YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!

As soon as I read the headline and before I read the article, “Trump Announces, ‘Patriotic Education’ Commission”, I thought of Colonel Jessup’s tirade in the movie, “A Few Good Men”, “You Can’t Handle The Truth!”  I felt no different after I read it.

It seems our President and a good part of our population can’t or won’t handle the truth.  Worse, I believe a portion of our population knows the truth, they just don’t care to acknowledge it.  They like things just the way they are or rather they would like to cycle them back to those thrilling days of yesteryear. Am I cynical much?

I read the article but my thoughts continued to collide with the force of a cue ball breaking a rack. Dark thoughts of a time past that seems to be determine to resurrect itself.

“Trump Announces, ‘Patriotic Education’ Commission”. Hummm…I was a product of “Patriotic Education”.  It was called Civics, taught in the backdrop of the Civil Right struggle and the Cold War.  There was a lot of wrapping the Bible in the Red, White, and Blue to boot.  “Our God is better than your god,” with Biblical quotations to prove it. 

Civics wasn’t pure propaganda but there was propaganda.  I did learn about our constitution and our federal system, but I also learned that the self-evident truths of “All men are created equal” were weak aspirations in my part of the world, not necessarily a truth. 

As my blond haired, crew cut sporting instructor explained, “We have the retarded, the dummies and mute, ni@@#*s and Indians.”  Yes, he said that.  My memory is faulty, it could have been in US History rather than Civics.

One of the more troubling thoughts among many is how much this person meant to me.  How much I wanted to be just like him.  How I followed his lead to college and then on to teaching.  How I majored in history and taught it for most of forty-one years…most likely, because of him. 

It was the Sixties and as I have found in most men, there is good, there is bad, and I hope, there is change. Don’t you hate it when your heroes prove to be mere mortals?

In the article I read, President Trump decried what he called a “twisted web of lies” being taught in U.S. classrooms about systemic racism in America, calling it “a form of child abuse.” He made similar comments at Mount Rushmore in July.

“Teaching this horrible doctrine to our children is a form of child abuse, the truest sense,” Trump said. “For many years now, the radicals have mistaken Americans’ silence for weakness. They’re wrong. There is no more powerful force than a parent’s love for their children. And patriotic moms and dads are going to demand that their children are no longer fed hateful lies about this country.” 

At best, our President has an uncomfortable relationship with the truth. Most often, the truth and the President do not reside in the same zip code. I question what “hateful lies about this country” he is channelling.  It seems to me we are again wrapping the flag around our racism and using a religion to support it.

I do not want to beat a dead mule; I have written to this theme before.  Until recently, and even that depends on where you reside in our great country, we have never taught history from an all-encompassing point of view.  We have never taught history “warts and all.”  We seem to be afraid of the truth.

Most teachers try, but standards and textbooks have only recently begun to change, attitudes even less. Those teachers who don’t try should not be teaching. I still see a type of history being taught accompanied by cheerleaders sporting red, white, and blue pom poms. “Go, Fight, Win!”

Why would we not want to teach the truth?  Does truth somehow undermine our love for our country?  Am I wrong to believe we can be patriotic and love our country despite knowing we committed travesties along the way?  Can we not wish to correct those ills and make ourselves an even better country? Is it unbearable to admit to the wrongs of our forefathers?

Change. The word seems to be the truth we can’t handle and the resistance to change seems to come from my own contemporaries…those of us who were indoctrinated to believe “My Country, Right or Wrong” not that our country ever did any wrong.  Worse, many are not contemporaries but are those I taught.

Many former students have taken to pointing out, “We are not a democracy we are a Republic.”  To what end? Why do you make this argument?  Is there an ulterior motive?  Am I being cynical to believe people pointing this out have an agenda and a need to undermine?

The word “republic” has the same meaning as the term “representative democracy.” A representative democracy is a form of democracy in the same way that a ‘purple top’ is a form of turnip. We wouldn’t say it’s inaccurate to use “turnip” to describe a purple top turnip, so it’s OK to follow in the footsteps of many founding fathers, along with Webster, and Chief Justice Marshall and simply call our “representative democracy” a “democracy.”

I would also want to point out, at the local level many of our decisions are made as a ‘direct’ democracy. Again, I wonder about motives. I wonder about truth. I feel to the depth of my bones, many would rather have a more autocratic form of government even if it is led by a former reality TV star.

My brother will now say, chill.  Go out and walk, smell the flowers, have a beer, watch a football game.  He is right, and I will, but my cynical petty coats is showing cow poo and it stinks.  I have hope in our system but it is being undermined.  My truth is becoming, “We are what we are.  This is who we’ve been and we ain’t gonna’ change.” 

We are being taken advantage of.  I’m not the world’s most intelligent guy but even I can see the seeds of division that have been planted are flourishing, both within and without.  The far right and the far left are not our friends.  Neither are any of the autocratic leaders our President seems to want to cozy up to. 

No, not our friends. Neither is the media attempting to sell advertising, a President attempting to sell blivits, and congressmen and women attempting to sell themselves. (A blivit is two pounds of manure in a one pound bag. The origin is from Kalamazoo College around 1960.)

The President’s initiative to create “Patriotic Education” is a blivit and he is sowing more seeds of discord and playing to a base that includes those who believe equality for all is somehow taking their own rights away and an affront to God. 

Watercolor by John Coffee. Line from The Green Mile

***

Don Miller’s author’s page is found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR22iSzDHKzxCzPBS64mqKyX_iqjwVDmJXrd_1iVmF5be_YAnetohuhpwQI

Article quoted, Trump Announces ‘Patriotic Education’ Commission, A Largely Political Move, from NPR, September 17, 2020, Alana Wise, https://www.npr.org/2020/09/17/914127266/trump-announces-patriotic-education-commission-a-largely-political-move?utm_campaign=storyshare&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&fbclid=IwAR3pJHVlB7rxiAiDhMXODozLxk0my-rRZNfaA94Y7ekugnE5Zqr8EhJ08II

The image, from JoeBlogs

Shut up and Listen

 

It’s time for white folk to just shut up.  We are not listening.  We are shouting down the message.

