Thursday, February 28, 2013

Small Government

I've been thinking a lot about government recently; more precisely, about the role of government in my life and in the lives of my students. This whole sequester situation and the sweeping budget cuts coursing through congress are really making me reconsidering my stance on small vs. large government.

I've traditionally never been one of the fear-mongerers who tries to convince the population that our government is already too large, is bridging on socialism, and will soon become a totalitarian state ending in utter devastation and sole prosperity for only the richest.

I instead have always looked at government as a tool to level the playing field; as a source for funding for things like student loans, so that if one were to be inclined to work hard and study and only needed the starting funds to pay for school, one could achieve a semblance of the American Dream.

I've also always looked at government funding as something that should grow every year; not something that is full of waste. The more, however, that I observe the amount that the government requires to operate and the amount that it wastefully spurns out, I start to actually think that a smaller, much less-intrusive and much less consuming government is better.

Coincidentally, or perhaps not, this idea popped back into my head when I read Verse Daily the other day and say Kevin J. Craft's poem, "Small Government." (Pasted below) Much of its content resonated with my conscious, as well as my poet-soul.

Nature juxtaposed with the nuances of humanity (and blight of the earth as a result) is a perennial poem theme, but this poem in particular seemed to resonate with a lot of what I was thinking about, particularly the government illusions of prosperity and happiness juxtaposed with the reality of outsourcing, wars, stock markets, elections and factories.

The well-constructed poem showcases the negligent destruction of pine forests, oceans and the entire pastoral scene for the sake of human expansion and a kind of progressive worldwide manifest destiny. We are, as the poem asserts and our consciences echo, cheating our parents and ancestors while squandering resources, opportunities and certain futures for our children.

But is our government the root of this? And would government be less intrusive if it were smaller, or is the argument trifling and futile? Would humanity still roll through rainforest and less-developed countries for the sake of profit and ephemeral joy? Or would a smaller government rekindle a by-gone kinder era of smaller intrusion and effect/affect?

Either way, the government that wastes the most will only create more waste in its wake; much like a society that allows the waste will produce more as a by-product of its percolation. This percolation is brimming right now, with only hours remaining until the sequestering and cuts take effect; so the question resonates--will our government lead us to our downfall or will we produce our own downfall regardless of the impact and/or size of our government? Or do we have the power, or will, to change?

Small Government
For instance, the sheen of headlights on a wet freeway
or a skunk hunkered in its burrow as the pinelands
shrink around it. Things exhibit de facto suffering
whenever you turn away from them, like that hammer
from your father's hand or the glass factory
sure of repeated blows from within. Turn back the clock,
the cloak and stagger. By now it's late,
too late for plate tectonics to save us from our lesser
natures, erecting cornfields between warring factions
or swallowing the acid rhetoric of an ocean,
any ocean with its plastic sheen and sinkhole interior,
its flotsam of made-in-China ducks and water pistols
loosed from a storm-knocked ship to circumnavigate
the globe at bath-time, little friend. What we have here
is a conspiracy against suffering, what we have here is
a declarative sentence with an election to swing. It takes
only two or three furnaces to turn the pinelands into
coke and/or whiskey bottles and/if gazing by an open window,
fewer the foundries of original intent. Father, I lost
the hammer and the appetite, it was I stole your cigarettes
your Buffalo nickels, we got marathon bars for them
father, packs of Topps, mouths of smoke and gum ...

Through which time the freeway thrumming, through which
loophole blue whales in their burrows, the glistening fenders,
quick glances lengthening in the windshield of tinted glass
because looking is a form of longing, in the end.
For instance, a blowhole, a sand flea, that silly putty smirk
you wear in the checkout line while having a nice day.
If not the stench of having rolled through county
after county awakening once more to its factory consent.

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