Sonoma County Fair and Republican Debate

Photo BoothI had a problem yesterday. I got over to the Sonoma County Fair. But I realized that the last bus gets to my house at around 7:00 pm. Stupid me for living in the suburbs. But that meant that no matter how lost I was in the arts and crafts of the fair, I was going to get home with much of the Republican presidential debate still going on. For those of you who want to know what I thought, scroll down to “The Evil No Good Debate” below. For the rest of you, let me wax a bit about the fair.

That photo up there shows something shocking: people standing in line to pay five bucks for four photographs from one of those photo booths. I love those things. But literally everyone has a phone with a camera in it. And there were about a dozen of these booths right there. So clearly, it is a thing. It makes me long for the days when people would go to the fair and the only photographs they would come home with were from these booths. But if people are reliving their childhoods, or just forcing their own kids to, that’s fine with me.

Poster PapersMy favorite part of the fair is looking at the arts and crafts done by local people. It really does make me optimistic about the world. People actually compete to see who is the best at canning food. How do you not love that? Every year there are all kinds of beautiful quilts and knitted and embroidered stuff — really gorgeous work. And then there is the art. I was particularly taken with the watercolors this year. It’s amazing, but subjects that I would find boring in oil, are compelling in watercolor. Or maybe that was just how I was feeling today. The photography was also great.

But there is a whole building with stuff done by children — much of it through school programs. There on the right is a picture of some of the poster papers that the kids put together. In the top right is far more than you would ever want to know about chicken anatomy. Below it is one on photography tips that explains just about everything you would get from taking a class. There were other things. Some of the kids made some amazing furniture. There were toys. There was also electrical wiring and joint welding. I really think the post-apocalypse is going to be okay.

But more than being impressed with the kids — which I am — I’m impressed that they have these opportunities. They have schools and parents that support them. They are able to afford the costs of the projects. They have enough self-esteem to be willing to do it. It is clear that society is working for these kids. It bothers me very much that we don’t do the same for all kids — even in this location. But I know it’s possible. And very clearly, the children thrive when treated as they should be.

The Evil No Good Debate

And then I got home. I actually saw very little of the debate. It was on in the background, but I didn’t seek it out. I saw two parts — and they were not representative in the sense that they only involved two of the candidates. But they were very representative in being totally worthless. In the first one, Rand Paul and Chris Christie got into a very personal fight about NSA bulk collection of data. They’ve been on this for months. And bravo to Fox News for getting them to do it face to face. The thing is that Rand Paul is totally right. But he doesn’t make a good argument for it. And Chris Christie is able to demagogue the issue brilliantly.

The second bit also featured Rand Paul. He was explaining why he didn’t want to give aid to Israel. But he demagogued the issue. He said he didn’t want to continue to give foreign aid to “countries that hate us.” The crowd went wild. Of course, these the same people who think half the federal budget is foreign aid. (It’s actually about 1% — at that includes a lot of quid pro quo.) So that didn’t thrill me. But it is rare that I meet a conservative who doesn’t think we could balance the budget if we just stopped being so generous to other countries.

The Sonoma Country Fair is the sort of thing that the Republicans would claim to stand for. But they actually want to destroy everything that it is. Because ultimately, it is about community and caring for each other. And I understand that they would respond that it is all about the voluntary nature of it. Mike Huckabee is for feeding the poor, as long as the church does it and not the government. But he’s tipped his hand. He doesn’t think he should ever have to pay more than 10% of his millions — which just doesn’t work in a modern society.

What’s more, a lot of the stuff that I saw today was the result of our public education system. During Rick Perry’s “Oops!” moment in 2012, along with the departments of commerce and energy (which he couldn’t remember), he wanted to get rid of education. All the Republicans want to get rid of public education. As much as they may talk about “equality of opportunity,” it is the last thing they want. They want the rich to send their kids to the best schools in existence. Yet they don’t want the rich to be compelled to spare one Confederate nickel to provide poor children any kind of opportunity at all.

So there you go: during the day, I saw the best of what we are. And during the evening, I saw the worst of what we are. I understand why people have a hard time supporting the Democratic Party. It really is highly tainted. But I have no idea why anyone would ever vote Republican.

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