There is a lot of chatter these days about rights. It gives one pause.
Several weeks ago I heard a politician claim that it is time to win our country back. I was not aware that we had lost it. I wonder who stole it. If you ask a rabid conservative, the answer will most likely be those bleeding heart liberals.
If, however, one asks a liberal for the identity of this most heinous perpetrator, the finger will no doubt be pointed in the direction of the nearest soulless conservative. Hearts and souls do not hew to ideological boundaries. Claims of the theft of the nation would do little more than tickle the funny bone were they not fueled by a level of acrimony and ad hominem attacks that have spiraled out of control.
Having never trusted absolute certainty, the fervor with which ideology has fractured our ability to work together toward the commonweal is downright frightening–and embarrassing.
There are also a lot of people claiming to be patriots. I guess to some it means that my way of seeing and thinking about this country is right and yours, well, it is just plain wrong–even unpatriotic. I do not intend to suggest a definition of patriotism here. I had thought we had washed such silliness out of our national debates after the Vietnam War when those having the temerity to suggest that stopping the war might just be the best way to “support our troops’”were characterized as downright unpatriotic. To my way of thinking, getting people out of harm’s way seems a much more effective way of saving lives than putting them in its way. But then that is a brand of logic some would take issue with. It seems to go hand in hand with this notion that whatever we do is beyond scrutiny and those who have principled disagreements with a particular policy or action are somehow less American than those who go along with whatever it is leadership chooses to embroil us in, regardless of its cost, human and otherwise.
I have no particular beef with ideological difference.
Unfortunately, we have come to a terrible pass in this country.
We claim that debating our differences is healthy. Yet, when push comes to shove compromise is excoriated as a form of weakness, evidence of an inadequate political will.
The prevailing wisdom seems to be that it is more honorable to never remove one’s ideological blinders. There is a plague about this land that lauds unrelenting conviction while relegating thoughtful discussion and eventual compromise to the dung heap.
That giving in to the other is some sort of moral failing. I do not get it. It is certainly not a view consistent with all that I have been taught to believe that this country stands for. A hallmark of a vital, viable, and healthy democracy is vigorous dissent. We chat, we argue, we even get into some hotheaded debates. But in the final analysis, we work things out. I describe myself as a somewhat left-leaning independent.
I am registered with one party so that I can vote in our primaries. Were that not necessary I would reregister as an independent because I believe that one can only act responsibly if one is independent and not beholden to a rigid ideology. I have never thought I had all the answers and the older I get the more convinced I am that flexibility in thought is necessary if one is to make reasoned decisions. I have heard useful ideas expressed by conservatives.
I have heard liberals express views with which I agree and some with which I disagree. I see no reason to vilify another merely because she expresses a view counter to my own.
That is neither a useful nor constructive approach to problem solving.
There is no such thing as an ideal patriot. Those who see patriotism as some sort of immutable standard do not understand what being a true patriot means. To me it means caring a great deal about others, about community, and about the nation as a whole. It does not mean thoughtlessly joining a dangerous lockstep parade of like-minded zealots. Zealotry in all forms is unproductive and often dangerous.
True patriots see and respect difference. They find ways to accommodate difference so that the commonweal is achieved. If we keep on with the rancor and self-serving demagoguery that characterizes our national discourse these days we will have ourselves to blame. We will have stolen this great nation from ourselves.
There is a lot of chatter these days about rights. It gives one pause.
- Hawthorn Hill
- Passing along advice of seeing the humor The best advice given to me many years ago when I started teaching had nothing to do with my discipline, English. Rather, a former mentor insisted on the necessity of having a sense of humor
- Swallow talk and bluebird vigilance I assume the swallows have returned to Capistrano. They have returned to Hawthorn Hill as well.
- 'Geezering: an act of doing stuff with another old guy It is a bright sunny day. I should be out back in our woodlot geezering with my neighbor John.
- Winter tree sparrow visitations have been rare on the hill Tree sparrows are lovely little birds, most conspicuous for their russet caps, white breasts and a distinctive charcoal smudge about mid-breast that makes one think that they are perpetual Ash Wednesday celebrants.
- Of Carolina wrens and crossbills We will remember this year for a number of reasons, among them first-time visitors to our bird feeders. Aside from reporting data to Cornell every five days as part of the Project Feeder Watch program, I keep on close watch over all the avian activity up here on the hill.
Think before you speak, tweet
One of our dearest and most valued gifts is our ability to both think about and talk about ourselves. That is the gift of language. I have always felt that every living thing has some sort of language, but we are so lucky to be able to communicate through speech and writing.
- Of bikes, fishing rods and philosophy Every time I go to the garage, either to get something or start up the car, I am reminded of at least two activities that I thought I might get to at some point, even in earnest. Intentionality is something philosophers give some thought to. I suspect I would be an ideal case study.
- End of the season; time for a break By tomorrow afternoon we will have harvested the last of our vegetables. Two lonely stalks of kale, today snow capped and a bit bent over after being buffeted by the hurricane's winds last week, will take up primary residence in a kale soup whose makeup we have yet to determine.
- Election Day thoughts I have voted, and despite my strong feelings about who the winner should be, I intend to focus on other things the rest of the day. Let the talking heads spin themselves into rhetorical dizziness until the wee hours of the morning. The sun is shinning. There are some late fall chores to turn to. I look forward to an outside day preoccupied with sunny thoughts.
- Walking, across the pond One of the best reasons to travel is to get out of one's cultural skin for a while. It is also a great way to pick up some pretty useful ideas.
- More Hawthorn Hill Headlines