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Isn’t what it once was!

 One incorruptible source for the facts. A source void of opinion or interpretation that both the right and the left could turn to in absolute confidence for the documented records on those who govern or wish to replace those who do.

 Detailed biographical, educational, financial and voting records, comprehensive public comments made, and evaluations by dozens of conservative and liberal groups were available to anyone caring enough to gather them. All could easily be made searchable by name and issue of interest.

 Like a bat to the head, it struck me: a candidate could be forced, with or without their cooperation, to provide a detailed application of employment, just the way all people must do—only better.

 Hell, I thought, voters wouldn’t have to listen to all the self-promotional nonsense milking the people’s emotions. Voters could clearly see what candidates had done in the past and then know what would be done for them or to them if elected. Frustration would no longer be a citizen’s only alternative; they would mob such a system.

 In February 1988 I left my grass hut and by March the Internal Revenue Service received an application for a new non-profit called the Center for National Independence in Politics.

 An absurd meaningless name for sure! Such things can make sense after passing a barber shop called SNIP and when out of oxygen during a challenge match of racquetball with an older brother. That is exactly how I came up with an acronym before I came up with an actual name. I wanted something that would fit the logo I had in mind:

 That is to say, I made some mistakes. Although my idea was a great one, it had a bit of slop stuck to it.

 With just a few former campaign volunteers who still had faith in me we could test the idea in a couple of states. That, and finding some prominent people of both major parties to back up the work and you had the makings for a cure to all the choreographed chicanery of then-day American Politics. Everyone in politics knew this cancer was now eating away at the heart of our democracy.

 Yes, this would work, I was certain of it. I was excited, I had something to do, something important to do. I felt like I had seen the Holy Grail off in the distance. All I had to do was go get it and bring it home to a needy nation. So, I caught that train and headed home.

  As it would turn out, I had little trouble finding the Grail. Bringing it home would prove difficult, and once it arrived a few million instantly used it.  But as I would discover, the other 200 million or so just wanted to enjoy whatever their version of a Barco Lounger, beer and a football game was.

 Back home I had to find some means to earn a bit of money that didn’t take much time so I could work on CNIP. Substitute teaching and teaching a few classes at a community college would be perfect, only it required a college degree.  So, I took my Mexico walkabout to visit the Dean of the Languages School at the University of Arizona. It seems that my crude, largely street slang Spanish impressed him so much that he passed me out of my two-year language requirement on the spot. So, twenty years after entering the University as a wholly irresponsible young man I got my degree. When I mentioned it to my mother, she was not so much surprised as she was in disbelief. I think many mothers always see their children as they were when young. In her mind she still saw her children as the nitwits we would forever be, and in my case not without some reason.

 The only thing pressing on my mind when I returned from Mexico was my need for an office to work on my idea and some place to live. Either one would also serve as the other. I purchased an old liquor warehouse which had been on the wagon run from Mexico to Tucson in the 1800s. It had 12-foot ceilings, thick adobe walls and was located in a poor neighborhood, filled with down on their luck men smelling of malt liquor, and bottom rung strung out prostitutes. It was all I could afford, but I loved it.  At the same time, I started doing that teaching work to pay some bills.

 Being a substitute teacher was perfect.  As it turned out substitutes don’t do anything, certainly no teaching.  You were expected to show a film or whatever time-consuming monotony had been assigned by the absent teacher to keep them busy. Most often I simply sat in the back of a class writing letters and stuffing envelopes to everyone I could imagine might help me with my vision, while National Geographic played on a screen or kids wrote reports, usually on one of three things: What I did with my summer, what I got or gave for Christmas, what I plan to do with my summer, all depending on the season.

 As a result, I got some money to eat on and a lot of time to map out a strategy to bring home the Grail.

 Education, the staple of human advance, is in large part due to teachers. After all, next to parents and perhaps peers, they have the greatest impact on child development and each generation’s ability to achieve bigger, better, and cheaper. I always got great support from teachers’ unions. Like all special-interest, labor or corporate unions, teachers want more money. But it wasn’t until I became a teacher that I experienced how ruinous our lack of support for teachers had become. Teachers are no longer supported or have any standing in their communities. With funding often anchored to attendance, schools are more dependent upon students being in the classroom than they are teachers being there.

 Classrooms are stuffed, not with teachers (outgoing money), but with students (incoming money). As a result, students are now in control and teachers suffer the slings and arrows as if responsible for every imagined social ill.

 Public schools are often built and managed like prisons. They need to keep students (money) in. Substituting back at my alma-mater, Tucson High, where my father was student body president, it was easy to notice all the new fences and locks.  The administration told me that it was to keep the unwanted (drugs, weapons and such) out. But that was not actually true.  It was instantly clear to all that fences couldn’t keep anything out, but it could keep students in.  That was the point, the administration wanted to keep its students inside, their funding depended upon it.  Even if they ditched all their academic classes, which a good number did, they got funding if they were at school in any sort of organized class.  So, for those that did not want to learn any geometry or what a constitution was, or even how to read it, the administration had a day long GYM class where the willfully ignorant could play basketball and other games all day long.   

