Rhode Islandism on Rhode Islandism
Mangeek’s comment to my post about the very Rhode Island background of the prospective head of hte 195 commission is just too appropriate not to reproduce for additional commentary:
“when Kane’s father was a principal of a Providence elementary school”
I had the pleasure of attending that school during Principal Kane’s tenure. He was an amazing man who singlehandedly kept order over the students and faculty. If Colin has just 10% of what his father did, then I actually feel better about this commission.
When I was in fourth grade, a bully had pushed me to my breaking point. I chased him through the halls, finally catching up with him at a stairwell. I tossed him down a flight of stairs before teachers arrived and restrained me. Apparently I was so hungry for justice on the little jerk that I sprained the teacher’s arm trying to finish what I started.
I was naturally sent to Mr. Kane’s office, where he closed the door and told me that what I did was wrong, but he wished he could throw that little bugger over a stairwell himself. He’d take care of the issue with the teacher’s arm if I wrote an apology to her.
I think that if the same thing happened under anyone else, there’d be EMTs, police, and union reps involved. I give credit to the guy for caring enough to see what happened for what it was and give me a chance to make things right without resorting to ‘the system’.
So, Mangeek’s response to a government entity that he might otherwise consider an embodiment of overreach is mitigated because the father of the group’s prospective leader once did him a favor. He might protest that this anecdote was merely one of many, but it is the one he mentions, and moreover, transferring respect from father to son isn’t inherently justified, and it doesn’t come close to legitimizing a specific government action.
Let me say, though, that I agree with Principal Kane’s approach to dealing with problems in his school. He assessed the situation with more intimate knowledge than is available in blanket policies; he chose a course of action that wouldn’t encourage passivity in the face of bullying; and he prevented a young Boygeek from entering into a web of consequences that can overwhelm healthy development. Most of all, he would ultimately have had to take personal responsibility if Boygeek had taken his spiel as encouragement and stalked the bully home for a final beating with an iron pipe.
That sort of problem solving isn’t available in government policy. The consequences for bad public policy take too long to manifest, and they aren’t as clear as a boy responding to a bully with a little more violence than is tolerable. Within that lack of clarity is too much room to disperse blame across elected and appointed officials and for elected representatives to stitch together support through completely unrelated actions. In other words, the chain of accountability for land development can disappear in a gauze of personal favors and approval related to social issues, among others.
Yet, individual judgment remains no less important on a big scale than on the individual one in which Principal Kane acted, which is a very good reason to limit the activities of government in the first place.