, vacations and peach pie.

“This terrace is a fragment of paradise,” my mother said as the brave chipmunk scurried up beside her chair. As she leaned over, the chipmunk sat up and gently took the peanut from my mother’s hand. A blue jay swooped down from the pine tree and grabbed a peanut that my mother had tossed onto the terrace floor.

We laughed at the quick chipmunk. We talked about the sorrows in the news and about the deer she saw sleeping in the yard at the edge of the woods. We even spoke about God.

“Isn’t it lovely that we are here, at ease, loving the world?”

We are living in a world that is being ravished with war, fires, and hurricanes, political upheavals, hunger, violence that is loose upon the world. It has always been so. But these things are news because they are stains that attempt to mar the beauty of our souls my mother would say. Goodness isn’t news because it is so common.

On the terrace, as my mother fed her chipmunk, she looked up at me and said “You don’t think of it, Christopher, but far ahead yet closer than a heartbeat something immense, wild, holy grabs you and won’t let go.”

Yes, time ran out. My mother’s heart gave up in December. Flowers perish, trees shed their leaves, and fields shrivel into brown stalks and frozen earth.

As my mother and I slowly walked back into her bedroom, as we took our last steps off the terrace arm in arm she looked up and said, “We can always return to a life of simplicity and peace.”

My mother was 99 years old and time ran out. She saw my sadness and then with a sigh and smile as she struggled back onto her bedroom chair she whispered “Christopher, we do not die forever.”

Happy Mother’s Day.

Christopher de Vinck’s latest novels are “Ashes,” (HarperCollins) and “Mr. Nicholas” (Paraclete Press).

Mercedes Schneider writes here about the plight of two experienced Black educators who were fired by District of Columbia officials for refusing to adopt a scripted “no excuses” program developed by the Relay “Graduate School of Education.” I put scare quotes around the last four words because Relay is not really a graduate school of any kinds. It was created by a group of charter chains to teach the methods favored by charter schools—strict discipline, no-excuses, and the pedagogical strategies to raise test scores. Unlike real graduate schools, it has no campus, no library, no faculty with earned doctorates, no programs in research and the social sciences.

The educators—one of them a veteran principal—objected to the Relay approach and thought it contributed to the school-to-prison pipeline. They were fired, and they are suing, all out of their own pockets. I will help them as best I can. Tom Ultican write about them here.

Schneider wrote:

Below are excerpts fron a lawsuit put forth by two former employees of DC’s Boone Elementary School, who took issue with DC Public Schools (DCPS) higher admin wishing to impose controversial scripted and harsh practices at the direction of the so-named Relay Graduate School of Education (“graduate school” as a brand name and worth as much as my legally changing my own name to “Mercedes Schneider, MD” to deceptively promote the idea that I practice medicine).

Former Boone principal, Carolyn Jackson-King, repeatedly voiced her concerns about DCPS pooling lower-income, predominately Black schools under the jurisdiction of Relay and the fact that the administrator overseeing this requirement was formerly with “no excuses” KIPP schools (as in highly-scripted conformity at the expense of developing critical thinking and self-value for low-income students). Jackson-King even collected data to support no need for this concocted “Relay remediation” plan for Boone students, to no avail. Within one year, she was brought from being a principal deemed worthy of mentoring others to one released from her duties as principal and given the lowest rating of her career.

Fellow Boone employee and director of strategy and logistics, Marlon Ray, was arguably singled out and punitively required to work in person throughout the pre-vaccination period of COVID and later terminated due to “reduction in force” after he filed a 2020 whistleblower suit with the Office of Inspector General (OIG) about Relay, including contracts and payments under two distinct codings and that did not line up.

Jackson-King and Ray are suing DCPS and requesting a jury trial “to remedy the effects of the illegal conduct described [in the suit]” and to “award damages for back pay and other monetary losses” incurred by DCPS “[having] violated the provisions of District of Columbia law recited [in the suit].”

The lawsuit itself is 35 pages long and is posted at the end of this piece. I wish I could post the entire document as I believe it is worth a full read for its value on many fronts, including how those in education reform are able to all-too-quickly position themselves in upper administration and through their connections promote other entites selling ill-informed ideas that are contrary to sound educational practice; how such education businesses are often particularly positioned to prey on lower income students and students of color; how genuinely concerned, career-invested stakeholders are often wrongfully punished for voicing their concerns and seeking remedy (including being told that the issue should be kept “in house,” a strategy also often employed by domestic abusers), and how the underdog often has to pay out of pocket to seek relief in the courts.

Please continue reading. The educators acted ethically. The district punished them for acting ethically.

In case you wondered, Peter Greene is not a fan of SEL (social-emotional learning). Just because the loathsome Florida Governor Ron DeSantis doesn’t like it is no reason to embrace it. He feels the way about SEL that I always felt about character education. Character education should not be a course or a program; it should implicitly permeate everything you do in teaching honesty, integrity. responsibility, and helpfulness. It must be modeled, expected, reinforced by example, not turned into lessons.

