It is a given among self-described “conservatives” that private school vouchers are a good thing and we should support them. Not so fast. A little dissent is in order, and long overdue.
First, as a lover of freedom, I cherish the fact that the harder you work and the more creatively you tackle life’s problems, the more choices you have. And deservedly so. Life’s rewards and advantages are a result of effort. They are not free. They are not dispensed as a result of somebody’s idea of fairness–or at least, they shouldn’t be. And fairness to whom? Hard-working parents who sacrifice to send their children to tuition-paid schools may end up in the car line next to those whose children attend for free. Deserving children already enrolled in the participating schools are not eligible for a tuition voucher, no matter their legitimate need. These children didn’t meet the requisite threshold of hardship: they don’t come from a “failing” school and are not quite poor enough. Their parents are effectively penalized for faithfully discharging their duties, struggling to pay tuition, yet failing to be sufficiently destitute. The implicit message: work hard, do the right thing, and we’ll assume you don’t need a break. I beg to differ.
And remember, the paying families are paying twice: through property taxes and then tuition. It is possible that voucher families are paying nothing. This fact alone is divisive and contrary to an equitable and fair division of responsibility in our society. It breeds resentment, and it should.
If tuition vouchers have merit, make then equally available to all. A working family who pays taxes AND tuition, through difficulty and struggle, month in and month out, should have the same opportunity for a tuition voucher as a family in a designated “failing zone.” There should not be a “poverty litmus test” to determine who can access public funds for the benefit of their child’s education. A simple, “We choose this school” should be enough. When this happens, I will herald the coming of a new day in education and not until.
For the record, after eight years of Catholic school, my daughter attends a good public high school. This was a personal choice made after long and thorough, sometimes painful, deliberation. It has proven to be the best choice for her for a wide variety of reasons. But if it closed down tomorrow, I wouldn’t blink. I would make other arrangements, as responsible parents have for generations. We are not owed anything.
There is that moment of utter aloneness when one realizes the world is not as he believed it to be–that on closer inspection, it is discolored and off-kilter. It is a moment of profound loneliness. A great despair descends, and a sense of futility accompanies it. One struggles to accept that he has been defending a lie. He dissects it endlessly in his mind, struggling to come to a different conclusion, desperate to make it something other than what it is. But the brutal truth remains. One becomes an emotional and intellectual orphan, since the foundation on which he based his conviction has been shattered like shards of glass.
“…And if I die in Raleigh at least I will die free…”
-Old Crow Medicine Show
A black teenager, Trayvon Martin, is accosted while walking home. He is guilty of no crime, suspected of no crime. He has every reason to be where he is. He does, however, look “suspicious” to a mania-driven neighborhood “watchman” with a Rambo fantasy. (What exactly looked “suspicious” was never explained.) This gun-toting Good Neighbor, George Zimmerman, has decided there will be a confrontation if he has to instigate it himself. Zimmerman stalks the teen for ten minutes—in a car and then on foot—and shoots him square in the chest when Martin finally reacts. The killer is hailed a hero, the teen is relegated to the ranks of all the other “suspicious” black men we are lucky to be rid of. No harm, no foul.
What about the good-hearted neighbor with such benevolent purity of intention? His history reveals a credible accusation by a relative of sexual abuse; documented domestic violence with an ex-fiancee; and documented harassment and racist taunts toward a former co-worker who was so happy when Zimmerman left his job he threw a party. Zimmerman also has a record of battery on a police officer and resisting arrest. We are asked to believe that a man of such demonstrably low character would then make the judicious decision that it was necessary to kill an unarmed teenager because of an “imminent threat.” It doesn’t pass the smell test.
The concept of legitimate self-defense has been turned on its head and is now a caricature of itself. In the Zimmerman case, it has morphed into the kind of lawlessness conservatives used to decry. This new paradigm permits one individual to forcibly engage another in a public venue—to restrain, intimidate, and harass him—until a physical altercation finally occurs and it becomes “necessary” to kill. This new paradigm manifestly declares,”You are not free. You must assent–or prove why you shouldn’t.” Failure to comply is now a reason to be killed.
Anyone who professes to care about freedom should be mightily disturbed. Every presumption in this case was given to one side. Every benefit of the doubt was given to one man-the man throwing his weight around, the one intent on inciting a confrontation, the man who believed his superior status justified his aggression. Why? Because his omniscience told him another free citizen looked “suspicious.”
In the Zimmerman school of constitutional law, looking “suspicious” is reason to suspend probable cause and get straight to the business of detaining another human being by force, just because you feel like it. You don’t even have to be a cop. And God forbid the person being harassed should react in any significant way. It may be the last thing he ever does.
Trayvon Martin was operating under a faulty presumption: that he had the same rights as any other law-abiding citizen. That he had the right to keep walking, to direct his own movement, to determine his own associations. That he had the right to defend his personal space against hostile intrusion. That he had autonomy over his own person, the right to refuse communication with an unidentified stranger without having to explain himself. That he had the autonomy we’re supposed to grant even tall, black teenagers wearing hoodies, or tattoed counterculturists with eight earrings in one ear, or anti-social old men in dirty shirts who just want to be left alone. He was wrong.
George Zimmerman is not behind bars, but he will never be free. Poetic justice for a man who, in his colossal hubris, appointed himself the last and final arbiter of another man’s liberties.