One of my favorite old white male politicians was former Sen. Phil Gramm. Sen. Gramm was from Texas, complete with Texas drawl. And he used it brilliantly.
One time in a debate on health care reform in 1994, Sen. Gramm’s opponent, Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, in a too-clever-by-half attempt to win points with the audience, said that he loves and cares about all kids. He said he loves his kids and his grandkids, but he also loves Sen. Gramm’s kids and grandchildren.
Senator Gramm had a Ph.D. in economics. He was a former professor of economics at Texas A&M and a former Democrat who switched political parties after Ronald Reagan was elected president. Mr. Gramm fit the Texas stereotype perfectly.
And so without missing a beat, Sen. Gramm, with his famous smirk and a twinkle in his eye, looked at his fellow senator and asked: “If you love my grandkids, what are their names?”
Mr. Dodd didn’t know the names of Sen. Gramm’s grandkids. But you already knew that, intuitively, didn’t you?
So in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, of all days, I am going to let you in on a little secret. For the overwhelming majority of you who are reading this, and there are some definite exceptions, I want you to know that I don’t love your kids, or your grandkids.
It’s enough for me to believe that you love them. And I don’t expect you to love my kids, or my grandkids either. I just need you to trust me to love them and to care for them free from your unsolicited “love.” I want you to respect me as a parent and not impose your ideology or worldview on me, and especially on my children and grandchildren.
And yet, this happens repeatedly. People insert themselves into situations where they can substitute their political beliefs, philosophy or ideology as a replacement for others who have everything to gain and everything to lose, even as they are systematically removed from the decision-making process.
An excellent example of this is something I observed on social media recently. ExxonMobil’s social media, which features the economic benefits of their Restart, became a political battleground between those who support the Restart and those who fiercely oppose it. The proponents of the Restart talked about the millions of property tax dollars that would be generated for North County K-12 schools, citing the statistics that show the disparity of revenues going to North County schools relative to South County schools. And how families in the North County are desperate for high-paying jobs — something the South County has in abundance.
This resulted in a cascade of insufferably intolerant anti-fossil fuel alarmists chastising ExxonMobil for having the audacity, the temerity even, to exploit North County children and using them as pawns for the company’s greed and efforts to make a profit. This bombardment of angry and remarkably similar anti-oil arguments quickly drowned out those who supported the idea of more funding for North County public schools.
It turns out, according to the angry opponents of more funding for North County schools, especially if that additional funding comes from the production of oil and gas, that those who support more funding for North County schools are actually hurting North County schoolchildren by forcing them to live in a world where fossil fuels are destroying the planet.
You see, it turns out that North County parents don’t love their kids enough to protect them from an industry that is unworthy of support. The oil industry, you see, is an evil, greedy, planet-destroying cabal that uses poor working families in the North County as a political shield. And were it not for the genuine love of South County social media cranks who drive $80,000 cars and live in multimillion-dollar homes, these North County kids would have no love at all.
I can’t speak for all North County working families, nor would I try, but I suspect they’re thinking to themselves, thanks, but no thanks. Keep your love to yourself. Our children need less of your love. In fact, their education and their economic future depend on it.
Joe Armendariz, a former Carpinteria City Council member, is director of public affairs for the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association.