“Infrared,” is how a Kansas City professor described the political hue of Kansas, my home state. He was reporting about how the Kansas Board of Regents, upset that a KU professor had tweeted something in opposition to the NRA, has adopted a new set of policies which would abolish tenure. Vis-a-vis the new policies, the “CEO”, i.e, university president, can fire anyone who “gets in the way of inefficiency” or upsets “the harmony of the university.”
Meanwhile, according to a New York Times op-ed by David Sciarra and Wade Henderson, the Kansas legislature has defunded schools to give the well-off tax breaks to such a degree that a state court said it violated the state constitution which requires adequate funding for state schools.
Parents filed a lawsuit in the Kansas courts to challenge the cuts. In Gannon v. State of Kansas, a three-judge trial court ruled in January 2013 for the parents, finding that the cuts reduced per-pupil expenditures far below a level “suitable” to educate all children under Kansas’ standards.The judges also found that the Legislature was not meeting even the basic funding amounts set in its own education cost studies. The judges called the school funding cut “destructive of our children’s future.
The governor, Brownback of the brownshirt tendencies, has appealed the lower court’s decision to the Kansas Supreme Court. If the Kansas Supreme Court upholds the ruling, the legislature has threatened to amend the constitution and put decisions regarding school funding off limits to court review.
One summer a decade ago, when my parents still lived in Kansas and we would meet for familial festivities, three of my four sisters showed up with Thomas Frank’s book, “What’s the Matter with Kansas.” The conundrum Frank posed: why do people vote against their best interests?
Those doing that infrared voting are my cousins. Voting against their best interests is small potatoes. Hell, some of them are still sucking water from the Ogallala aquifer to grow corn, having heard (surely?) that at the rate it’s being depleted there won’t be no more in 40 years, or thereabouts. Whatcha gonna do when the well runs dry? What are they going to tell their grandchildren? Oops? The not-so-secret fact is that all of those farmers get handouts from the government in one form or another, substantial handouts. Some of those poor agri-businessmen out in western Kansas are so well-off they buy and trade in combines like they were tricycles. Tax write-offs. They’re not opposed to government programs except ones proposed Obama and the Dimrocrats.
Frank suggested in his book that “values” motivate their voting, gay marriage, abortion, school prayer. Maybe somewhat. My relatives, like folks everywhere, have managed to experience within the cozy confines of family instances of divorce, abuse, incest, and yes, abortion, as well as VOILA! homosexuality, and moved on. (Who? Don’t worry, I can keep secrets as well as anybody.) What am I saying? I’m saying I don’t know what motivates them. Whatever bug it is, my siblings didn’t get it. But then, only one of my seven sibs lives in Kansas. Poor Marty. Make anyone blue.
Where is this leading? To basketball, of course, which is probably the second most powerful religion (after money, ahead of guns) in the state. Sports in general, I mean. I have this bug and so do my siblings. I am a total devotee of the basketball Jayhawks. I read the fan blogs and the blog comments, watch the games when I can stream them. I’m pleased that Kansas State and Wichita State are doing well too, though that’s a little heretical. I was in Lawrence a month ago, and before I arrived I checked to see if there was a game at Allen Fieldhouse. Since my years at KU back in the Pleistocene, Allen Fieldhouse had gone from a frumpy barn to a place of pilgrimage. The Booth Foundation there houses the sacred rules of the game in Naismith’s handwriting. AWESOME. (You thought I was kidding about sports being a higher religion than guns.)
There weren’t any games in Allen that week. Tickets for general admission (in the stratosphere) started at $124.54. That’s what hype gets you: and I’m sorry to report it’s been thus far a Season of High Hype. The coach, the players, even the building itself beginning to levitate higher and higher due to hot air. They rise high and clank it off the rim. Missing a lot of bunnies, to use the coach Self’s term.
I wonder if the budget cuts affect school sports. Wouldn’t that be radical?
In the book Frank paid tribute to Kansas’ radical beginnings. Bleeding Kansas. The inaugural battlefield of the war against slavery. In Lawrence there’s still a collective memory of when Quantrill and his slave state ruffians burned the city and massacred its citizens. In Allen Fieldhouse when Missouri came to town students carried banners of John Brown. Silly but evocative. The name Jayhawks is a daffy duck softening of Jayhawkers, the radicals engaged in guerilla warfare to keep Kansas a free state.
There’s been a cascade of reports over the last few years about the Koch brothers and their attempts to inculcate a right wing agenda in legislatures state by state. They’re Kansas boys, and it looks as though the Kansas legislature got first dibs on the dough. Incidentally or not, the name of the Wichita State basketball arena is the Charles Koch Arena, but before you easterners get all elite-y on us rubes, isn’t there a theatre in Lincoln Center named after the other bro?
Are you still with me? If so, I’ll close with a sign seen at the counter of the Motel Six in WaKeeney, Kansas:
Please do not use room towels to clean your trucks, boots, dogs, guns or anything else muddy or bloody.
Is that a poem or what?
I went hunting (it was really sport shooting) only once when I was a boy, one frigid day in November. For rabbits. I was zero for forever. Don’t you bunnies worry.