Greene writes:

Social and Emotional Learning is the new target of the GOP attempt to set multiple education brushfires in hopes of stampeding voters towards a Republican victory (as well as one more way for the authoritarian crowd to hammer home their central point of “Trust nobody except Beloved Leader”). The attacks range from overblown to intellectually dishonest to giant piles of bovine fecal matter to the odious, evil charges that the teaching profession is simply a haven for groomers.

And there is irony in these attacks from the right, because SEL is just the latest packaging of what we used to call “soft skills,” and some of the greatest push for getting these into schools has come from the business community (“Hey schools! Fix my meat widgets so they communicate and cooperate better!!”)

All that said, I’m not going to be the one to defend SEL in the classroom.

Perhaps I should say “formal SEL instruction.” SEL has always been in the classroom and always will be, because it’s impossible for an adult teacher to lead a roomful of young humans through learning and education and all the bumps and interactions that come by putting so many human beings in one room–well, you can’t navigate any of that without including SEL. “Don’t interrupt” and “keep your hands to yourself” and every group project ever are part SEL. Everything a teacher imparts, directly or indirectly, about how to work with, talk to, and get along with other humans is SEL. 95% of all the “this teacher changed my life” stories are about SEL and not actual subject content. So it is impossible to remove SEL from a classroom.

But formal SEL is another thing.

As soon as we try to formalize SEL instruction, we run into all sorts of problems. Are we doing it to help people get a better job and better grades or to be a better human being? And if it’s the latter, as it should be, who the heck is going to define what a better human being looks like? And is there just one definition? And if not (as is true), then exactly what sort of assessment are we going to use to measure the “effectiveness” of the program or the social and emotional learnedness of the students? And can you promise me that you aren’t going to record all that data to build some sort of digital social and emotional swellness file on each student? Also, will the program require every teacher to have a trained counselor level of expertise? Every single one of these questions ought to stop the march toward formalized SEL instruction dead in its tracks. But it hasn’t-not any of the times SEL, under various monikers has come trundling down the tracks…

If you spend an hour a week talking about how to be a decent person, and the rest of the week behaving like a lousy person, you’re wasting that hour. And if you spend the week being decent people, what do you need that hour of class for?

And, I would add now, you don’t model character for young humans by engaging in lying and slander to score political points. If 2022 is, as some activists are promising, the year that SEL takes over for CRT as the object of panic du jour, good luck to us all. But just because you call out the throwing of poo, that doesn’t mean you have to support the thing the poo’s being thrown.

We agree.

State Senator Mallory McMorrow gave a speech of four minutes to her colleagues in the Michigan Legislature. A Republican State Senator accused Senator McMorrow of wanting to “groom” and “sexualize” kindergartners, a charge right out of the QAnon cuckoo playbook.

Senator McMorrow replied with a powerful speech that has gone viral. Watch it.

Denis Smith writes here about the past, present, and hoped-for future of West Virginia. He urges West Virginians to throw out the leaders who undermine their health, safety, and well-being. He reminds us and them of the state’s past progressive leaders. A lifelong educator, Smith retired as an official in the Ohio State Department of Education, where he oversaw charter schools.

He writes:

In her earlier post, West Virginia: The Battle of Blair Mountain, Diane Ravitch not only reminded us about the emergence of the labor movement but also shed light on how, a century later, the coal industry, though greatly diminished in activity from earlier times, still maintains a grip on the state through the misfeasance of its political leadership in the governor’s office and by its representatives in the Congress.

The story goes back to 1921, when 10,000 coal miners, in reaction to the murder of a union-friendly local sheriff, joined together to check the power of coal companies and the low wages, unsafe working conditions, and horrific housing they provided in company towns situated near the mines operated by these representatives of corporate America.

Inasmuch as I completed almost all of my graduate work in West Virginia and lived there for nearly 20 years, I was familiar with the Blair Mountain story and the sad history of exploitation of the land and workers by extractive industries like coal companies. Unfortunately, I thought that this tale of labor history was widely known but learned otherwise about eight years ago.

At that time, I was asked to teach a number of American history courses for Ohio public school teachers so they could meet the then-new content area Highly Qualified Teacher requirements. A review of the draft course syllabus showed, however, that additional content was needed to bolster the students’ knowledge of the Progressive Era and the emerging American labor movement. In particular, there was no treatment of the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire as well as the Battle of Blair Mountain, which remains the largest labor uprising in American history.

I soon learned that none of the students in my class in suburban Columbus, Ohio had any knowledge of either event, and the Blair Mountain post, with its spotlight on West Virginia, sheds light on that state’s history of exploitation by energy companies and the lack of political leadership today to ensure the health, safety,and welfare of its citizens based on that past history.

