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It's not often we go to a movie theater. Seriously. I may have forgotten something, but I believe the last time we did so was in 2016, to see "Sully." But yesterday I couldn't resist venturing out for "Sound of Freedom."
Why? Well, for one thing, the subject—modern-day slavery and human trafficking—sounded important and serious and worth spending time on. I look at the ads for so many movies these days and they sound boring at best. For another, I unexpectedly caught an interview with Tim Ballard, the real-life hero upon whom the film is based, and then later another with Jim Caviezel, the actor who portrays him. Ballard was a Homeland Security agent who quit his job of bringing down paedophiles in order to focus on rescuing their victims. I'm generally leery of movies that are "based on a true story," because they are so often inaccurate, but over and over again, Ballard would say, "yes, that really happened," or "that's actually understated," and he obviously approves of the film. Caviezel's interview was inspiring as well.
Perhaps the largest factor driving my desire to see "Sound of Freedom" was the surprising, even virulent opposition to the movie from sources I would have expected to cheer any effort to bring light into the deep darkness of slavery, kidnapping, human trafficking, and the exploitation of children. Unfortunately, that seemed to fit into a pattern I've been observing recently, that of downplaying the very existence of modern-day slavery, and pushing the idea that sex workers especially, even children, are voluntary participants in the business. Since no sane observer of human nature and human history could possibly really believe that, I had to see what it was that had generated such fierce opposition.
The only conclusion I can come to is that either (1) evil is now, if not worse than at any point in human history, at least more generally accepted by ordinary people as normal, or (2) there are a lot of rich and powerful people who have a great interest in the sex-slave trade. Probably both.
Even suggesting that is likely to get you labelled as a "conspiracy theorist"; as the makers of "Sound of Freedom" have learned. My opinion has always been that there's no need to call conspiracy anything that can be explained by mere human stupidity, but these days I'm seriously considering making myself a t-shirt that proclaims, "The Conspiracy Theorists Were Right."
Anyway, "Sound of Freedom" has my highest recommendation. Those who are accustomed to the ultra-fast-paced movies of today might find a few scenes a bit slow, but that didn't trouble me at all. The film is rated PG-13, which is pretty mild considering the subject matter. It's a story about a very dark and evil subject, but is nonetheless filled with goodness and hope. That's hard to beat.
Go ahead, do yourself a favor. See "Sound of Freedom." I'm not sure how young an age group should see it. Definitely our three oldest grandchildren could, but for younger than that it might be too intense. Probably PG-13 isn't a bad guideline.
It's not an easy film to watch, especially for parents and grandparents, but it's a good one.
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Enough is enough.
I won't drink Bud Light. I won't buy Ben & Jerry's ice cream.
Big deal. I don't like beer, and I've long found Ben & Jerry's not worth the price, especially since they sold out.
I almost never buy spices from Penzey's—previously my absolute favorite spice source—having found alternatives that aren't deliberately offensive to half their potential customers. I still buy King Arthur flour, because it's simply the best I've found, but the company has become more aggressive in pushing their political positions, and that has left a bad taste in my mouth—maybe not the smartest move when you're a food company.
Or any company.
I get it. Corporations are run by people, and people have opinions and favorite causes. A business can seem like a very handy bulldozer with which to push those opinions and causes. But behavior that may be appropriate for individuals and small businesses is annoying (or much worse) when adopted by large companies.
Corporations: You want to make the world better? I have some suggestions for what to do with your money and influence. Do these first, before throwing your weight around in places that have nothing to do with your business. And if you can, do it quietly, without blowing your own trumpet too much, please.
- Think and act locally. Make your community glad to have you as a neighbor.
- Provide good jobs, and pay your employees fairly. You have extra funds? Give them a raise, or at least a bonus.
- Improve working conditions. Consider not only physical health and safety but mental and social health, and opportunities for autonomy and initiative.
- Clean up your act. Wherever you are, make the water and air you put out cleaner than that which you took in. (Until the late 1960's, my father worked for the General Electric Company in Schenectady, New York, and I've never forgotten his comment that the water that went back into the Mohawk River from their plant was cleaner than what they had taken out of it. Whether that said more about GE's water treatment or the state of the Mohawk at the time I leave to your speculation.)
