Probably most of you have seen these, but if not they may amuse you:
As we infantilize ourselves. (I view this somewhat ruefully because, unlike apparently most of the Chicagoboyz, I’m totally incompetent. Last New Year’s Day my brother walked into our kitchen, asked what was wrong with the sink – I said we were going to phone a plumber after the holiday. He looked at it, climbed under the sink, screwed the head on the hose, and it has worked ever since.)
The friend who forwarded that (who I might say is skilled at both dressing for success and hacking down a tree, at editing a paper and remodeling a room) sent two sons to the first Gulf War and one of them forwarded this to her.
And this rant is cheerful (even if the Iowa Trades are not likely to make us feel the sentiment is as widespread as we’d like).
Our schools, which we have criticized so often and so thoroughly, are in the hands of those who believe, read, and honor Bill Ayers. It isn’t that we don’t know the goal of any education initiatve under Obama.
But Jonathan (and Assistant Village Idiot whom he quotes) assume that we will be an Army of Davids, educating ourselves. The Kindle & the Teaching Company are re-imagining that old tradition of the Lyceum groups and later Chatauqua ones. Book clubs are reinvigorating an old tradition: my mother went to her monthly literary club (Readmore it was called); my father and the local Lutheran minister led others in their monthly Great Books Club. In a town of 500 in the middle of the middle west, the fifties were alive in ways that we sometimes forget (especially, perhaps, we boomers who often assume the world was gray until we arrived on the scene to give it some color).
The future – our retirement, our schools (education under Obama bother me the most) – seems a bit bleak. But America has survived a Civil War and many depressions, it assimilated millions of immigrants at the turn of the last century, then fought as one through two world wars and a cold one. We didn’t elect Henry Wallace. If we had, we’d still be America. Our constitution might be challenged, but it has not grown ragged in well over 200 years.
Maybe we won’t recognize what we have until we are very, very close to losing it. And perhaps it wil be that desire to learn outside the academy that will help us become aware of what we might lose – certainly I found “Founding a Republic of Virtue” a real counterweight to American “imperialism.” If we retain self-reliance and our belief in the open marketplace of ideas, those old ideas may prove themselves, yet again.
And self-reliance, accepting the challenges as tests not as defeats is an old story the Puritans and Federalists, for all their differences, understood. Later, in the American Renaissance, writers tried to puzzle out loyalties: torn between their affection for not only Americans but the U.s. itself, but also to American values the government sometimes beautifully embodied – but sometimes betrayed in ugly ways. Those were the old guys; listen to John Adams after the Declaration of Independence was signed,
It may be the will of Heaven that America shall suffer calamities still more wasting and distressing yet more dreadful. If this is to be the case, it will have this good effect, at least: it will inspire us will many virtues, which we have not, and correct many errors, follies, and vices, which threaten to disturb, dishonor, and destroy us. The furnace of affliction produces refinement, in states as well as individuals. And the new governments we are assuming, in every part, will require a purification from our vices and an augmentation of our virtues or they will be no blessings. The people will have unbounded power. And the people are extremely addicted to corruption and venality, as well as the great. I am not without apprehensions from this quarter, but I must submit all my hopes and fears to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the faith may be, I firmly believe.
A little over a year ago I quoted Mac McAnally’s lyrics. Performed by Sawyer Brown, they come back to me again – and I wonder how close we will have to come to losing “it” before the country as a whole (or at least a majority) realizes “how much” it is we stand to lose.
But then, again, fifteen years ago I would have thought gun control was a good idea. Now, I see that those rights are bound together, reinforcing and strengthening each other. If it took me this long, how can I be critical of those around me who accept an NPR view – I did for so long. But, of course, I was wrong – and they are, too.