Color: the Hell you Say?

The sight of memory is gray like a morning fog;

it whistles and it rustles where it shuffles by

toward that snowy countenance we call a tunnel.

 

The sight of memory is her tanned thighs parting

to the man with scarlet hands and Rudolf nose,

there in the yellowing deck of fallen leaves

we, in grassy youth, called our home.

 

Poor woman, her own sight bitten by the pallid dog—Time.

 

I can still remember the tar behind the scream

when the ocean froth carried me away.

Rain, rain, orange in our dusk departure

from sensory deprivations rainbows left behind.

 

The sight of memory is royal in the velvet swell

of new springs, rooted in fresh earth our toes dug up

when heart and mind planted rouged foundations

against the gnawing whisper: Sienna’s a bastard color, anyway.

The Art of Healing

(I’m feeling energetic and adventurous for both the weekend and for the newly minted summer, so here, say I, is a most short tale of the fantastical persuasion. Tattoos, rejuvenation and dogs follow. Put it up on your phone or tablet, wander outside, and have yourself a picnic of words!)

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Photo by Jake Davies on Unsplash

Kalesh was somewhat out of his element here. The cool tiles beneath his feet were the closest he had come to home in months, a relief from the pungent, sticky weather waiting to clobber the first stride out the door. Still, it seemed a welcome oppression compared to the utter silence of this room. Stillness was an art he had never perfected and never wished to learn.

Back home, in the well-preserved confines of his native lands, there was never a chance for silence. Everything was about the people—they flooded the air with smells, packed broad streets, filled waves with cobbled ships, ate the trees which hemmed them in, and spat out the ringing tunes of war. Silence, for them, was the demesne of death, and Kalesh’s people spent their whole lives wielding or fleeing from that. They had no interest in rooming with it.

He breathed in the air of Ha Tram Kas. Every now and then, he thought he could still hear it: the steady trickle of droplets that were his life, dribbling out onto the cobbles. Months ago, it had almost brought his steady descent into death’s realm. Morning after morning, he still woke with the phantom pains sorry men said would haunt him until that final day.

Kalesh was missing an arm. It was the final memento of a warlord’s life—a mockery of the path he had always taken to be the only truth. After he had refused to die, his lord had thanked him for his service, and kindly let him go. There was no need for a one-armed warrior in his world.

The tap, tap, tap of a bamboo stick roused him.

A dozen other heads did not so much as lift. They were quiet, complacent—trained in a different path. At their fore, the room’s focus swished her stick around, but remained otherwise jovial, focused, but serene. Everyone here awaited her attentions. Though Kalesh had but limited practice with the language, he had picked up enough to know: not all had come for spiritual reasons; for some, this was nothing more than an expression of art, but all gave the act a spiritual reverence. Their focus was a monk, though as far from one as Kalesh had ever known.

She was young, and fit, and had she been born over the mountains, her parents would have been working ever so hard to see she kept the bloodline going. Here, that did not even seem to enter into consideration.

The bamboo stick rose and fell in fluid motions, dotting skin wherever it dipped. Word on the street was that it was an act of unity between man and earth—that each drop was distilled from some piece of nature, and that by its embrace and a bit of magical aid from the crafter, man was brought closer to nature. Depending on whom he asked, that took the form of protection from violence or spirits, good luck, or healing. It was the latter which caught his interest.

It had also been something Kalesh dismissed as rank superstition, not so long before. A chance meeting with a traveler in the mountains between worlds had changed all that. At the time, months spent wandering wherever his feet carried him meant Kalesh had been down to his last coins and looking for a proper place to drink even those away. Followed by a rock from which to throw himself.

The traveler had stopped him. Literally held him down and forced him to see reason.

“Life takes many forms,” that man had said. “This is not one.”

The man had been covered head to toe in tattoos, all black and white, lending him a balanced, if terrifying complexion that seemed suitably inhuman. He wore no armor, though an axe dangled from his hip.

“I, too, am a soldier. Battles bled me. I have wept with fear at the darkest of thoughts.” His back, Kalesh was shown, was little more than a rictus of scars. By all accounts, he should hardly have been able to walk, let alone clobber him. “Since I took this ink upon my flesh, I have not bled. I have not known a blade’s weight. I am safe as a man can be, led to a path devoid of death.”

