Singing the Home Town Blues

While citizens are entertained, their home towns are sold and they themselves are sold out

For some decades now my “home town” has been Guess Where, California. My plan is to keep it that way. These days, though, I’m singing the blues about the place.

So why sing the blues, especially during the Christmas season? Because democracy is winding down. Now, it’s not dead yet. But here are some less than vital signs to consider. According to the Census,  there are about 113,000 here in what we used to call “The City of Champions.” In last month’s mayoral election 22,000 people voted. The mayor, running as the incumbent, garnered 13,483 of them. That means that he had the support of about 10% of the people.

How did he win that support? Money helped. Outside interests in the amount of over a million dollars fueled the campaign, though his closest competitor did better in the money game than he did.

His slogan, for what it’s worth, was “Greatness, Prosperity, and Safety.” Sounds “presidential,” which is strange given his party affiliation, especially since he had the backing of that party’s establishment. But, wait, he had the really big names in his corner. I had robocalls from Snoop Doggy Dog and Morgan Freeman. Shaquille O’Neill lent his luster as well.

Seems, though, that what mattered most was that the mayor had successfully wooed two NFL teams, the Rams and the Chargers, to strut their stuff in a new stadium and enticed the NBA’s Clippers to come to town as well. The coming of the pros will bring fame and fortune! Besides, the NFL and the NBA have, of late, become the country’s arbiters of what’s right, wrong, and expedient.

Of course, if your thing is “bread and circuses,” then there’s no reason to sing the blues. For a long time, as history notes, the citizens of Rome thoroughly enjoyed bread and circuses. Plus, our current crop of gladiators only suffer from concussions. But while the tranquilized citizens of the city where all roads lead were entertained, their home town was sold, piece by piece, and they themselves were sold out.

In the meantime, back in my home town, the Guess Where Unified School District was fighting insolvency when the state Department of Education took control of it back in 2012. It still is. Enrollment is declining. Test scores and graduation rates are still below the mediocre state average. No matter: not a campaign issue! What was an issue, though the mayor finessed it, was that the Chief of Police enjoys a yearly salary higher than the Sheriff of Los Angeles County. After all, says the mayor, crime is down. The chief of police, though, isn’t responsible for the nation-wide uptick in employment that brings a corresponding decrease in crime.

My guy– yes, I found someone to support– had his own theme. Audit City Hall, from top to bottom! He came in third. Still, I’m told that he won more votes than any past “guerrilla candidate” in the history of Guess Where. So now I’ve told my story and explained why I’m singing the home town blues. My nephews (the youth!) told me that it “sounded like politics as usual.”

Right. It took Rome a long time to build and a long time to fall apart. Meantime, as Scripture reminds us, unless the Lord builds the city, they labor in vain who build it.

Jim Hanink is an independent scholar, albeit more independent than scholarly!

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