Four years ago, Colin Kaepernick peacefully took a knee and we (White Folk) shouted him down.  Athletes who joined him were called sons of bitches and threatened with firings.  A blonde-haired news pundit told an athlete to “shut up and dribble.” Conservative radio wrapped their racism and white nationalism with the US Flag and made it about disrespect instead of listening.  Award winners who dared to use their medium as a platform were told to just accept their award and shut up.  Be quiet so we don’t have to listen.

Why? It’s easier to be tone-deaf if you don’t have to listen.  You can be happy and secure with your head stuck where the sun never shines.

Four years later, what has changed?  I’m being kind, I could have asked twenty years later? Or thirty….  Nothing.  Systemic and institutional racism is still in place along with the double standard that is our justice system…and white people are still attempting to shout down those who are affected the most.

You dare to question this great country?  Just shut up and sit down, or move.  “Don’t like it here, go back to your shithole country.”  If we shout long enough maybe a bigger story will come along during the next news cycle to make people forget.  People do forget…white people.

White folk needs to shut up and listen.  Violent protest is not constructive…you are preaching to the choir if preaching to me.  It ain’t about me.  The white folks who have the most to lose are using it to drown out the message.

Our forefathers put the system into place, and we have guarded the fire of discrimination as if our lives depended upon it.  Not all, I believe the loudest shouters are in the minority and are the ones guarding and fanning the flame of racism and intolerance.

It is time for the silent majority to shut out the shouts of the minority haters and decide what we believe in.  We can’t afford to sit on a fence that may burn down from under us.  Shit or get off the pot because it is not the responsibility of people of color to destroy an oppressive system.  A system, we, as in whites, put into being…and have maintained since the end of the Civil War.  We must be the ones who dismantle discrimination and we can’t do that without listening.  We have to make dialog possible…by shutting up and listening.

“But things are better aren’t they?”  I don’t know.  I’m an old white guy.  Maybe you should go ask a friend of color…and listen quietly and intently.

I don’t believe white people get to make up the rules for acceptable protest.  We don’t get to share cute memes of MLK’s nonviolence without also sharing his quote “Riot is the language of the unheard.”  To do so is as hypocritical as “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal” when we have a system that openly disparages, marginalizes, and discriminates.  

Before we shout about violence, we need to accept our own.  My lifetime memories are full of scenes I’d like to forget.  As a student of history, I am aware our history books are full of glossed over white initiated violence in the name of expansion, manifest destiny, imperialism, and racism.  Glossed to the point it doesn’t exist.

King’s peaceful protests were met with burning buses, police dogs, and water hoses. King’s belief in non-violence got him killed.  Murdered by a white man with a gun, trying to maintain the flame of white supremacy.

“Oh, but that was long ago, people just need to get over it.”  People can begin to get over “it” when we admit and accept our sins and the sins of our forefathers.  I don’t believe we’ve done that.  I think we have done nothing but shout our excuses and what-about- isms.

The riots from the Nineties disappeared from our rose-colored sight and out of mind…and little was accomplished. The same with protests from more recent history.

I’m an old white guy who doesn’t understand how burning down your neighbor’s house because you are pissed is positive.  I won’t ever understand it.   My time and energy, and yours, would be better spent listening with an open mind and attempting to understand why there is so much anger and frustration.

If you find it easier to believe in leftwing plots, led by George Soros or Bill Gates, the Democratic Party, Antifa or the Illuminati…if you believe it is a rightwing plot, led by Donald Trump, the KKK, The Church of QAnon or other far-right groups, you are part of the problem because you would rather face made up problems than real ones.  The real one is too painful.

Are they organized, certainly but I don’t believe it is a Dark State plot.  Activism is not a dirty word and it is not anarchy.  Are there bad players at work  Sure, but you are allowing them to shout over the message.  You are not listening.

You are the ostrich with your head in the sand or worse if you don’t believe people of color have a reason to be mad.  You are shouting instead of listening because you don’t want to hear the truth.  You are afraid to listen to the pain, anger, and frustration of your neighbors because you might have to acknowledge we live in a racist system.  You are helping to fan the flame whether you want to or not.

In 1968, King died from an assassin’s bullet. The white shouts were almost the same as today.  The streets were burning and National Guard troops patrolled American cities. The cries were of anger, sadness, and frustration.  We didn’t listen.  We were too busy shouting about radical agitators as we watched the newsreels loop.  We wouldn’t shut up long enough to listen.  It was 1968 or is it right now?

In 1992, LA burned after four LA policemen were acquitted of the beating of Rodney King.  They were caught on camera for the nation to see.  The National Guard was on patrol again and there were the same shouts, the same excuses.  We didn’t listen.  It couldn’t be about a racist system.  It was 1992 or is it right now?

Do we repeat the same sins by drowning out people in pain or do we shut up and listen?  Are we willing to push for meaningful change or wait for the next tragedy to drown it out and return to the status quo?  Are we willing to change?

George Floyd’s death was awful, but it only cast a light on one symptom of the disease.  The disease isn’t terminal yet but it is moving swiftly in that direction.  Shut up and listen before our racism kills us.

 

***

Featured Image:  https://steemit.com/life/@domioanna/just-shut-up-and-listen

Don Miller’s author’s page https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR1IWVKrQFOwlgUOn0jXI0N85XUF4AFM-IgNPqW7PE1GGK23l7PJUvho9Fs

 

To Block or Not to Block….

 

Alert:  This ain’t about football…

I unfriended and blocked a poster on my social media account.  I normally have a hard and fast rule, I don’t block people unless they become threatening.  Stupid and illogical are okay…well they aren’t okay, but I like knowing those who are stupid and illogical…but if you are threatening, WHAM!  YOU ARE SACKED LIKE Y. A. TITTLE!

I went against my rule yesterday simply because I became tired of the irritation.  The poster, a woman I may be related to due to the twisted branches of my family tree and by marriage, became an irritant. It should have been a minor annoyance, reminiscent of jock itch.   Seeking relief from the itch I blocked her going straight to Defcon One using a good dose of Atomic Balm.  I’m unhappy with my decision, blocking was not the soothing anodyne I expected.

Like-minded friends engaged in the unarmed combat of social media have asked me on more than one occasion, “Why do you put up with So and So?  You have more patience than I do.”  It is not about patience, I taught school for forty-one years and coached for forty-five.  My patience ran out a long time ago.

