What’s “politics” mean to you, for that matter?  Because it is evidently another of these words for which there are different, loaded meanings to different people, a “buzzword”.

In all honesty, this surprises me; I thought it was fairly straight-forward to know what is “politics”, I did not understand it to be an ambiguous concept.  And while It is clear public respect for congress is rank-bottom, respect for, say, the presidency is not.  And yet confidence in institutions is not the same as respect for a “lifestyle”, and the significance of this to our local neighborhood functioning is important.

To consider yourself as part of a political society, a democracy, requires a respect for the process of politicking.  As citizens of a democratic system we are all each part of that process, at least potentially.  Denying its primacy is simply another form of denying reality.  Politics matters because it affects your life in the here-and-now, but more, feeding an active process with participation influences the shape of that living structure in the future.

A consequence, or perhaps corollary of finding politicians untrustworthy and distasteful, is that ordinary people will not engage with them even on an ordinary, local, neighborhood level.  Here in Los Angeles with our marvelous system of neighborhood councils, and easy access to – or ability to be one of our — local politicos, the deafening silence of public participation is all the more baffling.  If ever the moniker “use it or lose it” holds truth, it applies to our democracy itself.  If ever the moniker “use it or lose it” signifies a prognosis of value, it is with respect to the educational opportunities of our children and thereby, to no less than the future shape of our society.

So it was with some astonishment that I heard a parent recently insisting that issues of monies and spending and funding are “not politics”.  The simple request to see how money has been distributed in fact is just that:  politics.  Not only the decision about how to distribute the money, but even the decision to divulge that information is itself all about how we choose to govern and be governed, by “ourselves”.  Because there are in fact people who will hold these truths to be unavailable, they will operate shadily in the shadows.  They will collect money on behalf of your child and not let that child benefit from it, or tell you they have done this.

What we citizens have is membership in a process that permits – sometimes – ultimate recourse to that information.  But to get it requires work and persistence but mostly:  involvement.

When the school board members seem not to be voting in your best interest, it may well be the case that it is because they do not know what you perceive your best interest to be.  They need to hear from you to know that.  Because they are certainly hearing from someone; someone else has the wherewithal and means to make their own interests known.  And that someone with interest and means to influence the process, is likely not of the same nature as you, a small solitary citizen.  If you do not speak up as a lone, solitary voice, you will not be heard.  By default, what remains is the voice of large, monied “special-interests”.

What do these interests look like in the education arena?  They look like monstrous electronics industry tycoons (Gates, InBloom).  They look like programs that feed this industry (Common Core and its testing mania).  They look like enormous retail conglomerates (Waltons) and programs that serve this industry (is there a connection with Breakfast In The Classroom (BIC)?  Who contracts for this highly processed prepackaged food? What happened to healthy food prepared in local kitchens?  Who benefits when unions are busted?)  They look like housing magnates (Broad) and a system that builds large, expensive new schools while hundreds are floundering in toxic, dangerous disrepair and to tie the circle back together again, construction bond monies go to … technology initiatives.

They look like private, specialized vested interests, masquerading as public, grass-roots support.

These are our monies, investments in our futures, our children, our lives.  When we believe there is a problem, it is our responsibility to speak out about it.  Incredibly, our elected officials are often ignorant of the extent of ordinary people’s convictions, and yet we are to blame for not speaking out.  I hear tell of school officials who claim no cognizance of a facilities problem, who do not somehow know about broken HVAC systems and broken irrigation systems and water fountains and asbestos-laden decades-old portable classrooms and lame-making running tracks that are a lawsuit away from ruining a child’s life.  I understand there are school officials who insist that BIC is an issue of civil rights mitigation while innocent of any inkling of the groundswell of opinion to the contrary.

“Politics” is simply the name put to the process of deciding policy for we ourselves.  When your input is absent, you will not be counted.  If you wish for information, you must insist on its availability; that is part of the process.   We must know now what has happened, to ensure the future is as we would wish it.  SPEAK UP.  SPEAK OUT!  BECOME ENGAGED “POLITICALLY”.  It is not a tangential preoccupation, it is your immediate prerogative.  Look around you, see what you see, insist on following the money and talk about it!!!!!