- If you're a publicly-held company, don't forget your shareholders. Think beyond next quarter's numbers and work to make your business a good long-term investment.
- Return charity to where it belongs. Instead of using their money to contribute to your favorite causes, lower your prices and let your customers decide what to do with the extra cash. Maybe they'll contribute to their favorite causes. Freely-given charity is always better than forced charity. Maybe they'll even spend the extra money on more of your products, who knows? But being generous with other people's money doesn't make you virtuous, it makes you despicable.
- Improve your product. Are you making or doing something worthwhile? Then do it better.
Any or all of these business improvements would make the world a better place without controversy. I've never understood why a company would deliberately and aggressivly seek to alienate half its customer base, but that seems to be happening more and more frequently. Do they think those who appreciate their controversial stance will out of gratitude buy more to take up the slack? Do they think they can ride out a temporary downturn and that those who are offended will quickly forget and go back to "business as usual?" My cynical side thinks they may be right about the latter, but I also think we may be reaching a tipping point.
I'm not a fan of boycots, preferring to make my commercial decisions based on quality and price rather than on politics. But I sense, in myself and in others, a growing distaste for dealing with companies that have gone out of their way to make it clear they think I'm not good enough to be their customer. I still shop at Target, but I just realized that the last time was more than three months ago. I still buy King Arthur flour, but find myself less inclined to linger over their catalog and consider their other products. Penzey's still has some products I can't get elsewhere, and I won't rule out another purchase—but I find myself unconsciously doing without instead. Small potatoes, sure. What difference can one formerly enthusiastic customer make to such large corporations?
A big difference, if that one person is part of a groundswell of discontent. I think it's happening.
I call on all businesses to adopt my simple model of true corporate responsibility. If you want to see better fruit, nourish the world at its roots.
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I just saw an awesome t-shirt; if I had documented Native American blood in my lineage, I'd buy one immediately.
Back in the days when the YMCA Parent-Child programs were Native-American themed, our "tribes" were invited to come to the real annual pow-wows of Florida's Native peoples. These joyous occasions—in atmosphere much like the small-town fairs of my upstate New York childhood memory, though with a different flavor—featured the expected drumming, dancing, singing, and my personal favorite, pumpkin fry bread.
The gatherings were also overtly Christian and proudly patriotic. Many of the people also preferred the name "Indian" over "Native American," so out of respect for them I never feel bad about using that now-out-of-fashion term.
The t-shirt I mentioned? I can so see these people wearing that shirt with pride. It proclaimed,
America: Love It
or Give It Back!
Soon after Russia invaded the Ukraine, I posted this plea to Pray for Russia. Over a year later, the need is greater still.
I'm a child of the Cold War, accustomed to thinking of Russia as the Enemy. (More accurately, the Soviet Union, but "Russia" was a common catch-all term.) Right up until the Berlin Wall came down and Communism in Eastern Europe fell with it. After that, despite a certain amount of sabre-rattling, we enjoyed a thirty-year period of vastly improved relationships, especially on the people-to-people level. Travel between our countries became easier, and Americans and Russians found room in their hearts for friendship, appreciation, and mutual respect.
We even planned a visit to St. Petersburg, and scheduled it for September of 2020. We all know how that worked out. That's one evil that can't be laid at Vladimir Putin's door.
The Hermitage is now forever out of reach for me. True, I never thought I'd be able to travel to Cuba, and yet we did, in 2017. Nonetheless, my imagination won't stretch to my living long enough for Russian-American relations to get back to the casual tourist level.
It's easy, once again, to see Russia as the Enemy. It's hard not to fly the Ukrainian flag in our hearts, since they were the ones who were invaded, even if we know that the situation is more complicated than we want to believe. (Wars always are.)
It may be tempting to view today's news of potential Civil War in Russia as a positive sign, but I think that's misguided. It's naïve in the extreme to believe that Putin's downfall could only be an improvement.
Pray for Russia. For our sakes as well as theirs.
I'll leave the last word to J. R. R. Tolkien.
For a while the hobbits sat in silence. At length Sam stirred. "Well, I call that neat as neat," he said. "If this nice friendliness would spread about in Mordor, half our trouble would be over."