Until yesterday, I had an easy answer to my friends’ questions.  My act of blocking would be an admission that I gave the “block-ee” control over me.  I am logical, I can argue my point…except when I’m not…and can’t.  I believe blocking is an admission of their control over my thoughts and my inability to positively argue my position.

The comment I made to her post was about empathy for someone, a public figure, who “might” be suffering from a family member’s terrible illness.  Her original post discounted his pain and made it about politics.  I countered with logic, she tried to check me with conspiracy before browbeating me with, “Since you are such a liberal maybe you should block me and go back to watching CNN.”  That isn’t the exact quote but captures the flavor of her comment.  At least she didn’t use the descriptor snowflake.

Sure, I lean middle-left but I’m not a raging radical and haven’t watched CNN in forever plus a day.  She had triggered me and I dropped the hammer on her.  I answered her with, “Done but not because you are a conservative….”  I blocked her before I could add, “…but because you are not a nice person and have the sympathy of a gnat and the empathy of an amoeba.”  Sorry amoebas and gnats.  Did I drop the hammer on her…or on me?

I had blocked her simply to be rid of her.  My attempted expungement failed.  Her Ka lingers like the smell of fried fish or liver and onions from the previous day’s supper.

Another reason I don’t block people derives from a saying from Sun Tzu’s  The Art of War.  “Know your enemy” …except they’re really not my enemies.  It’s easy to think of them as enemy combatants but they are Americans who simply share a different point of view and how does one argue logically if you don’t know your countryman’s position?  She was simply another American with a different point of view…and a nasty personality.

Blocking people with different opinions leads to interacting only with people who share your own beliefs and opinions.  I would think this “vacuum” of only like opinions might help move us farther and farther apart from those who disagree with us.  It moves us farther and farther from discovering common ground.

Walt Kelly’s intellectual opossum Pogo comes to mind. “We have met the enemy and he is us” or in this case, me.

Image result for we have met the enemy and he is us

As soon as I touched “Enter” one of the voices in my head smirked and made itself known, “You just did exactly what she wanted.  She gets her jollies from being blocked.  She’s bragging right now about how she melted a liberal snowflake.”  

My real voice agreed, “Yep if you can’t take the heat stay out of the kitchen. ” Another head voice added, “and you just gave her control over YOU.  You let her bully you into blocking her.”  I’ve also allowed her to trouble my thoughts since.  I’m not sure how to counter my ruminations.  I’m certainly not going to send another friend request to her.

The one logical voice in my head tells me my triggering is the dislike for PC culture taken to a level of bullying.  Sometimes it is best not to say exactly what is on your mind if your intent is to win friends and influence enemies.

I’ve never believed the “words can never hurt you” rhyme.  I hope my own dislike for political correctness is tempered by my humanity, empathy, and the belief people should be treated with respect until all else fails.

I’m not sure I did that.  I’m not sure all else failed.  The same voice also points out, “She ain’t worth the effort to analyze.”  Maybe.  Maybe I’m trying to analyze me.

Many more of my illogical voices are yelling too but as is their nature, quite mindlessly.  All they do is confuse an already confused issue.   

Like two offensive linemen unsure who should block the three hundred pound gorilla in the gap across from them, both decide it is the other guy’s responsibility and the quarterback pays the price as the gorilla, untouched, smashes him into the turf.  I think our country is paying for our confusion…and for the lies told to us that we pass along without a fare the well of research.

Oh well, I’m not sure writing this has helped but the morning is breaking and there should be enough to do around the foothills of the Blue Ridge to take my mind off this subject.

As I wrote this, the sunrise through my French doors was a brilliant orange making the ridgeline look as if it was on fire.  When I went out to enjoy the first hit of my cigar, I found the temperatures quite nice for early-February.  Since then, the rain has put out the fire and the temperatures have receded to normal February levels.  After temperatures in the seventies, thunderstorms, and tornadoes…it snowed.  It appears Mother Nature is confused too.

Sunrise

An early morning jog to go with my walk might just the “soothing salve” I need.  The pain of running seems to displace all other pains and takes my mind away from everything but the pain of putting one foot in front of the other.  I guess it is just replacing one pain with a more acceptable one.

Good day to all.

***

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Images:  The featured image: The Wisconsin Badgers appear to have a body on everybody except the guy crashing from the backside.  From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blocking_(American_football)

In this 1964 photo, New York Giants quarterback Y.A. Tittle kneels after being sacked by John Baker of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  “A dazed Tittle on his knees in the end zone, helmet off, blood trickling from his balding head.”  https://www.newsobserver.com/sports/nfl/article178031466.html

A colorized version of Walt Kelly’s cartoon strip, Pogo.   https://www.myjewishlearning.com/rabbis-without-borders/we-have-met-the-enemy/

Houston Texan’s QB, DeShaun Watson, pays the price for a missed block.  https://texanswire.usatoday.com/2018/12/21/texans-qb-sean-ryan-deshaun-watson-nfl-high-sack/

A view from the ridgeline above my house.

 

Tin Soldier

The grilled chicken thighs and fingerling potato salad are just memories now…even the leftovers.  Later in the day ribs and chicken wings were served at the Bennett Fourth of July fest along with Carol Ann’s killer potato salad.  I’m sure there will be lingering side effects to an evening of eating and drinking what I normally don’t eat or drink.  Still, I almost feel sacrilegious not having pulled pork as a side with the ribs.  Anti-American?  No, just trying to cheat the Grim Reaper a few seconds longer.

Despite the enjoyment of seeing friends, some for the first time since the last Fourth, I would prefer a small gathering with my bride and two blind puppy dogs to be my only concession to the celebration of the Fourth of July.  Very sedate until the crazies above us begin to set off M-80s and Cherry Bombs.  Not very patriotic by some people’s standards.  Typical…or rather than typical, maybe it is simply the new normal for me.  I celebrated my own birthday in the same way.

I’m truly not feeling it.  Not feeling it but certainly thinking about it…it being my patriotism.

