>For my 7th grade social studies enrichment project, I devised a board game about homelessness. The game was inspired by an article I read in People magazine about four or five people and how they became homeless. Using only their real life stories, people went around the board and tried to find a permanent place to live. I even cut out the people's pictures from the magazine and made them into the men.

After playing the game for a little while, several of my fellow "gifted" classmates became frustrated by all the bad luck that happened on each turn. Just when they thought they were making progress, there would be some set back, again, based on the real life stories told in the article.

"How do you win?" one guy demanded to know.

I frowned. "I don't think it's possible."

"This is the dumbest game ever," he sneered. "I quit."

And that is the type of "compassionate" conservatism that pervaded the community I grew up in. People refused to believe that not everyone was born into an advantaged situation, and thus if they were homeless, it was their fault. Plus, if only someone worked hard enough, they would be fine.

Granted, we were only in junior high, so I can't entirely fault my classmates for their naivety. At the same time, I seemed able to grasp the concept and as one of the dumbest smart people in my school, I barely was admitted into the gifted program, so I'm not sure why the "best and the brightest" were unable to wrap their little minds around the idea that society really screws some people. Now might be a good time to point out that Donald Rumsfeld grew up in that area, so perhaps it is a collective willful stupidity that only a few of us are fortunate enough to avoid.

And, with that little commentary, I am off to get an offensively expensive hair cut.