It took some time to make a pattern of the scars, but as he had sobered up, Kalesh became aware of the colors linking them, ink mingling with pink flesh to form a bizarre geometric pattern that shifted with each crease of the traveler’s skin. It was like a series of round circles each within the other, all tipped by eight distinct spokes. It dazzled.

“Not all paths are ended by blood. Ha Tram Kas reveals this.”

The man’s words had led him to this temple, which, as it turned out, was a place of pilgrimage in Tajalik—the land which he now walked. Unlike the array of needles and brands which accompanied the art in his own land, Kalesh felt scandalized by the wooden stick the monk waved around here. It seemed so…primitive. Yet if it would bring him bring him back to his calling, if something in the inks or the process could make him the man he had used to be, Kalesh would put up with anything these backward savages could muster.

“Kalesha ka?”

His head jerked at the bumbling of his name. The person who had knelt beside the monk a moment ago was shuffling out a back way, eyes forward, not meandering. Many had made the point clear to Kalesh: ritual was strong here. One did not look back when the art was done, for in the art was transcendence. A path forward. To look back was to insult the art, the artist, and cling to the past at a time when they were supposed to be reveling in change.

Somewhat nervously, but not unsteadily—he had months of practice at moving now without the extra limb—Kalesh inched forward across the floor. As he looked across the sea of souls between him and the monk, he felt a moment’s hesitation. Sweat actually tickled the back of his neck. He cursed himself for a fool, to come so far only to doubt now. No one looked up. No one examined the foreigner in a strange land. By all reason, he should feel honored this temple was giving him the opportunity to participate in something so far beyond his ken.

The monk was steady at his approach. She smiled absently and extended a hand, though not to shake.

“Kalesha ka?” She repeated. “Khun ca nang kab pohm wela hurushimi?”

As he had seen countless others do before him, day after day, Kalesh took this opportunity to touch his head to the floor two times, grunting only softly at the effort involved. It was supposed to be a moment of prayer and final contemplation. The woman watched it all.

When he was on steady feet again, he met that gaze and inclined his head.

“I don’t…”

He started, thought better of it, and bulled forward in the woman’s native tongue. The smile widened slightly as he did, until it touched her whole face. Kalesh blushed at that, for he could feel the laughter behind it. This was a fool’s idea.

The woman’s voice switched tack with seeming ease. “Would sit with me, friend?” She asked in his tongue. Startled, Kalesh was certain he gawked, but if the woman noticed, she had the grace to say nothing. The monk gestured to the pillowed step settled beside her bare knees and he, swallowing the last of his doubts, obliged. Kalesh leaned over, back facing the monk, and waited for the bamboo stick to puncture his skin.

Carefully, she pulled the tunic from his back. Then she unhooked his belt and shimmied it down his waist just so. He started to stir with offense at the latter, but either sensing this, or having no need of further descent, the woman ceased the effort. Then her hands floated above him by mere inches—enough to warm, but not close enough to make any appreciable impact on his skin. Kalesh shuffled, restless, uncertain of the purpose of this.

“Bare,” the monk observed. “Tell, what bring you Ha Tram Kas?”

For a moment, he weighed the virtues of lying. His eyes flicked down and settled on his missing forearm, and he reckoned there wasn’t much point.

“I have spent…months with this wound,” he said haltingly, raising his useless limb for emphasis. “I have been told Ha Tram Kas holds the means for revival. Without my hand, I am nothing. A warrior with no weapon to wield. I would have you work your magic, to make me whole.”

The hands moving up his back stilled, hovering. “We are no doctors,” the monk observed.

“I met a man.” He swallowed. “On the road. He told me—he said that he had been wounded, before. That he too had thought that he would die, but Ha Tram Kas helped him overcome. He showed me a marvelous tattoo—”

The woman nodded and her hands fell away.

“Turn so shoulder toward me,” she said. He started to turn his good arm that way, but she shook her head and tapped the other. “Turn.” So he turned, letting his arm hang pointlessly at his side. Tiles dug into him. It made him shiver.

Unlike in his own nation, Kalesh had no control here. There, a man pointed and the artist obeyed. Here, the pilgrims had no means to choose their tattoo’s design or location. It was implied, well before they had ever been allowed to step into the temple, that as this act had no cost, the sole burden upon them was to release the notion that they had control.