I am patriotic and wish my country a happy birthday.  I simply don’t believe everything wrapped in a red, white and blue flag is patriotism.  I’m not blindly patriotic…odd perspective for a guy who grew up during the period of “American Exceptionalism” and the indoctrination I now associate with the Cold War Sixties.  “My Country Right or Wrong”, “The only good Commie is a dead Commie”,  “I’d rather be dead than Red.”  I remember my eighth-grade civics class being equal parts academic and propagandistic …maybe more propaganda than substance as I sit pondering.

I watched a recent news program, not fake news if we can still believe the black and white photographs the program featured.  I had certainly seen them before.  Black and white photographs high lighting certain moments in time…in history…my history.  Some were colorized photos but there was something stark and depressing about the ones in black and white.  The photos triggered memories of the old black and white film clips I saw featured during the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.  “And that’s the way it is…” or was.

John Kennedy standing in front of a map trying to explain where Vietnam was, later his son saluting as his father’s body rolled past.  LBJ looking haggard stating he would not run again.  A photograph of a naked Vietnamese child, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, running from a napalm attack.  Major General Nguyễn Ngọc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner after Tet, bodies laying a ditch outside Mai Lai.  Much different photographs from the ones I saw from World War Two.  Different and as I look back, projecting the loss of a certain innocence I wish I could find again.

Growing up I always believed we were the stalwart protectors of what was right and just.  A courageous country wearing white hats or knights in shiny armor.  We were the virtuous and righteous battling the minions of the devil.  Shining a light on the cockroaches of evil and sending them scurrying from sight. Vietnam and Watergate took my innocence and not in a good way.  Bobbi Jo Bedell did that but I doubt either innocence will be returned to me.

Black and white pictures of Richard Nixon, arms raised with fingers veed in victory…later a finger pointed at the camera, “I am not a crook.”  A color shot in front of Marine One, Nixon’s arms raised with fingers veed despite his disgrace.  Like an alcoholic wanting to recover, I hoped we had reached rock bottom.

I feel I’ve witnessed our decline firsthand.  Like my vision, it has taken place in small increments.  My failing eyesight was gradual until sharp lines became fuzzy and my arms became too short to bring the written word in to focus.  I’m not sure if we can make lenses strong enough to correct the vision of our nation.

Declines of civilizations are usually slow and all civilizations decline.  It is inevitable. Some disappear totally. Most don’t disappear due to a cataclysmic event, but rather, they die rotting from the inside.

A rotting social, economic, political system mated with an ineffective and excessive military brought the Roman and French Empires to an end.  It was gradually at first before running downhill like a runaway freight.  They collapsed under their own excesses and attempting to maintain the status quo.

I’ve been witnessed our rot for fifty years and I wonder if we have reached the point of no return.  I certainly believe our white hats are stained and our armor dented and rusty.  We are more concerned about filling our pockets than being the “shining light upon the hill.”

Some reading this will say “We’re still the best country in the world.”  Maybe, but what are we doing to keep ourselves on our lofty pedestal?  Is it a pedestal that exists only in our minds?

We deny science and accept myth.  We politicize religion and use it as a weapon against our fellow man.  We choose partisan politics over the good of the many and create a bogey man and call it socialism.  We create social outcasts with our hatred and more and more enemies with our bombs.  Our greed is more important than the planet we live on.  As a country, we are living on other people’s money and giving it to people who don’t need it…or deserve it.

My biggest worry is our hatred and greed which seems to drive everything else.  I’m reminded of the old Billy Jack movie from the early Sixties.  Not the movie exactly, the theme, “One Tin Soldier Rides Away” by Caste.

As a battle rages over a perceived treasure, the valley people kill the mountain people, who would have given them their treasure had they just asked.

“Now they stood before the treasure

On the mountain dark and red

Turned the stone and looked beneath it

Peace on earth was all it said.”

 

Others will read this and suggest that maybe I should relocate to another country since I hate America so much.  I don’t hate America, I hate what America has become…if it was ever anything else.  To quote James Baldwin,

“I love America more than any other country in this world,

and, exactly for this reason,

I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

Usually, essays have a closing statement which draws everything together and ties a bright red bow around it.  I can’t do that because the story is still being written and the end hasn’t been reached.  What that ending is, is up to us.  We must find common ground or “There won’t be any trumpets blowing Come the judgment day.”

 

Featured Image:  By The Late Mitchell Warren (Author of “The End of the Magical Kingdom” series) http://subversify.com/2010/10/15/who-is-the-one-tin-soldier/

Video:

Don Miller’s author’s page can be found at http://subversify.com/2010/10/15/who-is-the-one-tin-soldier/

 

A Question of Education

 

I apologize ahead of time.  This may be meandering pig trail, but I feel the need to speak out.  Sorry for the ramble.

My state capital, Columbia, SC, will host a rally for educational reform on May 1st.  A similar rally is being held on the same date in North Carolina and will mirror other rallies that have been held in other states.  I am a retired teacher and feel I should go.  But I can’t.  It is a debate I have had with myself for the past week but I just can’t go.

I’m not the only one debating but at least my debate is with myself.  The Governor has made his feelings known as has the Superintendent of Education.  They are not fans of #ALLOUT…and they will not receive my vote next time around.  Various local superintendents and district spokesmen have made their feelings known and I am not a fan of them either but being retired means I don’t have to work for them or play nice.

What really bothers me is the attitude of everyday South Carolinians.  The rally has been characterized as a “walkout” for better pay by its opponents and maligned by them.  I’ve seen all the arguments.  My favorites are “You knew what you were getting into and if you don’t like it get some other job” and the biggest lie in the world, “You get three months off in the summer and still get paid for it.”

First of all, it’s not a walkout.  You know how South Carolina dislikes anything suggesting a strike.  Teachers are using their personal days or paying for their own subs, and while better pay is an issue, the issues go much deeper than pay…although having to take on a second job to pay for the day you’re taking to go protest is an issue…there I said it.  A protest…but I’ll keep calling it a rally.

The rally is about reducing class sizes, reducing standardized testing and having to teach to the test, not being allowed to teach to anything but standards, not feeling safe or supported in their classrooms, not having the materials to do the job teachers are called to do…not that I really know what that is anymore.  So…keep thinking it is just about pay.

Most importantly, it’s a rally about respect and support, something teachers have lost through no fault of their own.  Something our politicians have given no more than lip service to recently…if ever and which statements like “You knew what you were getting into…” exemplifies.

