Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Nature's Fleeting Artistry

Spiders have been hard at work, crafting elegant pendants adorned with dew drops, on the Harry Lauder's Walking Stick ( aka Corkscrew hazelnut aka Corylus avellana 'contorta.') 

I'd love to see what a talented jeweler, working with gold and silver and gems, could do with these designs.

Would a permanent creation be a pleasing as these ephemeral beauties, destined to vanish in the sun and wind?

Monday, May 23, 2016

Eve of Destruction?

"We had to destroy the village in order to save it." 

This seems to be the mentality of an uncomfortably large number of the American electorate who, unhappy with the status quo, are looking for a quick fix.

Or a revolution.

There are the evangelicals who say that Trump was sent by God.  Try to wrap your head around that. But then Billy Graham's daughter says God sends terrorists to remind us we need him. Maybe Trump is a reminder along the same lines. But I digress.

Of course many of these evangelicals are the same folks who would welcome Armageddon, who love the conflict in the Middle East as it brings the world closer to what they see as the biblical End Times. Could it be that the Beast with Bad Hair is foretold in Revelations? Oops, there I go digressing again.

Then there's the Bernie or Bust group who, if their candidate doesn’t get the nod, say they'd welcome the cataclysm that is Trump – to destroy the system.

 And then what?

I see the frustration so many feel as they watch the world they knew changing, the world in which their status and privilege was a birthright. I see the fear of the unknown so many feel as social mores shift. And I see the impatience of so many with the Byzantine nomination process and party politics. . .

Burn it down and build anew?

I don't trust what might follow that revolution. I agree that we need change but, divided as our country is, one person's welcome change would surely be another person's idea of tyranny. 

The change we need will require not revolution but a tedious, boring, frustratingly adult enterprise –a slow, two steps forward, one step back, process. It will necessitate compromise. Are there are enough adults in the electorate to accomplish this?

Meanwhile, the buzzards are circling.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Dandelions Remind Me . . .

                                  . . . But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;

And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity. . .

(from To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Thinking in Black and White

A while back, one of my friends made the comment that they don't seem to teach patriotism in schools any more.  As this friend and I are on pretty much opposite ends of the political spectrum, this seemed to me a topic fraught with danger and I made some non-committal reply and the conversation went elsewhere. But the question has remained with me.

I thought back -- was I taught 'patriotism' -- love and devotion to my country -- in school? 

We said the Pledge of Allegiance every day. We sang America the Beautiful, The Star Spangled Banner, and My Country, 'Tis of Thee. (We also sang Dixie, but that's another discussion.) We memorized the Preamble to the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address. In eighth grade Civics, Miss Lucas taught us the basics of how our government works. And we read and memorized patriotic poems like "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" and "In Flanders Fields."

It's in a government's best interest, isn't it, to ensure that its children grow up to love and support their country? But on reflection, all that pledging allegiance and singing patriotic songs seems uncomfortably reminiscent of the methods used by totalitarian regimes -- the Red Guards, Hitler Youth, the blind devotion to the Dear Leader demanded of North Korean citizens. 

Of course, our indoctrination was less extreme. For many of us it was just background noise, the default mode. We lived in the USA, therefore we were proud citizens. USA! USA! We're Number One!

For many of us it was the Vietnam War that forced us to come to terms with the the blindly 'patriotic' mindset of "My country, right or wrong, is always right."  Could one disagree with the war one's country was fighting and still be patriotic? Was it true that our flag decal wouldn't get us into heaven anymore?

If they don't teach patriotism in the schools today, it may only be that due to the pressures of constant testing, patriotism, along with Art and Music and Recess had been ditched in favor of reviewing the materials of upcoming tests.

Or it may be that, like religion, there is no one size fits all. 

It's too hard to agree on what patriotism is or what's the best way to create patriots. And what kind of patriots anyway  -- blindly obedient to and supportive of the state or knowledgeable and questioning?

Some states (I'm looking at you, Texas) mandate that their history books downplay the unpleasant aspects of the past -- little things like slavery, genocide, imperialism -- in order to portray America as an ideal nation, one that a patriot can be proud of. 

To me, this smacks of Soviet revisionism, of the constant re-writing of history in Orwell's 1984 (do they still teach 1984 anymore?)

It's a knotty problem, this patriotism thing. Personally, I'm in favor of knowing the worst of the past, in hopes of doing better in the future.

And, on sober reflection, I think I'd much prefer our children be taught Civics -- how our government works and how it can be changed by voting.

What do you think? I'd especially love to hear from anyone  with ties to our school system -- is patriotism taught and, if so, in what form?