What I saw at the school-board meeting

We were told public comment would be open to two- or three-minute comments from the public. Another father from the same dance school my daughter and her friend attend got up and began his soliloquy with the U.S. Constitution. He demanded full attention, presenting himself well as the very image of an indomitable man. He then proceeded to make an argument about the illegality of the actions of the board and school administrators. They had enforced “fictitious laws” and “illegal orders.” He cited law codes. And told them that legal action would be taken, and damages sought — that these monetary damages would be so great that the liability insurers who give coverage to administrators and public servants would drop them. They’d be out of a job. “You’ve already woken up Mama Bear,” he said, referring to his wife. “Now you have to deal with Papa Bear. It ends here.” The board was silent. Basically every person from the public who had come to the meeting applauded and lustily stamped their feet.

Then it was my turn. I croaked out roughly 30 percent of what I had planned to say. I caught a few eyes on the board, and I thought they had listened sympathetically. When I was finished, the crowd roared again.

And soon I realized, this was a Tea Party movement in miniature. Others got up to speak, and made versions of the same argument the indomitable man had made. The board members were criminals awaiting the day of judgment and justice. They were violating the Bill of Rights. There were plentiful references to Nazi Germany, the perfidy of pharmaceutical companies, which had bought all the politicians. One of the speakers wasn’t even from this town.

This was not a discussion at all. It was a kind of confrontation. And it’s impossible to ignore that it was a class confrontation. The board, phlegmatic in tone, or silent. The people, choleric, voluble. Professionals versus workers, on the whole.