We are frequently reminded by talking heads and newsfeeds that words do matter, and when people lack an understanding of meaning, nuance and context, words can be wielded as weapons to manipulate and delude or can unintentionally be misused in ways that can send the international community—or a spouse/partner—into turmoil.
I was awakened this morning by my literary conscience asking me: If words do matter, why have I neglected to explain the origin of the title of my blog: Education and Freedom?
Voici la raison…
I am a discontented American. If I was contented, would I spend hours musing on such things as blog posts? The foundation of my current discontent is the fact that I am a worst-case-scenario kind of guy: when the disaster comes, I’ll be the one who is ready for it (I tell myself). Of course, believing this is delusional, but not delusional enough to move me to spend time and money on a therapist, which means I am likely to remain as I am until the end, whether that comes in 24 minutes or 24 years.
Given my predilection to sniff out disasters, in the early fall of 2016, I began to fuss about “What if he wins?” The fussing generated a train of thought that led to an affirmation of the Constitution as being but a piece of paper, and that if/when a President decides s/he wants to disregard it, there is little anyone can do about it.
For example, if impeached and convicted, who will physically remove a President who refuses to leave, Chuck Schumer? Mitch McConnell? And if in less than 24 hours, thousands of loyal crazies summoned by Tweet and armed to the teeth with AR-15s and RPGs are defiantly surrounding the White House, what then? Am I a worst-case-scenario kind of guy? I rest my case.
Two years later, I am feeling less delusional and more certain about the possibility of a worst case scenario becoming the scenario…but I digress…
A visceral trepidation made it difficult for me to fall asleep on the night of November 8, 2016, and I still felt it when I awoke, a foreboding so intense that after breakfast that morning I lit a candle for the first and only time in my life at a Catholic Church. I do not expect that a prayer is like a wish—it will not evaporate if shared—so I can tell you that I prayed for the survival of my country as I then understood it to be.
In the months that followed, despite all of the public protestations that this or that overt step toward institutionalized intolerance or all-out totalitarianism “is not who we are,” I came to realize it is, in fact, who we are, or who at least 40% of us are. These fellow citizens provide through their votes, Tweets, posts, hats, rally behavior, et al, evidence of their acceptance of kingly behavior and of systemic intolerance of—even active hatred of—the “other,” all of which is testimony to woeful ignorance—or willful rejection—of the Founding Principles of American Democracy.
Because of my lifelong personal naïveté about this reality, in the year following the 2016 election, I wondered how it came to pass that American Democracy had ended up on life support. There have been books written and thousands of hours of media analysis since the election that postulate how a President came to power, but how has it come to pass that at least 40% of our fellow Americans do not support America’s Founding Principles? As a career educator, I did not have far to look: a mirror.
Thomas Jefferson once wrote…
A government is like everything else: to preserve it we must love it…Everything, therefore, depends on establishing this love in a republic; and to inspire it ought to be the principal business of education….
Our current plight—and it is a plight with global consequences, not to mention the uncertain futures of our children and grandchildren—can be laid directly at the feet of American educators. We have failed—massively and miserably failed—to inspire decades worth of children to love our Republic, to do what it is our American Democracy demands of each of us, and to realize the fragility of what American Democracy provides: freedom of speech, of peaceful assembly, of religion; freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances; freedom from discrimination based upon race, color, creed, religion, or who you love; the right to due process and more…
And because we, American Educators, have failed to inspire our children to love our Republic and all that American Democracy entails, Americans are on the verge of losing the freedoms our Constitution promises. After all, it is only a piece of paper that readily disintegrates in the acid vapors of ignorance. But isn’t the antidote of ignorance, Education? Freedom requires Education.
As fragile cornerstones of American Democracy, Education and Freedom require each other, and they require our attention; hence, the name of my blog.