I am a product of the South Carolina public school system, a product of in-state colleges. I taught in the South Carolina public school systems for forty-five years.  I never considered it a job.  I knew I had been called to teach.

I have been fully retired for four years and it seems a lifetime ago that I last set foot in a classroom.  I saw many changes through the years, a few were good and those that were were fostered by actual educators, even if it was at the request of a politician.

“No Child Left Behind” was not one of the good changes.  The decline in teacher moral escalated with “No Child Left Behind” and the constant testing, teaching to the test, and meeting about the test “ad nauseam.”

Not that “No Child Left Behind” is the only culprit.  South Carolina ranks near the bottom of a bunch of national statistics, education is just one of them.  We rank forty-eighth out of fifty-one in education by pretty much everyone’s ratings.  Fifty states plus the District of Columbia for those who wonder about my own education.

I hang my head wondering how we got that way…oh yeah, we’ve been that way.  I blame it on what I call our “Cotton Mill Mentality” and our Southern desire to maintain a cheap and uneducated workforce.  Too harsh?  Sometimes the truth is just that.

I began attending school in the Fifties, during the hay day of cotton textiles.  Unfortunately, I began teaching as cotton textiles were in decline, finally lost to cheaper foreign labor.

Cotton textiles were a great educational tool for the Carolinas and other Southern states.  Fine people who were not academically inclined could graduate, or not, and still find a position at one of the local cotton mills; make a living, provide for their families and most importantly it seemed, pay taxes.

Unfortunately, those opportunities fled the South and our political leaders were slow to realize that our educational system had to change to meet modern job descriptions.  This was despite warnings issued from educators  I heard as far back as the early Eighties.  I believe we are still paying for that mindset and waiting for cotton textiles to come back.

We have yet to recognize the effect of an educational system hamstrung by backward thinking.   An educational system crippled by politicians and a tax base that refuses to pay for any meaningful change.  A system that is politically driven and slow to involve educators in the process.

An educational system injured by a belief that education is really not important and why do I have to pay when I don’t have a child in school…or why should I worry about what is happening in the I-95 corridor if I live in the upstate.

Recently it seems another fear has emerged from our strongly conservative base, a fear that teachers are teaching liberalism and socialism, turning all our students into little communists.  It seems that to protest or rather rally helps to stoke those fears.

Teachers are asked to do more and more with less and less.  More testing, more planning for testing, more collaboration about testing.  More time pouring over statistics trying to analyze test results you are not allowed to see.

Less time to prepare for the actual class.  Paying for materials out of their own pockets or doing without.  Open disrespect and a lack of support.  This what the rally is about and if it inconveniences someone…well good.

More teachers are leaving the profession and fewer students are picking education as a life’s work.  Why would they?  Fewer teachers mean more students per class which means less time.  If you believe the student per teacher ratio means anything, I’ve got some land I’d like to sell you.

Curriculum requirements have changed but the time to teach all that is needed has decreased.  Fewer resources, less time to do their jobs. Less time for teachers to make a meaningful dent in the problems facing our youth in a modern world…a world they didn’t create but will have to pay for.

Who suffers in all this…besides the teacher?  The one most significant change I suffered as class sizes crept up was a loss of contact with students.  I didn’t get as close to my students because I didn’t have the time to get close to my classes.  I didn’t get to find out what was bothering Bobbi Jo or Tyrek.  I tried, but it just isn’t possible.  Someone slides through the cracks.  That might be the greatest loss of all.

Okay, I guess I have ranted enough.  I pray for positive change.  Our children are our futures…they are our legacies.  They deserve our best efforts and teachers deserve the tools to make those efforts…they deserve the respect.

I should be there, marching, “rallying”, channeling my inner hippie…my inner liberal…my inner communist. LOL.

The picture is from the Post and Courier, Charleston, SC

For further ramblings please follow my author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

Embracing the Fringe

“Americans are being held hostage and terrorized by the fringes. That’s what’s going on here. It’s not like fifty percent of Americans thinks one thing and fifty percent thinks another thing. No, fifteen percent on each side are effectively controlling the conversation and seventy percent of us don’t hate each other.” -Arthur Brooks, president of the “center-right” American Enterprise Institute

I don’t know where Mr. Brooks got his numbers, or whether the number is dead on seventy, but I agree with the assessment.  There is a very vocal and active group on both sides of the political spectrum, far removed from the center, sowing seeds of division and we are allowing it.  We are embracing the fringe not realizing, it is the fringe…it is not the mainstream, but I fear the mainstream is shrinking because of it.

Any anarchist, white-supremacist, radical, reactionary, religious nut, atheist nut or Russian troll, can sit behind a computer, pound out a meme reflecting the worst-case scenario or out and out lie, and we just pass it along, accepting it is fact.  Any talk show or talk show host can scream at the top of their lungs and do the same.  Why?

One, we are lazy, and I’ve been guilty of assuming the source is on the side of the “angels” instead of assuming they are playing the angles.  After all, it must be correct, it’s on the internet.  It must be true, so and so has a radio program and he/she said it was true.  We are too lazy, or busy, to actually take the time to do research.  I suggest if you are too busy to research you might be spending too much time on social media.

We seem to be into worst case scenarios and conspiracy.  A recently proposed abortion law in Virginia brought out howls and vivid “pictures” of babies being ripped from their mother’s wombs and murdered.  The intent of the proposal was not to give women the last minute, “free out” to motherhood but to give them a choice if their life was endangered or if the baby could not survive.  The proposal has been put down, it is not law, but women in Virginia will not have the choice of saving themselves or saving their child.  A terrible choice at best, but one that has been taken out of the hands of the people who should be making the choice.

We broad stroke everything.  “All Republicans are racist or Nazis.” “All liberals want open borders and abortion on demand.”  “All Christians want to turn the US into a theocracy.”  “Muslims are taking over our country and want to institute Sharia Law.”  “The Trump administration is full of Nazis and everything is ‘fake news’.”  “This radical Representative wants to turn us into a Communist nation.” “The wall, the wall, ad nauseum.”

