Sue Carlton: When jacarandas and politics come around

Every year about now I find myself worrying that some things will never come, like sense in politics, or jacarandas.

Every year I wait for the bloom of the trees that around here mean spring, and change. When they seem late, the tree people I go to in despair always tell me the same thing: Wait. Sometimes the world has been cold or dry. They will bloom when they are ready, bright purple and showy big, or maybe more subdued, depending on the kind of year we have had.

And suddenly, our jacarandas are back, along the sidewalks and highways, our own brilliant purple tree tops here again.

Every year about now I also find myself waiting for some sign that the world will right itself, when the news turns beyond absurd and the defense of what's defenseless drowns everything else out and the bullies appear about to win.

When politicians pushed a law requiring welfare recipients to pass drug tests first, they said it was about protecting children and keeping druggies from stealing your hard-earned tax dollars.

But this week, we learned it has actually cost taxpayers — an average of $35 per test. And, in fact, it has not scared off scores of drug-addled applicants and did not impact the number of people who applied.

And, in fact, only 2.6 percent of them tested positive. The staff in your average downtown office might score higher.

Those numbers won't be especially relevant in the court battle over whether the law violates anyone's constitutional rights against unreasonable government searches. But they do show what the law is really about: Window dressing and pandering, not fighting addiction or actually helping anyone.

Then there were those bullies looking like they would cow the Hillsborough County School Board yet again.

Incensed that a Muslim leader had been allowed to speak to a high school class on world religions, a pack of fever-pitch protesters demanded the board adopt a speakers' policy that would take away discretion from teachers and principals.

Maybe the last straw was when some of them equated Muslims to pedophiles, but the board actually said enough. Teachers should make thoughtful, considered decisions about speakers. Next order of business.

This week the Times reported that the controversial 2005 "stand your ground'' law won bipartisan support in the Legislature with the story of a retiree asleep with his wife, the intruder he had to shoot, and the long months he had to wait to be cleared. After Trayvon Martin was killed, the story came up again about the man who had to spend money for a lawyer while he waited.

Problem is, some "facts" of that story were seriously distorted, among them that the man never hired a lawyer at all.

Also this week, Sen. Gwen Margolis, a Democrat from Miami, apologized for voting for the law she thought was about people defending themselves at home. "We were all kind of duped," she said.

Could all this translate into serious reconsideration of the overreaching "stand your ground" law?

And so on my way to work this week were those brilliant purple trees that mean the world is moving forward. Wait long enough and there it is: Spring, sense, and jacarandas.

Sue Carlton: When jacarandas and politics come around 04/20/12 [Last modified: Friday, April 20, 2012 9:16pm]

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