"Quietly, Sam," Frodo whispered. "There may be others about. We have evidently had a very narrow escape, and the hunt was hotter on our tracks than we guessed. But that is the spirit of Mordor, Sam; and it has spread to every corner of it. Orcs have always behaved like that, or so all tales say, when they are on their own. But you can’t get much hope out of it. They hate us far more, altogether and all the time. If those two had seen us, they would have dropped all their quarrel until we were dead."
"It is a pity that our friends lie in between," said Gimli. "If no land divided Isengard and Mordor, then they could fight while we watched and waited."
"The victor would emerge stronger than either, and free from doubt," said Gandalf.
You know I'm a big fan of Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying—the folks I call my favorite Left Coast Liberals. There's a lot we disagree about, but plenty of common ground, and I admire their dogged search for truth and willingness to follow where it leads, even if that sometimes aligns them with people they were once taught to despise.
For longer than I have known of them, YouTube has been profiting off their popular DarkHorse Podcast without remunerating them in any way. That is, YouTube "demonetized" them, which means that they can no longer get revenue from the ads YouTube attaches to their posts. The ads are still there, but YouTube takes all the profit for themselves, instead of just a percentage. (Okay, I'm aware that 100% is also a percentage; you know what I mean.) It's a dirty trick, and forces content creators to tie themselves in knots trying to avoid giving YouTube an excuse to demonetize them or to shut them down altogether. In frustration and protest, many creators have left YouTube. But that's a tough way to go, as YouTube's stranglehold as a video content platform is exceedingly strong.
One alternative that has become more and more popular is Rumble, largely because it makes a point of censoring only the most egregious content (e.g. pornography, illegal behavior) while encouraging free speech and debate, including unpopular views—such as the idea that the COVID-19 virus was originally created in the Wuhan lab during U.S.-sponsored gain-of-function research. While widely accepted now, it was not long ago that expressing such an opinion on YouTube was a fast track to oblivion.
Rumble has been steadily making improvements, but it's still not as polished and easy to use as YouTube. YouTube still has a virtual monopoly, so few content creators can afford to drop it altogether. And if your content has no political, medical, or socially-unacceptable content, it's hard to find the incentive to make the effort to switch. So I won't be boycotting YouTube any time soon.
That said, I'm glad to see that while we were out of the country, DarkHorse began moving to Rumble. Apparently they will do what many other creators have done, keeping a smaller presence on YouTube, which has by far the wider reach, while enduing Rumble with additional content. Viva Frei, for example (my favorite Canadian lawyer's site), does the first half hour or so of his podcast on both YouTube and Rumble, then invites his YouTube viewers to move to Rumble for the rest of the show. How it will eventually work out for DarkHorse I don't know yet, but for the moment, their podcasts still appear on YouTube, but the question-and-answer sessions, along with some other content, are exclusive to Rumble.
In honor of DarkHorse's new venue, and to give myself a chance to learn how to embed a Rumble video here, the following is the Q&A session from Podcast #175.
Embedding the video turned out go be easy enough, but I haven't yet figured out how to specify beginning and ending times. So I'll just mention that the section from 12:47 to 31:10, where Bret and Heather deal with the subject of childhood vaccinations, is particularly profitable. It may lead some of my readers to realize how insightful they themselves were many long years ago.
Heather's brief environmental rant from 1:11:35 to 1:12:45 is also worth listening to.
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In a post from earlier this year, The Domestication of City Dwellers, Heather Heying expresses many of my doubts about the crazy new "15-minute cities" concept, along with some I hadn't thought of.
Fifteen minute cities are intended to reduce sprawl and traffic, facilitate social interactions with your neighbors, and give you your time back. If it took fifteen minutes or less to get to all the places that you need and want to go, imagine how much more possibility there could be in life.
You might well wonder how such remarkable results will be achieved. The answer is: through restricting automobile travel between neighborhoods, fining people who break the new travel restrictions, and keeping a tech-eye wide open, with surveillance cameras everywhere.
Apparently, say the promoters of fifteen minute cities, we need to promote access over mobility. In their world, the definitions are these: “Mobility is how far you can go in a given amount of time. Accessibility is how much you can get to in that time.” The same post further argues that “Mobility - speed - is merely a means to an end. The purpose of mobility is to get somewhere, to points B, C, D, and E, wherever they may be. It’s the 'getting somewhere' — the access to services and jobs — that matters.”