While there may be kernels of truth espoused by the fringe, it’s not THE truth for most of us in the middle are believing, those on either side of the political center, even most of our elected officials…but I fear the middle is shrinking…fearing the fear.

The hardest untruths to overcome are our own biases.  The extreme fringe plays on our biases.  Propaganda is not new, and it was never our friend.  We live in an age where propaganda assaults us in ways even Hitler and Goebbels couldn’t envision.  Whether it is a liberal or conservative bias in a news source, an active Russian agent, or little Johnny sitting in his momma’s basement trying to be cute, we must learn to recognize when a used car salesman or talk show host is puffing.  We must realize EVERYTHING IS NOT A CONSPIRACY, and every point has two sides and both sides may have valid beliefs.

What I’ve noticed?  Some of the worst offenders are “seasoned” folk like me.  We seem to want to hold on to what is more comfortable…what we are familiar with…even it is wrong.  We are uncomfortable with change or with different.  I understand why I really do.  The problem? The world is changing faster than we can accept and we don’t recognize it anymore.  The world we live in vastly different than the world we grew up in…and it is not going to change back no matter how much we kick, scream and drag our feet.  That doesn’t stop us from “wanting”.  We latch on to rabid headlines or graphic talking points supporting “the way it used to be” or the “way we think it should be.”

Despite a changing world, we don’t have to change our core values, but we must become aware that there are people living in our world trying to destroy us, internally and externally, using our core values against us.  We can also hold on to our core values without assuming everyone who does not share them are “out to get us and need to leave the country.”  They have core values too that may not too different from our own…if we get to know them.  We need to research over a broad plane instead of looking through the wrong end of a telescope.

I am much more assured we will withstand the external assault than I am the internal division.  I am saddened over our apparent hatred.  As we call each other inflammatory names, my heart breaks a little bit every day.  I am not a libtard and you are not deplorable but we can be hateful to each other.  We don’t have to be.  We can find common ground.

Words do carry weight.  Before you throw a verbal stone, at least check your sources.  Do we need to help Boris and Natashia catch “moose and squirrel?”  Do we need to help ourselves destroy each other?  Do we really need another civil war?

Postscript: This post was written prior to the State of the Union Address and will be posted the morning after.  I won’t watch the President’s speech and the Democrat’s response…or Bernie on YouTube. It is easier for me to read the transcript without hearing the emotion.  I fear both sides will be heavy on puffing and light on substance anyway.  I read that the President will call for unity and nonpartisanship. I hope he will follow through and that both sides listen.  I’m sure the fringes will explain everything you and I need to know in the days to come.

The initial quote came from an interview by Politico.  The entire article, ‘Americans are Being Held Hostage and Terrorized by the Fringes’, An exit interview with the American Enterprise Institute’s Arthur Brooks may be accessed at https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/05/13/arthur-brooks-american-enterprise-institute-interview-218364

If you are unfamiliar with the term, “puffing” refers to “extravagant claims made by sellers in order to attract buyers.” It is the exaggeration of the good points of a product, a business, real property, and the prospects for a future rise in value, profits, and growth.  https://definitions.uslegal.com/p/puffing/

Please take an opportunity to peruse Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

True Believers?

True Believer?

true believer. noun. One who is deeply, sometimes fanatically devoted to a cause, organization, or person

  1. (ecclesiastical) A strict follower of a religious doctrine.
  2. (idiomatic) One who sticks to one’s dogma or beliefs irrespective of the facts

I wish I was a “true believer,” all smug and sure of my beliefs on politics and religion.  I’m not.  As I interact with those who are, I find myself questioning my own beliefs and other people’s motives.  They say I only need to read the Bible to find the answers.  According to Biblegateway.com, there are over two hundred different translations of the Christian Bible in over sixty languages…”Which translation is the true word?”

There has been a positive outcome to my self-imposed abasement, my metaphorical self-flagellation.  I’ve found I am continually trying to answer the question, “What do I really believe” and continue to question my God as I make my quest.  I also wonder if “questing” is a sin.  According to some of these same “true believers”…maybe.

I grew up in the Methodist Church.  A very structured, high liturgical Methodist Church in a then-rural area with very “give me that old time religion” religious values.  In a previous writing, I might have referred to the church of my youth as a very “tight-assed” church.  “Tight-assed” as in very conventional, very orthodox…just like me at the time.

I have become less so as I have grown older but still consider myself a ‘way too’ conventional person who’s a want-to-be flower child.  Know any flower children hiding in an inhibited and repressed body?  I just can’t seem to dance like no one is watching. No matter how much I wish to be the aging 60’s hippy, I’m still…just…too…tight-assed.  Maybe if they legalize that there “marijahoochie….”  My Mother is rolling in her grave.

I left my tight-assed little rural church in 1968 and went on to attend a tight-assed Lutheran school of higher learning and received a liberal arts degree in history and education.  Again, a very conventional ‘I went to Vespers and Chapel kind of education’, and even considered becoming a man of the cloth until Greek and Latin got in the way.

For some reason, some “true believers” have been deemed my education “totally useless” even a “waste of time”.  With my recently vilified “Liberal Arts” diploma, my equally liberal advanced degrees in secondary education, I taught and coached for forty-five years, warping the minds of our youth.

I taught in schools that are being denigrated by some of my political and Christian right (far right?) friends as “hotbeds” of liberalism.  According to them, instead of teaching the three R’s we quote Marx and Lenin, create project-based lesson plans on the ‘Joys of Communism’ and begin every school day with a silent prayer to the Vodun Goddess Mahu.

I might have exaggerated a bit, but one exfriend deemed I had no worthwhile, “real” life experiences and did not understand “day to day” struggles of “real” men.  “As weak as preacher’s piss,” he said.  I’m guessing his educational experiences weren’t very positive.  Another brought by vocabulary in to question, “Simply showing off” because I used the term cognitive dissonance.   Well, bless your heart.

Reality is: teachers do none of the above, they do have the day to day struggles and I’ve known few weak ones.  Teachers are forced to teach to a test they’ve never seen or been allowed to ask questions about and administered at the end of the year.  They have little time to devote to politics or religion, liberal or conservative.  Also, I talk like I talk.

