I don’t read the letters to the editor as closely as I used to. OK, to be perfectly honest, I hardly read them at ALL now that I’m not paid to do so, unless someone brings one to my attention.
Today was an exception, though. As my eye ran over the page, something in the last letter jumped out at me. I saw the words, “As a former Democratic candidate for state superintendent of education,” and scanned to the bottom to see the writer’s name was “Carlos W. Gibbons.” Hmmm. I do not know a Carlos W. Gibbons, which made me curious, and I sent out an e-mail to someone who knows stuff I don’t know, and learned that apparently he is a veteran educator who ran for the office in the early 1970s — and the father of Leeza Gibbons of TV fame.
In any case, he was right to advocate that the state superintendent post be appointed by the governor.
But it turns out that, until a few minutes ago, I had missed today’s really interesting letter — the one at the top of the stack. Alert reader “Tim” brought it to my attention moments ago. I’m just going to go ahead and put the whole thing here, and hope I don’t run afoul of Fair Use. Because this was an unusual letter:
Keep ignoring reality, governor
I have known Gov. Haley for many years, and she is one of my five bosses on the Budget and Control Board. If the governor is ignoring reality as Roger Hawkins contends (“Haley can’t continue to ignore realities,” March 3), my advice to her is to keep it up; it has served her well.
Moreover, I’d suggest that others follow her excellent example. Rather than ignoring reality, however, I believe Gov. Haley has wisely rejected the so-called reality that others saw for her as a disadvantaged minority.
There’s never any shortage of people telling you that you can’t do something.
Perhaps more insidious are those who maintain that we need their “help” to overcome adversity because not everyone has the governor’s abilities to plow through the impediments of life or navigate around diversity issues. I couldn’t disagree more and would ask why not.
We may not all become governors, but we can achieve our goals if we stop seeing ourselves as victims.
We must be fearless and willing to work hard, make good choices and, most importantly, never give up in pursuit of a dream. (Don’t even get me started on yet another middle-aged white man explaining how the real world works to an ethnic woman.)
Now, the thing that was unusual about this may not be immediately apparent to you. But if you had known any of Ms. Kitzman’s predecessors as chief of the Budget and Control Board, you’d know. It’s sort of hard to imagine — actually, impossible to imagine — Frank Fusco, or Fred Carter, writing (or even thinking) words that would be anything like those that Ms. Kitzman put in that letter. Whether you think of them as faceless bureaucrats, or as the very models of professional discretion that they were, it’s difficult to imagine them expressing their views in such a manner.
If you don’t know those guys, and don’t have that background, my reaction to Ms. Kitzman’s letter probably won’t make much sense to you.
Under those guys, the B&C Board (which should not exist at all, but you know that once I get started on that subject I can be all day) was a lot of things, but one thing it was not was a forum for expressing personal sentiments about particular politicians — the governor, or anyone else. There was a reason for that — the director worked for five bosses with five different egos and agendas. What was the point of being too closely identified with any of them?
I mean, forgive me for sounding like “yet another middle-aged white man explaining how the real world works,” but gee whiz, folks… (I thought, as exclamations do, that “gee whiz” sounded appropriately whitebread and old fashioned, didn’t you? I’m trying to play my assigned part as well as I can, and these small touches mean so much.)
The letter was so… emotional. So indignant. So partisan, in the sense of taking one person’s side against another. There are other terms I could use, but you know what? I just keep coming back to emotional — which I suppose will just expose me to, um, passionate condemnation for gender stereotyping, but hey, leave gender out of it (isn’t that what the brutes always say — “leave gender out of it?” the cads…). Think that I’m saying it the way Lee Marvin said it to Robert Ryan, “I owe you an apology, Colonel. I always thought that you were a cold, unimaginative, tight lipped officer. But you’re really … quite emotional. Aren’t you?” (The way I look at it, you can’t get any further away from gender politics than by quoting “The Dirty Dozen.” Am I right or am I right?)
I read something like that, and I think, what possessed her to write that? Yes, she owes her $174,000-a-year position to the governor as a matter of political fact, but why call attention to that in such a dramatic way? Did the governor know she was writing that letter? Does the governor approve of her having written that letter? She certainly didn’t need such a defense; she would have been fine without it.
For my part, I hadn’t even read the piece she was referring to (remember, I’m no longer paid to), but I can bet you I went and read it after seeing that letter. It was… unremarkable, really. Kind of unfocused. Seemed like the writer was trying to make some strong points, but trying to be kind and gentle with it, and swinging back and forth between commending the governor for being a determined “don’t let anything stand in your way” type and admonishing her for engaging in “magical thinking.”
Was the op-ed from this Hawkins fella somehow an example of White Male Oppressor insensitivity? Did he show a lack of appreciation for the governor’s inspiring story of ethnic pluck that we’ve heard so… much… about…? Was he trying to brutally impose on her “the so-called reality that others saw for her as a disadvantaged minority?” Hardly. He had, on his own initiative, shown due deference to the obligatory talking points in that regard. In fact, he went on about it as much as Ms. Kitzman did:
Haley’s success to this point in her life has been built around navigating diversity, not letting it get in her way or positioning herself as just a diversity hire. She was born into Sikhism, an Indian religion that adopts elements from both Hinduism and Islam, and later converted to the Methodist faith.
Haley earned a degree in accounting — a profession dominated by men — and began her career at a waste-management and recycling company. Throughout her formative years, she never interacted with large numbers of people who looked like her. Her political career is also based on being an outsider. She recently told an audience that Sanford told her the state wasn’t ready for a female governor.
OK, wait a minute; here’s the trouble. Seems Mr. Hawkins was, rather than being too indifferent, a bit too CONCERNED about matters of Identity Politics, for he had just said:
What Haley has done that is troubling is appoint nine white men, three white women and one African-American woman to her Cabinet. None of her 16 executive staff members is African-American.
Hey, you know what I think about all that I.D. stuff — if you wanted a “diverse” Cabinet and staff in the superficial demographic sense, you should have elected the White Guy. (And if you ARE someone who cares deeply about such things, you probably DID vote for the White Guy, and Nikki Haley knows that, so quit your bellyaching. Whoops, I’m being insensitive again…) But this guy apparently DID care about it, and said so. And for this, he’s condemned as… what was it again… “yet another middle-aged white man explaining how the real world works….” Yeah, that was it — no wait, I forgot the part about “to an ethnic woman.” Mustn’t leave that off.
Anyway, it just wasn’t the kind of letter I’m used to reading from B&C Board chiefs. This is going to be interesting going forward, folks.