This is not just confusing, it’s a bait-and-switch. Speed is not the same thing as mobility. Being able to “get somewhere” is mobility. Mobility means freedom to move. This freedom has been undermined for the last three years, in many countries, under the guise of protecting public health.
Fifteen-minute cities would further restrict your freedom to move. Your ability to get anywhere will be restricted under the pretense of making it easier and faster to get everywhere that you really need or want to go.
Dr. Heying goes on to explain several of the problems with this reasoning, and the whole article is worth reading. Including the footnotes. But few of her points were the ones that immediately jumped out at me.
First of all, who decides what exactly it is that comprises "everywhere that I really need or want to go"? One dentist is just as good as any another, right? Once upon a time, one church (Catholic) was all that any town needed; who really needs churches of different Christian denominations, not to mention mosques and Hindu temples?
If there's a public school within 15 minutes of my house, certainly I don't need to send my kids to a private school that may be located outside my neighborhood? In fact, this 15-minute city idea has a strong odor of our American public school system—in which children must attend the nearest school, and parental choice in education is strongly opposed—writ large.
And how will these convenient services for "everything we need and want" be set up? Who gets to open a grocery store in which neighborhood? What if no one wants to open a store there? Will some neighborhoods have only government-run facilities? Will we have mega-stores with every variety of foodstuffs instead of family-run ethnic markets? Or maybe no stores at all, just Amazon Prime? Do we really want thousands of tiny libraries, art museums, and concert venues, each offering a tiny fraction of what is now available? Or will we be told that we should get all our culture and information online?
And worst of all: Granted, it would be wonderful if all our loved ones lived within 15 minutes of our homes. Imagine having all our friends so close, and grandchildren just down the street! But how will that be accomplished? Our friends and family are spread all over the globe. Of course I'd like them to be closer—but not at the cost of imprisoning them! Even if they were all forced to move into the same 15-minute neighborhood, how long could such a situation be sustainable? Population control on a massive and tyrannical scale?
Besides, anyone who has grown up in a small town knows not only how wonderful they are, but also how insular, parochial, and restrictive they can be. If our COVID lockdowns produced a massive increase in suicide and other mental health problems, just wait till we've lived in 15-minute cities for a generation.
And if in that one generation people have come to believe that living under such tyranny is normal and good—the only word for that is tragedy.
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I couldn't resist that subject title, because it certainly grabbed my attention as the lead-in to an excerpt from a conversation between Mary Harrington and Bret Weinstein. As I've often said before, the whole conversation (1.5 hours) is worthwhile.
In this one, you can see chapter divisions if you hover your mouse over the progress bar. (approximate starting times in parentheses)
- Feminism against progress - history (2:45)
- Disagreement over progress and liberation (9:00)
- Digital and sexual revolution (25:50)
- Sexual marketplace (43:10)
- Traditional gender roles and hypernovelty (50:10)
- Internet and silos (57:20)
- Libertarian approach to sex industry (1:00:00)
- Sex is not recreational (1:09:00)
- The patriarchy (1:17:00)
- Porn and sexual violence (1:26:45)
If I were to recommend an excerpt, I'd go from Libertarian approach to sex industry through the end.
Just two quotes for this; it's far to annoying to extract them from the audio.
At one time, children would have played a sport, and they would have been very passionate about it, and what has happened is that has been transmuted into an act of consumerism, where what you do is you support a team, or you are very avid about a particular sport that you watch on your television, and so instead of playing baseball you are consuming baseball...."
That doesn't seem related to the rest of the discussion, but they go on to tie it in with sex. I picked this one to quote because it makes an important, more general point about participation versus consumerism, and I immediately added music to the list. As one church musician told me, "In worship, of course I want the music to be excellent. But I'd rather have a little old lady plunking out notes on an out-of-tune piano than sing hymns with a professional sound track."
And here's the rest of the vegan bacon comment. Agree or disagree with the statement, you have to admit it's an unforgettable image.
Contraceptive sex is like vegan bacon; it's kind of the same, but is it any wonder that people are adding a lot of hot sauce? Because the flavor just isn't quite there.
A lot has changed in 35 years, and not all for the better.
Looking through some old journal entries, I read about a time when our five-year-old daughter spiked a fever at night.