Teachers do pray, silently just after cursing under their breath, every time there is a full moon. Teachers pray to Jehovah, Yahweh, “Sweet Baby Jesus wrapped in fleece” or the patron saint of educators, Saint John-Baptiste de la Salle.  Some pray to Allah, some may pray to Lakshmi, some may pray to any diety willing to take “little Johnny” from their classroom.

They pray to anyone listening for survival and until “true believers” walk in their shoes, they should be quiet and sit down.  Too strong?  Sorry…now be quiet and sit down.

I don’t like combining politics and religion…or teaching for that matter.  Tying “a” religion to politics is destructive to both, destructive to children who don’t believe as you do…and is against the Constitution, something “true believers” seem to forget unless it is the Second Amendment.

The recent political battle between Progressives and Populists has pulled the middle toward opposite poles and taken religion with it…or maybe religion began the tug of war.  It bears pointing out, neither side is being productive doing it.

Despite my heresy…or blasphemy, I talk to God daily, multiple times.  As I ponder what I am typing now, I continue to ask to be “refreshed” and shown the true light.  I get no answer and take his or her silence to mean, “You’re on the right track, Bubba.”

Most of my conversations with Him revolve around my beliefs.  I continue to search for the path and question why so many “true believers” seem to express so much hatred toward their fellow humans.  Their expressions seem to be so contrary to the Good News I’ve read in the Gospels of Jesus Christ.

Let’s be clear.  I’m not speaking of all “true believers”.  Just those who believe theirs is the only way, those who are so sure of themselves religiously or politically, those who believe there is only black and white.  Those whose beliefs are hurtful to those who have no sin other than to be different.  Those who cross the boundary between deeply believing to extreme fanaticism.

My problem, if it truly is a problem, is that I view life in shades of gray.  There is no black or white…and no one hundred percent certainty.  There is no ‘ALL’ or ‘EVERY’.  There is only uncertainty.

An Indian philosopher, Bara Dada, in a quote restructured and attributed falsely to Gandhi, said, “Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians, you are not like him.”  I don’t believe this is true of all, but I believe the number of “not like Christ” Christians are growing to the point that I self-identify as a “Christ Follower” and not with a specific religion…I know, I still attend a Baptist Church but since the pandemic, it is easier not to.

Please don’t take my rant as being “holier than thou.”  I’m not.  Refer to the paragraph beginning “My problem….”  I just don’t understand why we are arguing our beliefs as if they were playing a rival football game…or a war.  “My god is better than yours?”  I should also point out, I have atheist friends and friends who practice non-Christian beliefs.  They seem to be more “Christ-like” and embracing than my many of my “Christian” friends.

I have just now realized my concerns are not about beliefs…it is about actions.  Your actions tell me all I need to know.  I believe words carry the same weight as actions.  My actions and words have weight.

It doesn’t matter what you call your God or god.  Be it Elohim, Jehovah, Yahweh, Allah, Vishnu, or Joe, do you rationalize your hate with your religion?  How do you rationalize it?  Maybe I’m not the one who needs to self-evaluate…but I will continue to do so.

For more gentle rantings https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image is the Church of Uncertain sign near Uncertain, Texas 

Wake up?  I am Awake What About You?

I was told to wake up by a former student.  I hold no ill will toward him and am happy he gave me a topic and a reason to vent.

I realize I don’t know everything, but I am awake.  Sometimes I wish wasn’t, just caught in a bad nightmare or watching bad horror movies.

I was young, but I wasn’t asleep during the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, used to stoke up war fever against Vietnam and communism.  I watched Cronkite describe the Tet Offensive and the destruction of any belief in victory. I cringed at the Mai Lai Massacre and its attempted cover-up.  I read the Pentagon Papers which uncovered the secrets of our clandestine involvement in Vietnam and its neighbors from Truman to Nixon.

I watched hollow-eyed veterans come home to a disrespect they didn’t deserve.  I saw the aftermath of the student massacres at Kent State and Orangeburg…something we the people didn’t deserve.  I viewed the Vietnam protests on my black and white TV.

The evening news showed protesters threatened with thirty caliber machine guns in Chicago and journalist Mike Wallace thrown to the floor for asking a question before being escorted out of the Democratic Convention.  Carnage raged outside the convention center as Daily’s minions used batons and tear gas to disperse protestors.

I experienced the Civil Rights era with government attempts to discredit Black leaders and the Black Panthers…something we still attempt to do today unless we need a good quote to make a point or someone to focus hatred upon.  1968 WAS a time when we really shouldn’t have believed our FBI.  No J. Edger Hoover probably wasn’t a crossdresser, but he was a paranoid racist at his best.

In real time, I watched people of color marginalized, beaten, bombed, and their buses set on fire.  Their votes suppressed by men who looked like me flying a flag from old time’s there not forgotten.  With reports from several states, how has that changed?

I lived through the assassinations of two Kennedys, a King and attempted assassinations on two Presidents.  I don’t believe Oswald or Jones did their evil alone but have no definitive proof, so I don’t spout off about it or embrace conspiracy theories.  I don’t believe in conspiracy theories about bombs being sent through the mail.

I witnessed, in black and white, the murder of a sovereign Asian countries’ president and a military coup but didn’t know we were complicit until well after the fact.  Complicit in attempted assassinations on Castro and the Bay of Pigs?  Yeah, those two and others.  Still, until the Seventies, I believed we wore the white hat in our gunfights at high noon and were better than assassinations, coups, and invasions.

Watergate and Contragate?  I witnessed the hearings that followed, a President riding off into the sunset and a Marine Colonel falling on his own sword so another President didn’t have to ride off to California.

Wake up?  Bullshit!

Gerald Ford told the nation their great nightmare was over.  Bill Clinton comforted the people of Oklahoma City and the nation after a mad bomber killed over a hundred and sixty.  George W. Bush left an elementary school reading to reassure a nation when planes crashed into skyscrapers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.  Yes, as we continue to point out, they were imperfect men, but they knew how to act in times of national distress.  They knew how to calm and unify.

Why do I need to wake up?  There is plenty of evil to go around, and I’ve lived through much of it, much of it created and covered up by our own government.  I don’t need to embrace loudmouths who make a living spouting conspiracy and pointing fingers at the other side.  Maybe we should wake up and realize they are nothing more than small-minded hatemongers attempting to make a buck.

