Timothy Hodson, director of the Center for California Studies at California State University, Sacramento, passed away Tuesday. Hodson was a leading expert on California politics and a contributor to The Bee during his long and distinguished career.
Not long before he died, he wrote this short poem – a lament about the state of public affairs in California. His family and friends requested that we publish it, and so we present it here.
The New Petty
Here at our sun washed, Pacific gates,
Faced with the realities of intercontinental and oceanic fates
Want-to-be leaders eschew matching mountains and instead embrace
Tired, poor, meaningless clichés unworthy of our people and state.
On the right, the pride of Harvard MBAs and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and free marketers spends $100 million to decry waste fraud and abuse.
No matter if the numbers don't pencil out; the focus groups did.
No matter if every governor since 1850 has had the power
to zap waste and veto fraud.
No matter if the solution doesn't match the problem
or the answer is more like Pong than Avatar;
Damn it polls well!
On the left, the sage of experience, the master of nuance and complexity,
he who understands consumer demand in Sichuan
impacts state revenues,
his wisdom, age and understanding raises up with a pitiable cry
all the more pathetic for echoing barren fiats of rightist imagination:
It will only create a new bureaucracy.
This is brilliance? This is new thinking? Somewhere ignatian logic rolls.
I would sincerely like to know when our putative leaders
decided that California was puny.
Petty. Not worth serious thought or effort. That our people, our riches, our promise are all so unworthy of effort or thought
Over the Unruh Building in Sacramento are inscribed the words
of a so-so 19th century poet
but one who did capture the aspirations of an age and a great state;
aspirations that consultants and focus groups no doubt disdain
as uncapturable in a 30-second hot piece
or perhaps just not cool.
"Bring me men to match my mountains,
Bring me men to match my plains,
Men with empires in their purpose, And new eras in their brains."
So wrote Sam Walter Foss.
Today we have Meg Whitman proclaiming budget deficits
can be solved by taking care of waste fraud and abuse
and Jerry Brown's insightful rejoinder,
yeah but it'll take a bureaucracy.