She ran a fever last night. I don't know how high, but she was delirious [her not-uncommon response to fevers]. If it weren't so serious, it would be entertaining, listening to her describe the things she sees. Normally I would wait a few days to see what would happen, but things are so busy that I took her to the doctor, since if she were going to need an antibiotic, I wanted it started right away. But: "It's a virus, $32 please."
She can go back to school tomorrow. "Why not?" they said. "That's where she got it in the first place."
Can you imagine that scenario taking place today? Yet that's the way life was, and I think those were saner times.
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In times of crisis, traditional rules of procedural fairness can be modified.
So said Gerard Kennedy, Canadian law professor and politician, on the freezing of protesters' bank accounts. (You can read his testimony here.)
The best and truest rejoinder to that I've heard came, I think, from David Freiheit (also a Canadian lawyer):
In times of crisis, traditional rules of fairness need to be fortified, not modified.
As most of you know, David Freiheit (Viva Frei) has been my favorite Canadian lawyer since sometime in 2020. Even though he no longer practices law and subsequently fled Canada for Florida, for the sake of his kids. I haven't posted anything from him in a while, because, frankly, his explosion of fame following his livestream coverage of the Canadian truckers' Freedom Convoy has meant that I can't possibly keep up with him.
However, we recently made time for his 1.5-hour interview with Dr. Bret Weinstein, and except for the first three minutes, every second was worthwhile. We were even happy to listen to it at normal speed (which we have to do when watching it on television instead of on the computer) because the information content is dense.
Since most of you will find the time commitment untenable, please at least take ten minutes and listen to minutes 21 through 31, and Bret's story about the incredible discovery he made in his grad school research about cancer, longevity, and the laboratory mice used in drug safety testing. If that whets your appetite for the rest of the interview, so much the better.
Bret is an excellent speaker: clear, cogent, and riveting. Viva and the other host, Robert Barnes, are normally quite interactive with their guests, sometimes to the point where I wish they would shut up and let the guest continue speaking. Not this time. As one commenter put it, "Watching Barnes and Frei blink for 10 minutes or more at a time with their lips closed is so unnatural...." Bret is that interesting.
I've been watching Bret's DarkHorse Podcasts for quite a while now, and I still learned a lot here. Skip the first three minutes—after that it's gold.
Those of you who are better than I am at remembering political names will understand Porter's oft-repeated saying from the very end of the last century:
In the 2000 election, I was afraid our hopes would be Daschled and our aspirations Gored, but instead we were am-Bushed.
Thinking about President George W. Bush, I am reminded of President Jimmy Carter of the opposite party: great person, terrible president. High ideals do not an effective statesman make. Neither are they sufficient to impart the wisdom needed to lead a country through crisis. There's a Darkness in our politics that delights in taking down naïve idealism, and it doesn't much care what political affiliation it uses.
Nonetheless, I'll take the hopeful, honest call to courage of Bush's first inaugural address—superbly crafted by speechwriter Michael Gerson and delivered on January 20, 2001—over the bitter, divisive anger that is stock-in-trade today, when more than ever our differences run so deep, it seems we share a continent, but not a country.
President Clinton, distinguished guests and my fellow citizens:
The peaceful transfer of authority is rare in history, yet common in our country. With a simple oath, we affirm old traditions and make new beginnings.
As I begin, I thank President Clinton for his service to our nation; and I thank Vice President Gore for a contest conducted with spirit and ended with grace.
I am honored and humbled to stand here, where so many of America's leaders have come before me, and so many will follow.
We have a place, all of us, in a long story. A story we continue, but whose end we will not see. It is the story of a new world that became a friend and liberator of the old, a story of a slave-holding society that became a servant of freedom, the story of a power that went into the world to protect but not possess, to defend but not to conquer. It is the American story. A story of flawed and fallible people, united across the generations by grand and enduring ideals. The grandest of these ideals is an unfolding American promise that everyone belongs, that everyone deserves a chance, that no insignificant person was ever born. Americans are called upon to enact this promise in our lives and in our laws; and though our nation has sometimes halted, and sometimes delayed, we must follow no other course.
Through much of the last century, America's faith in freedom and democracy was a rock in a raging sea. Now it is a seed upon the wind, taking root in many nations. Our democratic faith is more than the creed of our country, it is the inborn hope of our humanity, an ideal we carry but do not own, a trust we bear and pass along; and even after nearly 225 years, we have a long way yet to travel.
