Thursday, December 15, 2005

They Have Theirs

Perhaps the prime social directive of kindergarten is to share. As kiddies grow beyond their anal and oral phases, teachers tell and model the nicety and necessity of equitable distribution of assets, physical and temporal.

So how is it that and when do we lose this, or do some of us feel so entitled that we never get the message?

We see it in education, business, politics, taxation and every aspect of adult life.

The ivy curtain of exclusion and retention of advantages suits those in power. For many such families, their advantages gelled in the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries, prior to income taxes, anti-trust legislation and such levelers. Yet, descendants of the earlier wealthy still dominate the legal profession and legislatures at state and national levels. Of course, they take care of their own, their families and their peers.

The absurdity leads to cultural fantasies. You can see this in the trivial, such as the Good Genes dating service, with its implication that it is your genetic makeup that makes you an Ivy League student or grad and you will only be happy and pass along your superiority through breeding with other such beings. You can see it in sadder instances of

The attitude is hardly different when expressed in gerrymandered electoral districts. Here the aim may not be to keep every cent for those already wealthy. Rather, incumbents want every advantage – fair or unfair – to help them keep their office and power.

The effect in Boston as well as in Texas is to segregate by race and class, minimizing the possibility that the other might get representation in proportion to their population. That’s sharing in action and should be the American way. Let us pause to laugh up our sleeves.

Now Tom DeLay’s extreme gerrymandering to deliver control of the state government to Republicans faces U.S. Supreme Court examination. Texas conservatives may or may not have to share and be fair. Regardless, the nation gets another chance to see how down and dirty the I’m-keeping-mine attitude is in action.

Here in Boston too, we look at districts long skewed to keep the power in a few neighborhoods. Black and Latino citizens should have much higher representation than they do. It would be specious to suggest that there are no good candidates or that they don’t run. The facts are that from City Council level up, Boston districts lump far too many non-White voters at every economic level into relatively homogeneous districts. They give them near total control in very, very few districts.

An equitable districting would spread out the Black and Latino voters and their influence at the polls. That would be sharing, power, democracy, and governmental resources.

The first go-round for commonwealth legislative offices after a redistricting effort produced almost no Latino candidates. Shamefully, Democratic Party officials said that proved that voters were happy with the likes of then House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran. Far more likely, it will take several election cycles to make people think they have a shot at the formerly closed spots.

A year ago, the Sudbury Town Crier wrapped up the situation and promise nicely:

It doesn't have to be like this. In some states, notably Iowa, a nonpartisan commission draws the district lines. It is prohibited from programming the voting habits of residents or the home addresses of candidates into its computer. Instead it concentrates on creating compact, coherent districts that keep communities intact and provide fair representation for minorities…

…There's no guarantee, of course, that the representatives in (Massachsuetts) districts will follow the suggestion of their constituents, and even less chance that the legislative leadership will listen to them. While few citizens may understand the power of redistricting, incumbent legislators understand it all too well, and people with power don't generally give it up without a fight….

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