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Davis, California

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Column: Conspiracy of silence

Last week, I wrote a column on education. The intent? Create dialogue via this medium on an issue about which I feel strongly. I don’t have the answers, and will not pretend such. However, the provocation of debate was willful and I managed to extract a commentary on my commentary from one of the saner, more knowledgeable Davisites. This guy cared enough to make his views known on national issues. Bingo! That is the plan. I have a fervent belief that your ignorance starts right where your knowledge ends. Let the feedback keep coming in, please!

Without much ado, let me introduce readers to Kermit the Frog. He earned that name because of an analogy that he posited to sign off his comments and beg for anonymity. Well-worn as it may be, but I found very cogent not only his comments, but also his self-description. Yeah, you got that right: “It is easier to be green than to be a Conservative in Davis.” That, sure, got a good laugh out of me. But on a more serious tone, let me replay the issues Kermit brought up.

First off, let us get over the admonishment. Kermit was critical of my rude and rather sporadic introduction and abandonment of issues. He cautions that I treat fewer issues and offer smoother transitions in my pieces. Noted. Without trying to explain it away, I am a film major and may just be thinking visually. My bad. I will remember your concerns about flow henceforth.

Now let us talk issues: Kermit believes last year’s protest by UC Davis students was a “particularly dumb” enterprise. He quizzed: “Why did our ‘best and brightest’ choose to ‘preach to the choir’ rather than doing so where it might actually have effect?” It is Kermit’s view that many of those protesters don’t even bother to write their legislators or urge their friends and relatives to do so.

Next as you may expect, Kermit is not a big fan of the bloated administration here at UCD and thinks taxpayers and donors are not getting money’s worth for their investment in the UC system. To that end, he drew a parallel between Starbucks and Department of Motor Vehicles, asking where one gets better service. You get the drift -small government, free market conservative.

However, let me respectfully disagree with Kermit on at least one matter. Education and business don’t mix very well. Not for the UC system. The most recent front page article in Sacramento News and Review is testament to that. The article alleges serious conflict of interest by UC Regents that portends corruption at the highest level. The Aggie also last week published an op-ed piece on the suspect marriage between UC Davis and US Bank. Forgive me if I sound all over the place, but I hate to have US Bank sell me anything. Especially if I just spent over an hour in a snaking queue for my UCD ID. They should leave business decisions to me.

I find particularly interesting Kermit’s common sense take on our broken prison system in California. It is indeed telling that Texas spends $4 billion versus the $8 billion California spends to house roughly the same number of inmates. The state should fix the prison system and use that extra cash to bolster our education system.

Finally, I hate to break it you, Kermit; but picketing and tantrum-filled protestations are the ostensible, not sensible thing to do. Oh, also, fringe elements on both sides are dominating national debate. Why? Bull-in-a-China-shop activism has been the imposter of reasoned, cogent and trenchant discourse. We need enlightened, common sense people like you to inform national discourse and make it more palatable. Absurdity is our new reality. Even otherwise brighter minds like Newt Gingrich have found profit in uttering the absurd. In this climate, we talk at or over, as opposed to with each other.

Even as I sign off, Kermit, I don’t want you to give up on possibility. A rare breed like you is still the hope of this country. To demonize knowledge is not taking this country anywhere. And oh, it was nice to know there are Berkeley-schooled conservatives out there, living in a town like Davis. There is only one U.S. of A. We can’t afford apathy or silence in these especially dire times. Speak out! Smartly.

FAYIA SELLU can be reached at fmsellu@ucdavis.edu.


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