When the bamboo stick hissed, Kalesh flinched despite himself. He followed its arc, like a scholar’s quill, as it flicked across his arm. Blood welled at its passing and a strange warmth flushed beneath the thin wound. After each passing, it dipped into a darkening bowl of translucent liquid, then intova separate bowl filled with the actual ink. It had a slightly green tint to it, that ink, putting him in mind of grass waving beneath the spring sun.

In one of the local bars, he had heard that each monk made their own blend of ink. What exactly they used was thus a matter of some conjecture. Some spoke of nuts or berries. Others referenced oils and even venom. All had spoken of it like a stream, though, gently pressed into selected ridges of the flesh. Some surprise came, then, when he saw the monk’s bamboo stick sprouted a grooved metal spike at its end, more accustomed to a stiletto than a workshop.

When he had first arrived, Kalesh had been instructed to bring an offering of incense and local flowers—purple, and rather fragrant themselves. He smelled the former, cinnamon sweet, as the blade whisked lines down his shoulder. He was dizzy by this point, but still had the sense of mind to wonder when the monk had time to retrieve his offering.

The stick punctured him, but never delved too deep. It was exact in its measurements, and though it was difficult to make out through the initial press of blood, Kalesh watched as a dual swirl of infinities began to take on a blade-like shape. At the end of every flourish, the stick tapped the right side of his back, as if to claim his attention.

The monk worked quickly, without pause. She had been doing this for hours, but she showed no sign of fatigue. Even concealed as her lips were behind a cloth façade, Kalesh realized she was lovely, though not in any traditional sense. It was something in the ease she exuded.

She whispered something as the clack of the stick on the cobbles announced its journey’s completion. Kalesh tried to catch a proper look at the end result, but she had leaned over him, and with a gentle effort, blew on the settling ink. Already it dyed the skin. As it healed, he knew, it would overtake the body’s natural knitting.

Out of habit, he flexed his nonexistent hand, but felt nothing answer him. It was impossible to keep the disappointment at bay. In truth, he hadn’t known what to expect.

Desperation made strange dens in the mind’s eye.

“I have settled spirit in this,” the monk said, after. She settled back on her haunches and stretched—the most human gesture he had seen her make over hours of labor. “In time you forget.”

He should have risen and made himself scarce, but in this moment, Kalesh could not work up the effort for ritual. He swallowed hard, staring.

“Does something confuse, friend?”

There was no bile in the asking.

Kalesh replied, “I expected the ghost might leave me. Or my hand might…” He breathed hard with exhaustion. “I do not know what I expected.”

Gentle fingers settled against his elbow, stirring a different sort of warmth. This, too, was something he had not felt in many long moons.

“It is a making thing. All life is making. Is possibility. You must see.”

“And the healing?”

“Like ink,” she said. “It stirs within.”

There was no religious ecstasy, no all-consuming trance. He rolled to his feet, tugging up the bundle his shirt had made while craning to study his tattoo. It was something he had seen etched into a road outside a burned village, not far from this place. When he had inquired, a merchant had told him it was meant to be a talisman against “the black magic of the soul.”

It was not a soldier’s purview to understand. Just now, though, he thought he grasped the meaning. Overhead, the temple’s polished stones yawned into the heat beyond. Nothing echoed. He looked skyward, closed his eyes, and put the stone firmly beneath his sole again.

 

(P.S. Happy Bring Your Dog To Work Day!)

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Alter-Egos, Stories and even some Scifaiku

I’m typing this while waiting for PR reps to get back to me in regards to my day job. They are nice enough people, chatty and warm with their affectations, even though they know I’m a journalist. You never know these days.

After I finish up with them and the day’s work, I intend to return to a different sort of work–chiefly, writing my next novel. It’s shaping up to involve Dryads, but without any of the lust and affection we seem to eager to put upon them. Given my nature, it will likely turn into a tale of man’s relentless assault upon nature. We’ll see how it goes.

It’s been a while. A lot of blank wordpress pages between now and the last. I thought it was about time to cast out an update into the world, lest I crawl out of the void at some later date, to the sounds of people saying, “My god! He’s so disheveled!” I am, but I assure you that’s just from hat hair. Mostly.

18698548_1381531808601184_7092780631146215060_nThere have been some big developments since last we spoke.