 I always wanted to be sent to the schools where substitutes often refused to go. They were always in troubled neighborhoods where broken homes and alcoholism were common. At 6’ 4” and 260, I could look intimidated and had no problem being assigned to the toughest schools.  Had I been a petite gentler soul, as most teachers were, . . . well, I don’t know how they could do it and my respect for them grew enormous.

 In one, I was assigned 8th graders for a week who had to take their class in a portable classroom that had been erected out on the playground because of overcrowding.  As typical, I started the class with roll call. Also, as typical with students hitting their first teen years, they quickly recognized a “substitute-free day” and were a little unruly—many sitting with their backs to me on top of their desks, blurting out some form of “here” when their name was called. When told to sit down some objected that they did not need to listen to me and one simply refused and told me to “fuck off,” to the laughter of a few of his friends. I asked again and got a “go fuck yourself.”

 The inevitable slip was written out, he was shown the door and directed to go to the principal’s office.

 For the next 40 minutes I wavered between abandoning a classroom of unrulies and running outside to stop the “go fuck yourself” student from pelting the portable with bricks.  Just as the bell ending class was about to ring, the air conditioning unit took a direct hit and began to smoke.  As I unplugged it the bell rang, students streamed out the back door with me quickly following to find the vandal.  Seeing me coming he ran around the unit with a couple of his friends. As I chased them, they ran back into the classroom through the front door trashing all the papers and desks and back out the rear door as I entered.

 As I cleaned up, my next class entered.  Each student looked at me and immediately took their seats – might have had something to do with my countenance. I went on with my day.

 At this miserable day’s end, I stood at the one and only exit to the school and saw my thirteen-year-old, “go fuck yourself,” vandal approaching.  I stood in his path and said, “You need to come with me to the principal’s office.”

 As I blocked his escape, making a path to the principal’s office, his only road, he began a torrent of expletives and descriptions of me that were evidence I was with a prodigy. He was, without question, a young and highly skilled linguist. The unending vulgarity cascading from his mouth was a real marvel to behold. During our walk to the principal’s office, I became a “fucker, mother fucker and a fucker’s fucker,” along with being a “queer, bastard, homo, and shit faced cock sucker,” sprinkled with occasional requests to “suck his dick” or “lick his balls.”

 Through the school’s halls and breezeways to the administrative offices we went.

 The school’s principal came out to investigate the disturbance.  When I told her what had happened, she became annoyed, said, “I have no time for this now,” and exited the building. The smiling little snot quickly followed her lead.

 In my portable the next morning there was a note, “Report to the principal’s office immediately.”  As I entered her office, seated across from her was the couple that had bred the little snot, all claiming that I had twisted the little darling’s arm when I walked him.

 With an apologetic, hopeful smile the principal said that such behavior was not tolerated at the school and that she had called me in to prove it so. Then with a glare at me she spat, “Your services are no longer required here Mr. Kimball, pick up your things and go.”

 Did she know me?  Did she hate my politics? Or was she so unsupportive of all her teachers? Stunned, and more than a bit confused I stammered out a quick defense, saying that I never twisted any arm, or acted angrily at all.  Halfway through the principal’s repeated order to leave, another teacher entered the room, then another, and another until the room was jammed with a dozen or so.  They, too, were angry and ready to unload.  For a moment I thought it was at me and I had re-entered some other unworldly Twilight Zone.

 But it wasn’t at me that the teachers focused their anger, they had the principal in their sights.  They had apparently heard I was being discharged and were now surrounding her desk.  

 It turns out that my focus the afternoon before was so riveted on keeping the little snot on the road to the office that I never noticed all the teachers up and down the hall who had come out to investigate the little angel’s torrent of obscenities.

 The principal was still seated at her desk and now a bit flustered herself when the commentary flew from one mouth, then another and another.

 “You are not firing this man!”

 “I have never witnessed anyone subjected to such disgusting abuse as Mr. Kimball was.”  

 “He never got angry or even raised his voice at (whatever that snotty, con-to-be’s name is).”

“He was completely calm, unbelievably calm, never touched that kid.”  

“Did you go see what that kid did to the classroom, to the air conditioning unit?”

 And then my favorite:

“He took that horrid abuse with a dignity that was as awe inspiring to me as it should have been to (the snot’s name again).”

 In the middle of this most amazing and gratifying release from the Twilight Zone, someone said, “Hey, they’ve gone!”

 The snot and his breeders had vacated the building.

 Most importantly, the Grail: In those classes I found that I was very good at signing and stuffing envelopes.  In fact, even 30 years later I still held two Grail seeking records: One was my ability to sign 1000 letters in 20 minutes, the other was to fold, seal and stamp them by the time Johnny Carson went off the air.

(New chapters will be added roughly once a week)

Richard Kimball, Vote Smart Founder

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