Indulge my hard-core nerd side for a moment, if it please you. I’ve been reading the George R.R. Martin book series “A Song of Ice and Fire,” and a recent scene made me think of Gov. Susana Martinez, Education Secretary Designate Hanna Skandera and politics as a whole.
“A Song of Ice and Fire” are the books “Game of Thrones” on HBO is based on. It’s a sprawling, sexy, violent fantasy story about a seven-kingdom realm in which war is raging between kings who each believe they each have a right to the throne.
Toward the middle of the second book (“A Clash of Kings”) the boy-king Joffrey Baratheon (he’s 13) is riding with his evil mother and his scheming dwarf uncle and his “sell sword” security posse through the streets of King’s Landing. Because of the ongoing war against usurpers after his throne, King’s Landing is broke. The people there are starving for food and even basic services.
We don’t very often visit the world outside the battlefields or castle walls, where normal people scrape and scrap to make decent lives for their families. Usually, we’re caught up in the political wranglings of hierarchy and warfare. That’s kind of the larger point to the whole series – that the common folk don’t really care who the king is, so long as they’re taken care of. The squabbling is desperately important to the characters, but it truly doesn’t matter very much and distracts from what’s actually important.
So Joffrey is riding with his crew, crown-clad and stunningly adorned, through a throng of dirty, hungry commoners who take to throwing vegetables at the king, screaming that he’s a bastard (actually true) and that they want bread. A riot breaks out. The king escapes unscathed, but is incredulous. Don’t they know he’s the king? He doesn’t understand what their damn problem is.
I think a lot about real-world politics when I’m reading “A Song of Ice and Fire.” For all its glorious intrigue and warfare, it is essentially a tale of governance by people who think they’re bigger than they actually are, who think that fighting battles or debating theology is what people want from their rulers. The people, meanwhile, are ancillary. Their problems go unsolved.
I think about Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum debating who’s more pro-life while poverty and education go untouched as topics to be discussed by these men who may become president of the United States.
I think about Larry Behrens, the spokesman for the Public Education Department, responding to an ISPAC report explicitly detailing public-private conflicts of interest and job rigging and money-motivated policy adoption by saying “It’s unfortunate that this type of question comes up from someone known as Bill Richarson’s private investigator.”
Really? Because these are substantive, specific allegations – backed by documentation – that the administration’s reforms are motivated by money and politics. Nothing to say about that?
I think, personally, that our kings and queens and princes and sell swords and council members spend their days fighting battles that mean nothing to normal people. Then, when there’s some kind of outcry about the way things are going, they can say “Look at these things we’ve done, though! Schools are going to be graded A through F!”
“Look at these things we’ve done, though! We sold the state’s private jet!”
What does that have to do with the people? I wish I could tell you. We should not be satisfied by what we’re told is being done, not when so many people have a hard time finding bread. (Bread being a metaphor for a decent education, or a paycheck big enough to allow modest savings.)
I’ve been trying to get an interview with Skandera and with the governor. Their staffs ignore me, because I work for ISPAC. They also ignore me because I’m not interested in accepting their policies without critically thinking them through.
I’ll keep trying, and will let you know. The game of thrones is great when it’s being played by ridiculous characters in some goofy-ass fantasy world. In New Mexico and the U.S., though, it seems to only make things worse.