For starters, May brought out a 17-syllable salute to sci-fi in the form of Scifaikuest (which I am told could be pronounced Sci-fi-quest, but which I prefer to pronounce as Sci-fi-coo-ist, because it sounds more like the sci-fi-est of haiku), an Alban Lake produced magazine for which I was selected to be one of the newest contributors. It’s sci-fi in its shortest form, but quite a few portraits can still be painted in such few strokes.

Then, to kick off June and the summer heat, I dribbled a few words onto the page for Westminster College’s Ellipsis…Literature and Art Journal! This short bit of fiction is about the beauty and unifying humanity of art, told through the eyes of a graffiti artist faced with a demolition deadline.

18835965_1387757447978620_8084501619355453303_nI’m still here shopping around some more out there fantasy works, but you may also notice a doppelganger of mine hanging out in the land of Tweets and Honey…He even has representation!

Do not be alarmed. He does, in fact, wear my face. Sometimes, you have to go in-chris-nito. I’ll share more details if that becomes less of an “in the works” thing and more of a, “BIG NEWS, EVERYONE!” event. I’ll bring the sparklers in that case.

William Shakespeare: Grimdark by any Other Name

Right now, the genre folks have taken to calling “Grimdark” is all the literary and popular rage. One need look no further than Cable TV. As people the world over continuously decry the gore, guts, and sexual violence inherent in programs like Hannibal, True Detective, and the televised adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series—“Game of Thrones”—(yet continue to watch it unrepentantly, in numbers yearly growing), and the awards roll out, the global lust for the more, shall we say, “gritty realist” tones to fiction and fantasy has never been more apparent.

Romanticism? Eat your heart out.

a691ee0ace063a9602d851f5c25825e4_yousaytomesetblackfires-meme-hannibal_500-281.jpegSorry about that one, Hannibal.

Yet even as people boldly proclaim the genre as a rebuttal of the age-old idealism of more classic fiction, a boy that loves a bard must take a moment to turn these modern cross bearers to the classics as well. See, Grimdark is, in truth, nothing new. Writers like Joe Abercrombie, George R.R. Martin and R. Scott Bakker might be heaping fuel on the flames, but the darkness has been broached before, by an age old master. We don’t tend to associate him with the term, but I can assure: William Shakespeare—poet, playwright, bane of many a high schooler’s days—was bringing darkness to fiction well before any dragons were lighting up a TV screen.

Writer Genevieve Valentine has called the Grimdark phenomenon “shorthand for a subgenre of fantasy fiction that claims to trade on the psychology of those sword-toting heroes, and the dark realism behind all those kingdom politics.”

The Bard is often remembered for his flowery speeches and sharp wit. Why, many are those who can turn to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, for example, and bawdily recall such gems as: “Though she be but little, she is fierce!” There’s no denying it was an amusing, fairy filled and silly little play, utterly ridiculous by even modern standards. Yet if one looks at a few of the events even in this comedy of yore, I think those focusing on feistiness would be a little offset.

A handful of characters are essentially drugged and made to fall in love with others against their will. Another character, by the name of Hermia, is not only threatened with death for failure to marry the character Demetrius, but threatened with rape for following the fellow in the woods over the course of the play. It kind of gets lost in all the silliness, but that’s pretty dark, wouldn’t you say?

Then there is the case of Hamlet. Madness, mistaken stabbings, poisoning, suicide, and an ending that can only be described as a bloodbath of epic proportions are not only the order of the day, they’re the very things which drive the plot. In King Lear? The Earl of Gloucester is blinded on stage, and I don’t mean by sudden, painless, divine inspiration.

Yet if one really wishes to prove the case of the Grimdark to a modern enthusiast, one need look no further than one of Shakespeare’s presently most overlooked and least understood plays: The Tragedy of Titus Andronicus. I say “presently” because Titus Andronicus was actually quite the hit back in Shakespeare’s day.

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Titus Andronicus is, truly, darkness for darkness’s sake.

In true bardic fashion, allow me to build the hype a bit. People like to read juicy reviews, right? Think of these as the back cover blurbs. The writer Samuel Johnson, about 250 years ago, denounced the play as being little more than a “barbarity of spectacles and the general massacre which are exhibited can scarcely be conceived.” Following in his shoes 100 years later, German poet and translator August Wilhelm Schlegel labeled it “framed according to a false idea of the tragic, which by an accumulation of cruelties and enormities, degenerated into the horrible.” Both meant their labels in terms of scathing rebukes, but it does give one a feel for the level of depravity they were dealing with therein.

