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Monday, January 26, 2009

Obama Wants You To Be Honest

Last October was our first Halloween in Ithaca, New York. Because I couldn't tend to the door, I put a box of candy on the front porch, with a sign that said "Please be honest, take just one."

This being Ithaca in the month before the election, I thought about putting on the sign, "Obama wants you to be honest, so please take just one." But I didn't, and all the candy was stolen in the first hour. I turned off the porch light, and called it a night.

I am fairly confident that invoking Obama's name would have shamed Ithacan children into honesty last Halloween, but I won't ever know for sure.

Apparently, others in Ithaca also believe that invoking Obama's name will get things done. In a time of staggering state budget cuts, including education funding, Ithaca is starting a new charter school called "New Roots." The name says all you need to know about the educational and political orientation of the school.

In a column in today's Ithaca Journal, one of New Roots' trustees argues in favor of funding a new school by quoting, you guessed it, from Obama's inauguration speech:

"Now," observed President Barack Obama in his inaugural address, "there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans."

Hearing these words, I found it hard, as one of the leaders of New Roots Charter School, not to think of recent debates in our community.

The proponents of the New Roots school better act fast. Even now, just a week into Obama's presidency, it seems like invoking Obama's name doesn't quite have the gloss on it that it used to. Most, but not all of the "Obama" signs have been taken down. We don't have George Bush to kick around anymore, so "impeach Bush" doesn't get people motivated. The tingle running up Chris Matthews' leg is fading, although Matthews refuses to let go of the feeling.

As for me, I fear my chance to test the "Obama wants you to be honest" theory has passed. By next Halloween, Obama will be just another failed President, besieged from left and right, weathered, looking like he had been on the job for a hundred years and counting. And the kids of Ithaca will be back to worshiping their parents' original hero, Che Guevara.

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