But in light of the state’s challenges in the past, and with the neglect of the health, safety, and welfare shown by its top political leaders, are West Virginia residents also unknowing of its past history? Or have they been bamboozled by their politicians in not realizing what is at stake in the current political climate?

That lack of leadership to ensure the health and welfare of the populace is shown in the misfeasance and conflicts-of-interest manifested by West Virginia’s Governor Jim Justice and its senior U.S. Senator, Joe Manchin, who also served as the state’s governor before his election to Congress.

As the owner of several coal companies, Justice has a history of exploiting not only the land but of the communities affected. Moreover, like his friend Donald Trump, he also has a history of tax avoidance. In 2019, for example, Justice companies paid $1.2 million in back taxes owed to Knott, Pike, Harlan and Magoffin counties in Kentucky, with more delinquent taxes to be paid at a later date. A review of his tax delinquency showed that he had additional obligations to be paid in Virginia and West Virginia, along with past due mine safety fines.

Yes, mine safety fines owed by companies owned by the governor of the state where 10,000 miners revolted against unsafe working conditions exactly a century ago. But that was then, right? Or are we back to the future and the past simultaneously?

Then we have the case of Senator Joe Manchin, a predecessor of Jim Justice in the West Virginia governor’s office. The current Build Back Better legislation would provide funds to deal with climate change, expand Medicare, and assist families with lower costs for child care and elder care. Yet Manchin, who has interests in the energy industry and a daughter who formerly was the CEO of Mylan, a pharmaceutical company, seems to have a conflict-of-interest when it comes to supporting lower prescription drug costs and dealing with the environment.

When many communities lack safe drinking water caused by years of mining and health consequences caused by such mineral extraction activity in West Virginia, wouldn’t you think that the political leadership on both sides of the aisle would support legislation that would protect the health, safety, and welfare of residents?

If you have financial interests in a top industry, as Manchin and Justice do, that’s asking far too much.

On Sunday, Manchin announced, appropriately enough, on Fox News that he does not support the Build Back Better Act. This is what Bernie Sanders had to say about his colleague, Joe Manchin:

“Well, I think he’s going to have a lot of explaining to do to the people of West Virginia, to tell him why he doesn’t have the guts to take on the drug companies to lower the cost of prescription drugs,” he said. “West Virginia is one of the poorest states in this country. You got elderly people and disabled people who would like to stay at home. He’s going to have to tell the people of West Virginia why he doesn’t want to expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing, and eyeglasses.”

When it comes to drug companies and Manchin’s lack of courage in dealing with them, Bernie Sanders is certainly knowledgeable about some family history. And then some. He went on to add this observation:

“If he doesn’t have the courage to do the right thing for the working families of West Virginia and America, let him vote no in front of the whole world.”

Manchin used the canard of not wanting to increase the national debt as one of his arguments in opposing Build Back Better. But he does not acknowledge that West Virginia greatly benefits from all types of federal spending. A study several years ago demonstrated that a number of red states, including West Virginia, receive much more in federal dollars than they receive from the treasury. As examples, West Virginia receives $2.07, Kentucky $1.90, and South Carolina $1.71 for every dollar sent to Washington.

In light of his concern about the national debt, would Manchin favor West Virginia being treated on a par with states like Massachusetts and New York, which receive far less than a dollar back from the treasury for every dollar sent to Washington?

So as I reflect a bit more about the Mine Wars and the Battle of Blair Mountain, I am puzzled by the descendants of these mine workers offering such enthusiastic support to the likes of Governor Jim Justice and Senator Joe Manchin, who obstruct legislation that would improve the health, safety, nutrition, and educational opportunities for West Virginia, one of the poorest states in the union.

There are two great West Virginia Senators who must be turning in their graves as they view the likes of the state’s present political leadership. The first, Jennings Randolph, entered the U.S. Senate in 1933 at the start of FDR’s New Deal and was a champion of Social Security, Medicare, voting rights and the abolition of the Poll Tax. Then there was Robert Byrd, who served with Randolph as the long-time Senate leader who distinguished himself as a check on many of Ronald Reagan’s policies, opposed the Iraq War, and in his last days championed the Affordable Care Act from a wheelchair on the Senate floor.

In a Senate speech on February 12, 2003 that attacked the march toward war with Iraq, Byrd said that “We are truly “sleepwalking through history.” In my heart of hearts I pray that this great nation and its good and trusting citizens are not in for a rudest of awakenings.”

In the same vein, it’s past time for the people of West Virginia to emerge from their sleepwalking and support leaders, unlike Manchin and Justice, who will put the interests of the people first and not those of the pharmaceutical industry and energy interests.

One more thing. Dear West Virginians, the next time you vote, remember your ancestors who fought for justice (small j, of course) and basic human rights at Blair Mountain. It’s now the 21st century. Jennings Randolph and Robert Byrd might be pleased with your awakening.