Titus Andronicus is, truly, darkness for darkness’s sake. Politics and revenge drive the beast onward. Set in Rome, and being entirely fantasy—no, really, the Bard may have liked to draw from historical sources for many of his works, but this one was off the rails—it follows the namesake general in his triumphant return to Rome, Goths defeated and all the world at his fingertips. Which is to say: the beginning was the high point of the whole piece. From there, Titus makes the error in judgement of bringing the Queen of the Goths back to Rome in chains, sacrificing many of her sons along the way, and in turn, deciding to get himself involved in the drama of imperial politics, choosing one brother over another for the august spot at the helm of the Empire. Unfortunately, that brother also becomes besotted with Tamora, that captive Queen of the Goths, and marries her, while she thirsts for nothing but revenge against Titus.

Did I mention the brother that wasn’t picked also happens to be in love with Titus’s daughter? Silly me.

It’s a downward spiral from start to finish. The level of anarchy and bloodshed this play reaches is in excess—at times, one might even call it downright absurd. Fighting is a fairly standard facet of Shakespearean plays, but nobody’s just biting thumbs at anyone in this piece. At one point, two of Tamora’s sons not only rape Titus’s daughter, they then cut off her hands and tongue so she can’t reveal who did it to her. If that doesn’t sound like a Game of Thrones scene, or something from 13 Assassins, then I don’t think we’re on the same page of darkness. Throughout this play murder, mutilation, and people being baked into pies (ala Sweeney Todd) are all legitimate and commonplace grotesqueries abundantly inflicted upon the plot. There is not an act in the play in which someone is not introduced to the afterlife. It’s so commonplace one could be forgiven for mistaking the play for an American slasher film. One becomes dulled to the violence, because it starts to feel like gore for gore’s sake. It becomes a set piece.

Shakespeare was never one to shy from violence in his works, but for most, the piece stirred the violence, rather than violence necessarily stirring the piece. Titus Andronicus was at once an offspring of bloody history and a forebear to another age, a sort of degenerate toss to the days of the Coliseum, when folk liked to indulge in nothing more than pure, unadulterated violence. It dispensed with the grand oratory for which many often recognize the Bard, the philosophy, the black comedy, and drove itself forward largely on action. In other words, it removed itself utterly from the romanticism we more often associate with Shakespeare’s name, surrendering to what he no doubt hoped would be an appealing grab at a more worldly public opinion. Bear in mind, bear baiting and public executions were the order of the day in his time.

Of course, between now and then, that public attitude has gone through a few shifts. Elizabethan became Victorian, Free Love turned to Cold War and the Lost Generation twisted and turned into the Millennial Generation, and so on and so forth. What might be taken for crude in one generation becomes simple reality in another, and comical in still another; what was, is forgotten over time, cast aside, only to be revived and renewed in another age. So it is with so many motifs of life, so it is with literary trends.

Romantic chivalry is not the state of the modern world. Rather, we live in a period where aggression and violence has once more come under scrutiny. No longer hidden under a rug, with folk pretending it simply does not exist in any meaningful sense, it is met head on. Thus the resurrection of Grimdark, albeit under the rather shadowy new title. As reviewer Liz Bourke noted, Grimdark is essentially “a retreat into the valorisation of darkness for darkness’s sake, into a kind of nihilism that portrays right action…as either impossible or futile.” Grimdark, then, is an answer to the desensitized, and were plays like Titus Andronicus truly any different? Crank up the CGI, make liberal with the acting bug, and it would fit right in with the modern aesthetic of media.

Cue Frank Underwood slapping the desk with his “FU” rings.

Ascendant Moon

Legs dangling

the dominance

of the Palace of the Moon

stirs ripples

in the night sky

our star stuff spilling

into the Milky Way

with our shoes off

dipping our toes

into cascade

of lovers’ hearts

we’re at the edge

we are the return

gilded surfaces

of molten rock

hiding

our Beginning.

Half-Truths

When truth is halved

the world is become half-night

the obscuration of fractal glitter

behind uncertainty dusted

in ruin, in dewdrop gravity

webbing across our atmosphere:

no more to see, no more to know

where the light falls on

silhouettes of disappointment.