While many of our citizens prosper, others doubt the promise, even the justice, of our own country. The ambitions of some Americans are limited by failing schools and hidden prejudice and the circumstances of their birth; and sometimes our differences run so deep, it seems we share a continent, but not a country. We do not accept this, and we will not allow it. Our unity, our union, is the serious work of leaders and citizens in every generation; and this is my solemn pledge, "I will work to build a single nation of justice and opportunity." I know this is in our reach because we are guided by a power larger than ourselves who creates us equal in His image and we are confident in principles that unite and lead us onward.
America has never been united by blood or birth or soil. We are bound by ideals that move us beyond our backgrounds, lift us above our interests and teach us what it means to be citizens. Every child must be taught these principles. Every citizen must uphold them; and every immigrant, by embracing these ideals, makes our country more, not less, American.
Today, we affirm a new commitment to live out our nation's promise through civility, courage, compassion and character. America, at its best, matches a commitment to principle with a concern for civility. A civil society demands from each of us good will and respect, fair dealing and forgiveness. Some seem to believe that our politics can afford to be petty because, in a time of peace, the stakes of our debates appear small. But the stakes for America are never small. If our country does not lead the cause of freedom, it will not be led. If we do not turn the hearts of children toward knowledge and character, we will lose their gifts and undermine their idealism. If we permit our economy to drift and decline, the vulnerable will suffer most. We must live up to the calling we share. Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of community over chaos. This commitment, if we keep it, is a way to shared accomplishment.
America, at its best, is also courageous. Our national courage has been clear in times of depression and war, when defending common dangers defined our common good. Now we must choose if the example of our fathers and mothers will inspire us or condemn us. We must show courage in a time of blessing by confronting problems instead of passing them on to future generations.
Together, we will reclaim America's schools, before ignorance and apathy claim more young lives; we will reform Social Security and Medicare, sparing our children from struggles we have the power to prevent; we will reduce taxes, to recover the momentum of our economy and reward the effort and enterprise of working Americans; we will build our defenses beyond challenge, lest weakness invite challenge; and we will confront weapons of mass destruction, so that a new century is spared new horrors.
The enemies of liberty and our country should make no mistake, America remains engaged in the world by history and by choice, shaping a balance of power that favors freedom. We will defend our allies and our interests; we will show purpose without arrogance; we will meet aggression and bad faith with resolve and strength; and to all nations, we will speak for the values that gave our nation birth.
America, at its best, is compassionate. In the quiet of American conscience, we know that deep, persistent poverty is unworthy of our nation's promise. Whatever our views of its cause, we can agree that children at risk are not at fault. Abandonment and abuse are not acts of God, they are failures of love. The proliferation of prisons, however necessary, is no substitute for hope and order in our souls. Where there is suffering, there is duty. Americans in need are not strangers, they are citizens, not problems, but priorities, and all of us are diminished when any are hopeless. Government has great responsibilities for public safety and public health, for civil rights and common schools. Yet compassion is the work of a nation, not just a government. Some needs and hurts are so deep they will only respond to a mentor's touch or a pastor's prayer. Church and charity, synagogue and mosque lend our communities their humanity, and they will have an honored place in our plans and in our laws. Many in our country do not know the pain of poverty, but we can listen to those who do. I can pledge our nation to a goal, "When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side."
America, at its best, is a place where personal responsibility is valued and expected. Encouraging responsibility is not a search for scapegoats, it is a call to conscience. Though it requires sacrifice, it brings a deeper fulfillment. We find the fullness of life not only in options, but in commitments. We find that children and community are the commitments that set us free. Our public interest depends on private character, on civic duty and family bonds and basic fairness, on uncounted, unhonored acts of decency which give direction to our freedom. Sometimes in life we are called to do great things. But as a saint of our times has said, every day we are called to do small things with great love. The most important tasks of a democracy are done by everyone. I will live and lead by these principles, "to advance my convictions with civility, to pursue the public interest with courage, to speak for greater justice and compassion, to call for responsibility and try to live it as well." In all of these ways, I will bring the values of our history to the care of our times.
What you do is as important as anything government does. I ask you to seek a common good beyond your comfort; to defend needed reforms against easy attacks; to serve your nation, beginning with your neighbor. I ask you to be citizens. Citizens, not spectators; citizens, not subjects; responsible citizens, building communities of service and a nation of character.
