The Game of Round House Politics
February 28, 2012
Indulge my hard-core nerd side for a moment, if it please you. I've
been reading the George R.R. Martin book series "A Song of Ice and
Fire," and a recent scene made me think of Gov. Susana Martinez,
Education Secretary Designate Hanna Skandera and politics as a whole.
"A Song of Ice and Fire" are the books "Game of Thrones" on HBO is
based on. It's a sprawling, sexy, violent fantasy story about a
seven-kingdom realm in which war is raging between kings who each
believe they each have a right to the throne.
Toward the middle of the second book ("A Clash of Kings") the boy-king
Joffrey Baratheon (he's 13) is riding with his evil mother and his
scheming dwarf uncle and his "sell sword" security posse through the
streets of King's Landing. Because of the ongoing war against usurpers
after his throne, King's Landing is broke. The people there are
starving for food and even basic services.
We don't very often visit the world outside the battlefields or castle
walls, where normal people scrape and scrap to make decent lives for
their families. Usually, we're caught up in the political wranglings
of hierarchy and warfare. That's kind of the larger point to the whole
series - that the common folk don't really care who the king is, so
long as they're taken care of. The squabbling is desperately important
to the characters, but it truly doesn't matter very much and distracts
from what's actually important.
So Joffrey is riding with his crew, crown-clad and stunningly adorned,
through a throng of dirty, hungry commoners who take to throwing
vegetables at the king, screaming that he's a bastard (actually true)
and that they want bread. A riot breaks out. The king escapes
unscathed, but is incredulous. Don't they know he's the king? He
doesn't understand what their damn problem is.
I think a lot about real-world politics when I'm reading "A Song of
Ice and Fire." For all its glorious intrigue and warfare, it is
essentially a tale of governance by people who think they're bigger
than they actually are, who think that fighting battles or debating
theology is what people want from their rulers. The people, meanwhile,
are ancillary. Their problems go unsolved.
I think about Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum debating who's more
pro-life while poverty and education go untouched as topics to be
discussed by these men who may become president of the United States.
I think about Larry Behrens, the spokesman for the Public Education
Department, responding to an ISPAC report explicitly detailing
public-private conflicts of interest and job rigging and
money-motivated policy adoption by saying "It's unfortunate that this
type of question comes up from someone known as Bill Richarson's
Really? Because these are substantive, specific allegations - backed
by documentation - that the administration's reforms are motived by
money and politics. Nothing to say about that?
I think, personally, that our kings and queens and princes and sell
swords and council members spend their days fighting battles that mean
nothing to normal people. Then, when there's some kind of outcry about
the way things are going, they can say "Look at these things we've
done, though! Schools are going to be graded A through F!"
"Look at these things we've done, though! We sold the state's private jet!"
What does that have to do with the people? I wish I could tell you. We
should not be satisfied by what we're told is being done, not when so
many people have a hard time finding bread. (Bread being a metaphor
for a decent education, or a paycheck big enough to allow for modest
I've been trying to get an interview with Skandera and with the
governor. Their staffs ignore me, because I work for ISPAC. They also
ignore me because I'm not interested in accepting their policies
without critically thinking them through.
I'll keep trying, and will let you know. The game of thrones is great
when it's being played by ridiculous characters in some fantasy world.
In New Mexico and the U.S., though, it seems to only make things