 

When truth is halved

we might think in terms of

pulling punches, holding own

but the flesh remembers

and the world is pink reduced

to crackling horizons blood knew

like a soubriquet of sorrow

friends named in bereft absolution

of the craving for promises never realized

Sun in your Eyes

My humble contribution to World Poetry Day…

 

20170313_145157Contrary to popular belief

the sun rises and falls on all the land

in its time: the advantages of

a globe not being flat.

 

Meteorologists smile as they chirp

prayers to Celestia in asphalt temples

doused in snow, and aborted fields

left flat as spiritualists in the dust.

 

Sunlight looks different mirrored in clouds

than hazed by the shutters of a cardboard box

but it is still there, lapping at the waves

which sing it to sleep each night.

 

Bugs answer to the sun.

They revel in the eroticism of its

muggy kisses on the water, or when it cries

through grey-streaked embraces.

 

There is no mountain on which it does not smile

balanced like a ballerina, poised

for an insistent flight above the tree line

out of the shadows memories cast.

 

It burns with its desires for men

warming their small, dark rock

in the hopes that they will look

yet cursed to see the blindness

 

in their eyes, the meager shades

which cultivate absences in history:

they speak in whispers of the sun

like to each it is their own dark secret.

Betsy DeVos and the now-Institutionalized Assault on Education

Processing, Analyzing and Responding to what the new Education Secretary Represents

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Betsy DeVos

Remember this day. On Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Education Secretary of the United States of America, by the slimmest of margins and the bitterest of battles, which finally had to be settled by a historic tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.

Because Republican Senators let money come before people, they took a hammer and drove a nail firmly into the coffin of American education. There are those who will say this may be a battle loss, but a strategic win for progressives — the need to have the Vice President cast the deciding vote will mean it’s tricky to push big reforms when you had absolutely no majority consensus on your methods or qualifications to do so — and that may be so, but everything we’ve witnessed up until now indicates a contrary point. Senate offices were pounded by phone calls this week by constituents absolutely freaking out over the voucher advocate’s potential to become Education Secretary. Two Republican Senators jumped ship. Others spoke out against her policy ideals — like Jerry Moran of Kansas — but did absolutely nothing to stop her.

Even without a majority support, once you’re in power, you can do a surprising amount of damage, even in the short term. Bureaucracy is there to make it harder, to pull back on the brakes like a terrified Student Driving Instructor watching his student pump the gas, but this whole administration has shown a remarkable disregard for following anything like traditional bureaucracy.

But let’s pull back and look at that bureaucracy a moment, shall we?

What IS the Secretary of Education?

The Department of Education has one stated goal: to endure education in the United States is of a good quality and fairly accessible by everyone. To that end, according to learn.org, the department tends to focus on “creating policies about financial aid and distributing financial aid, collecting data on education in the U.S., bringing attention to key education issues and preventing discrimination.”

The Secretary of Education is in charge of those efforts. She sets their course and relays them to the president. She will oversee educational reform and determine the best techniques for advancing them — much as previous secretaries pivoted to the problematic “Common Core” structure. In practice, the department handles a lot of research and sets the basic educational momentum for the country.

For that reason, nominees tend to, at the least, have a history in education.

From Michigan to the Heartland of America

Betsy DeVos, let us be clear, does not have a background in education. Her supporters say this makes her an outsider like “the Don,” a reformer with big ideas and the momentum — or more importantly cash — to see them done.

The cash, at least, she has put to the good use of her influence. Personally worth about $5.1 billion according to Forbes, sitting Republican senators have received around $115,000 from the heiress herself, and around $950,000 from the entire DeVos family since 1980. Furthermore, as reported by MLive, “Betsy DeVos has detailed her $5.3 million in political donations over the last five years as part of the vetting process for the U.S. Education Secretary post,” and in a back and forth with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), she admitted it was possible her family at large had donated collectively around $200 million to Republican election efforts. Such donations were enhanced by the fact that in the last two election cycles alone, her family donated $8.3 million to super PACs devoted to assuring Republican dominance.

Despite that, even Sens. Susan Collins (R-Me.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) voted against the woman, based on the volume of opposition her nomination elicited from constituents and what they saw as limited qualifications for the job, along with the fact that she does not support public education.

Neither DeVos nor any of her children ever attended, worked in, or were sent to public schools. DeVos herself has no government experience outside of lobbying, which she has always extensively pushed to grant conservative religious schools vouchers for access to public funds with no strings attached. Similar facts saw her husband, Dick DeVos, run and get stomped in the midst of the 2006 race for governor of Michigan.