Americans are generous and strong and decent, not because we believe in ourselves, but because we hold beliefs beyond ourselves. When this spirit of citizenship is missing, no government program can replace it. When this spirit is present, no wrong can stand against it.
After the Declaration of Independence was signed, Virginia statesman John Page wrote to Thomas Jefferson, "We know the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong. Do you not think an angel rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm?" Much time has passed since Jefferson arrived for his inauguration. The years and changes accumulate, but the themes of this day he would know, "our nation's grand story of courage and its simple dream of dignity."
We are not this story's author, who fills time and eternity with His purpose. Yet His purpose is achieved in our duty, and our duty is fulfilled in service to one another. Never tiring, never yielding, never finishing, we renew that purpose today; to make our country more just and generous; to affirm the dignity of our lives and every life.
This work continues. This story goes on. And an angel still rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm.
God bless you all, and God bless America.
It begins early, the idea that there is only one right answer to a problem.
Here's part of a journal entry from when one of our children was in first grade:
She brought home several papers of the kind in which she had to identify beginning and ending sounds. The focus of one was a set of images, for which she was supposed to indicate whether the "p" sound came at the beginning or the end.
Next to the picture of a policeman, she had indicated that the "p" was at the end, and the the teacher had corrected it to the beginning, without further comment.
You can probably guess what comes next.
I asked our daughter what the picture was, and she replied, "cop."
What if I had not been there to assure her that her answer was perfectly correct, and to explain why the teacher thought it was wrong?
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Allow me to play devil's advocate here.
Tallahassee Classical School has made the news as far away as Australia because its principal was pressured to resign over (among other issues) an art lesson that included an image of Michelangelo's famous statue of David, which upset some children and parents. And once again, Florida, and those who objected to the photo, are being demonized because of it.
Don't get me wrong. We haven't made it to Florence yet, but you can bet David will be high on our list to see when we do. And if you're going to study classical art, you are going to run into a lot of images people could object to. Naked women, for example, are a whole lot more common than naked men. Rape, orgies, wars, graphic violence, eroticism, prejudice and "hate crimes"—it's all there, because great art reflects reality. Granted, it's far more tastefully done than what comes out of Hollywood, but still, it's there.
That said, there is SO much great classical art available, that were I teaching an art course to sixth graders, I'd probably leave that one out. Unfortunately, sixth graders are an age group that cannot be trusted to be mature about anything involving naked body parts or bodily functions. I remember how my own class of about that age reacted when a parent came into school and shared slides of his recent trip to Europe, including the famous Manneken Pis.
Unless you are choosing to be provocative, David is hardly necessary in a child's brief introduction to art.
If I had to choose one sculpture to represent Michelangelo, it would probably be his Pièta—but you can run into controversy there, too. Would people be so down on the parents if they had objected to the image for religious reasons, as some surely would have?
There's the point: different parents will find different things too objectionable to teach their young children. Which is why the school, very intelligently, had instituted the policy that parents are to be allowed to see the curriculum materials, and must be notified of anything that might be considered controversial. A blanket statement at the beginning of the course, something like the following, would have prevented a great deal of stress and misunderstanding:
This is a course in Renaissance Art, and as such will feature a great deal of Christian and Classical imagery, including religious themes, graphic violence, and unclothed people. We believe these works of art to be of sufficient importance to include them. Parents are welcome to view the materials and have their children excused from lessons they believe would be harmful.
I would hope for something similar with regard to music. You cannot study great Western music without including the music of the Christian Church; many schools no longer try, for fear of lawsuits, thus eviscerating their choral programs. Explain up front why you are including these great works, allow parents to excuse their children if they disagree—and get on with the job.
The school (on the advice of their lawyers, of course) is not giving any details about why the principal was pressured to leave. But I suspect it was less about the actual content of the class and more about violating the policy of not leaving parents in the dark.
One more point: most objections I hear against the parents who did not want their children to see the materials are mocking them for not being comfortable with pictures of naked bodies. That is, the parents are upset about something that their detractors have no problem with—which to my mind delegitimizes the objection. Everyone has something they consider out-of-bounds for being taught to their children; we should image that, instead of what we have no problem with, as the issue here.