Friday, August 19, 2011

Hope, and When to Change: Commonplace Book entry #3





Title: The Student Whisperer: Inspiring Genius
Author: Oliver DeMille and Tiffany Earl


This book begins as a sort of intellectual biography of Tiffany Earl. She shares excerpts from her own commonplace book throughout her education. I am reacting/responding/pondering her thoughts on what she was learning and reading.  

On page 110 Tiffany is asking herself "What makes a strong civilization crumble?" She is reflecting on the words of Demosthenes to the Athenians. I don't know anything about this story or the figures....at all. So I won't pretend to.

However, she then reflects on some words spoken by Patrick Henry...now I have something in my head to hang this quote onto...colonial times, revolution, founding fathers etc. The quote she copies into her book begins with this

Mr President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope.
Hope. HOPE! Now who comes to mind when you read that word these days. Three years ago we elected a president who campaigned on Hope and Change, and really not much else. What else did he have to offer in his favor? Soaring rhetoric. In interesting story, what little we knew of it.

Ultimately, he was elected on hope...the hope that he would make life easier for those who felt put upon by the system; hope that hate and division would somehow disappear. "Illusions of hope" indeed.

What of that hope now?

Patrick Henry goes on to say (italics are my comments):

We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transform us into beasts. (a literary reference that only tickles a distant part of my brain....thus a need to be more well-read!) Is this the point of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty?
Do we shut our eyes to the reality of what is happening to our country right now? Do we tell ourselves this is just the ebb and flow of politics---one party rules, then the other--? Worse yet, do we despair of ever turning it around and just prepare the bunkers for the coming downfall, clinging to our conviction that we are Catholics first anyway, and this American thing is just secondary. Afterall, Rome fell and the Church remained standing.

It is certainly tempting to dismiss the discussions of budgets, and elections, and debt as just politics. So what if the president has trampled on the rule of law, so what if this administration seems to ignore the constitution. They dismiss us as irrelevant, hobbits, or even terrorists...and therefore dismiss our opinions. Never mind, they are all just politicians anyway....all the same.

In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free---if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending -- if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained---we must fight! 
But how can we overcome the political machine that brought this virtually unknown man to the most powerful position in the world? In spite of all of his failures he still has a loyal following, he has the press sitting at his feet...and we have a bunch of candidates who are going to get "Palinated" by the press if they come close to him.

Patrick Henry continues:

They tell us, sir, that we are weak: unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year?....Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have about us hand and foot?   
In my mind, the moment is now. Rather than inaction...action. Rather than irresolution....be resolved. I am resolved to act. But what does a homeschooling mom of three do?

I can continue to inform myself, prepare for the coming election, join with others to support a good candidate (though I don't pretend to know who that is right now).

Henry says "we must fight". I can only fight the battles here in front of me. I think one of the battles in front of me is my own education. It would be nice to know and understand the situation of Dimosthenes and the Athenians. I should also better understand the founding fathers, the battles they fought (intellectual, moral, military).

I think we moderns forget the importance and power of ideas. Politics is about ideas...whose ideas are going to win the day?

We have to take it upon ourselves to learn. To learn about the past. To ask the questions...What makes a strong civilization crumble?...and look for the answers.

And then, of course, to help our kids do the same thing.

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