In her own hearing, she proved a complete lack of preparedness for the role she now will attempt to fill. She dodged every question she could, danced around the idea of standing up for students with disabilities, and while she seems to have a vague notion of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act’s existence, she was utterly confused in regards to it, seemingly mixing it up with state efforts. She had no idea what the concept of proficiency versus growth entailed — a core tenet of modern education efforts. She would not commit to enforcing sexual assault prevention and protection on college campuses because she called them, “premature.”

She has said in the past, when addressing Christian schools’ reliance on vouchers, that “Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom.” Her family has notably supported conversion therapy for LGBTQ people over the years, backed anti-same sex marriage efforts, and her own husband, during the previously mentioned governor run, advocated for “the ideas of intelligent design that many scientists are now suggesting is a very viable alternative theory” in science curricula.

Our nation recognized very early on that public education was necessary for democracy or republics to thrive, but all Betsy DeVos has ever wished to do is divert taxpayer dollars to private, religious and for-profit schools with no oversight. She has always wanted them to gain the benefits without dealing with the costs. She calls it “choices and options,” and “innovation,” but in practice demonstrates the exact opposite.

Here, in Michigan, DeVos is a former Republican Party chairwoman and former chair of the pro-school-choice advocacy group American Federation for Children. She very much helped to spread charter schools throughout the state, and the results were this: “most of which have recorded student test scores in reading and math below the state average.” Innovation, indeed. She believes in choices but has never cared much for quality.

One need look no further than Detroit to see that — a city Republicans have always lauded as a prime example of Democrat failures. Thanks to DeVos, however, the city is littered with choices for schools. An excellent article by Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press examined the results of that choice including this sobering analysis: “failure is rewarded with opportunities for expansion and “choice” means the opposite for tens of thousands of children.”

But so long as there is profit, that is all that has ever mattered to the DeVos family.

So-called “School Choice” as the Death of Education

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer

Desperate to hold Trump’s nominee at bay, Democrats in the Senate held an all night session protesting her nomination leading up to Tuesday’s vote. At the same time, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer hit out at all those who would eventually vote for her.

“The president’s decision to ask Betsy DeVos to run the Department of Education should offend every single American man, woman, and child who has benefitted from the public education system in this country,” Schumer said in a statement.

The United Federation of Teachers called DeVos a “danger to special education.”

Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said her confirmation would threaten the very “existence of public education.”

Why?

I’ll be the first to admit there are some quality Charter School options out in the world. Yet, there are also quality Public School options. In the course of my own lifetime, I’ve seen behind the walls of both public and private institutions, and benefited from each. Yet when it comes down to it, the supposed medical balm of school choice for schools is, in truth, a poison for the entire public education system. Options, as I said before, often come at the expense of quality.

Charter schools could indeed be a force to nod about — if they also allowed accountability of their programs. They do not. They want the carrot — taxpayer funds provided to the public school system — without having to deal with the stick portion of the equation — accountability for how they use them and examination of what they teach. You simply can’t have it both ways, but DeVos has always advocated for it. She pushes a system that says: instead of helping underperforming schools, those who have the means should get out and leave the rest to rot.

Everyone wants what is best for their children. They fight tooth and nail to give them, in some cases, what they never had, and in others, to guarantee simply that they are ready to meet the world. Yet the question that DeVos represents is if you care enough to look beyond your own interests or care only for yourself — regardless of the consequences. Because there are always consequences. And when public institutions are broken down to benefit a few, more and more of those few always feel the squeeze with time. The few become fewer, and tighter entrenched. The many lament more and more. The separation, and the problem, grows.

The question is: does America wish to inflict such things on generations to come, locking the nation into a downward intellect spiral? Senators have already voted yes. There’s no changing that now. At this point, it’s on the hands of the people to punish them for it, and fight back against a broken system that has gone to benefit private agendas over public good.

“Democrats are trying to humiliate and embarrass some of these nominees,” White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway has told Fox News.

The fact is: candidates like Betsy DeVos embarrass themselves. On the practical end, though, humiliation is no longer enough. Humiliation only hurts those it’s directed at; it doesn’t save those who will suffer their wrath, or still be forced to endure their policies snark did little to block. Quality education and no less than the future of a nation depend on something more.

Pundits have gotten one thing right so far: it really is time to put what is best for children above all else.