When you share their hatred and conspiracies, you become a part of the problem.  Maybe you should wake up and realize when you share hate you become the problem that is undermining the nation and your friends and neighbors.  We need compromise, not a conspiracy.

More rants and musings at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

The image was liberated fromhttps://www.lifehack.org/648887/how-to-detect-a-wolf-in-sheeps-clothing

HERITAGE, HATE AND THE LIBERTY PLACE OBELISK

I’m not sure where I stand on the removal of monuments celebrating the “Lost Cause” mentality of the War for Southern Independence…well I guess I am sure. People have pontificated about the removal of monuments as being paramount to removing history itself. I doubt it. Jefferson Davis is still going to be the only president, ever, of the former Confederacy, Robert E. Lee, it’s most noted general and P. G. T. Beauregard, the commander of Confederate forces who first fired upon Fort Sumter, regardless of what monuments are removed. Southern history will remain, including Southern history contained within the pesky primary documents written prior to 1866. I view the dismantling of later memorials as removing the CELEBRATION of certain histories not removing the history itself. I view the Liberty Place obelisk, recently dismantled and removed from Iberville Street in New Orleans, as one of those monuments which should be hidden from sight…except for those who WISH to see it in a museum somewhere…and yes it should be treated with the respect it deserves.

We Southerners WILL continue to wage war defending our heritage, but the monument celebrating “The Battle of Liberty Place” had LITTLE to do with our late great, great grands attempting to stem the tide of a Federal invasion in 1861. Rather, the obelisk had everything to do with the memorialization of white supremacist attempting to disenfranchise one group and re-establish a government run by and for whites just before the end of Reconstruction. The original inscription, added by the City of New Orleans in 1932, leaves little confusion as to why the 1874 battle was fought. An all-white militia, made up of members of the Crescent City White League, fought a pitched battle against racially diverse metropolitan police for control of the city of New Orleans. The inscription stated, before being covered later, the battle was fought for the “overthrow of carpetbag government, ousting the usurpers” and that “the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.” No confusion at all.

With the Compromise of 1877, Reconstruction ended and Federal troops marched out of Southern states leaving the Redeemers to usher in constitutional changes reflecting their beliefs; disenfranchisement, Jim Crow and placing whites back on the top of the pyramidal pecking order. It was not only true in Louisiana but true in most, if not all, Southern states after President Hayes ended Reconstruction as part of a backroom political deal even modern Americans should be familiar with. This is a part of OUR Southern heritage and it too should not be erased…or ignored.

MY DIFFICULTY with monuments which praise of our Confederate forefathers, including the Battle Flag, has much to do with the other side of the coin. If we embrace our heritage, do we not have to recognize the other side of the argument? I read posts from many ardent supporters of Southern heritage espousing the “need for some people to just move on.” Isn’t “moving some people along”, while wrapping ourselves in the Confederate Battle Flag and lamenting the removal of memorials such as the obelisk, a bit hypocritical? Shouldn’t we just come out and say, “Our glorious heritage is MUCH more important than the pain YOUR forefathers experienced?” If we are going to own one side of the coin, do we not own the other?

For more of Don Miller’s writings please visit https://goo.gl/pL9bpP on Amazon.

CHANGE IS GOOD….

I so want this election and its aftermath to go away. I want to start 2017 refreshed and renewed…less depressed. I want to set goals and resolutions that I can break within the first month of 2017. I keep telling myself “change is good.” Give the guy a chance…maybe he will be the breath of fresh air. Then I realize change is only good if the change is good.

There is nothing I’ve seen or heard…in my narrow frame of reference… to make me believe “America will be great again” and yet I am willing to give the guy a chance. As much as I hate it, HE IS MY PRESIDENT. The problem is, I vizualize us circling the toilet, an orange man with bad hair peering into the bowl until he lowers the lid upon us, closing out what little bit of light is left. Honestly, I don’t blame him I blame “We the People.”

As a coach and teacher, as well as in the normal world, I heard repeatedly “Practice makes perfect.” Well that only works if the practice is perfect. Bad practice creates imperfection. The same can be said about change. Change is only good if it is needed, and if it is for the good. I don’t deny we need change but what I am seeing and hearing tells me “this change can’t be good” and it feels like “just a different kind of” poop. Unless you are growing tomatoes, dog shit and chicken shit are still shit or “shit by any other name is still….”

Our new president appears to be a serial liar and a thief…even more so than the run of the mill politician. My dad always said, “There are two types of people I cannot abide by, liars and thieves.” I agree but what bothers me is “we are allowing him to get away with it.” Critics are met with a Twitter “shit” storm or a belief the “media is out to get me.” Paranoia? Sorry, I believe all of us are biased, including the media, but the truth is still the truth, wherever it might come from. This goes beyond not liking the President-elect’s choices for high level positions, building walls, draining swamps, grabbing people by their privates or even being vindictive, another of the President-elect’s charming character traits. A vindictive thief and liar…and not very charming one. Can you at least kiss me while you “screw” the life out of me or should I just “lie back and enjoy it?”

Please don’t assume I want the election results thrown out. No, he won the electoral college “fair and square” but please admit a nearly three million deficit in the popular vote is not a huge mandate to lead…and no I don’t believe there is wide spread voter fraud…at least not three million votes worth. Admit the Russians played a role in this victory and that it was evident the election was being manipulated as early as October Seventh…as the evidence supports. Unless you are comfortable speaking Russian or writing in Cyrillic, admit we have a problem we must address. Not democrats, not republicans, all of us.

I grew up during the height of the Cold War. Cuban Missile Crisis, Viet Nam, “In case of nuclear attack…”, shoe pounding “We will bury you”, wait…did that not happen? I did not trust the Soviets then and I still don’t trust former Soviet, KGB officers who just happens to be the President of Russia and who appears to be as vindictive as… the orange guy with the bad hair.

I am just saying, for change to be good, we must ask questions and we can’t ignore the answers just because the answers don’t fit what we want to believe. Call me cynical but I quit believing in the “White Hatted” America during Viet Nam and Watergate. Nothing about 2016 has restored my belief “in truth, justice and the American way.” Where is Superman when we need him?

For more of Don Miller visit his author’s page at http://goo.gl/lomuQf