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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Round Up The Usual Suspects, March 6, 2016- On when to think, and when to speak

-There’s a joke among ministers that if you want to see one on his day off, you have to die. If we run our pastors from pillar to post until they drop, when will they have time to think, study, or pray?

And, in our own workaday worlds, how do we?

-“The glory of a close family is that you never lack for cheerleaders, enveloping you in support. The flip side is that you never lack for judges, weighing you down with expectations.” Frank Bruni considers how families get that balance right.

Or don’t.

- I’ve always preferred honest, open opponents to false friends. A real opponent tells you what he intends doing to you, and on that ground one can fight it out.

Trashing the liberal arts seems to have become practically a sport among some politicians these days. Maybe they think that the “liberal” in “liberal arts” is a political reference, which it isn’t.

Kentucky Gov. Matthew Bevin (R) recently suggested that French literature majors should not get state funding for college tuition. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, said that welders earn more money than philosophy majors — fact checkers found this not to be true — while saying the country needs fewer philosophers and more welders.

Meanwhile, former Florida governor and GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush said:

“Universities ought to have skin in the game. When a student shows up, they ought to say, ‘Hey, that psych major deal, that philosophy major thing, that’s great, it’s important to have liberal arts … but realize, you’re going to be working [at] a Chick-fil-A.’ ”

Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) said: “Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don’t think so.” And Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) wanted to change the historic mission of the University of Wisconsin system by removing words that commanded the university to “search for truth” and “improve the human condition” and replacing them with “meet the state’s workforce needs.”

There’s more but you get the idea. These politicians see the liberal arts as a wasteful pursuit for college students who would do better studying subjects that can guarantee decent-paying jobs. That line of thinking suggests, of course, that a college education is only worth the job that students get at the end and nothing else, and that a liberal arts degree is irrelevant and unwanted in the American business community. None of that is true.

-”When things go wrong with a nation, he said, societies can either ask “What did we do wrong?” or say “Who did this to us?” Lord Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, has won the Templeton Prize.

-There are different ways to confront wickedness and wrongdoing.

One is to agree with its basic aims but suggest that its focus be recalibrated a bit, toward those who satisfy one’s felt need to always have someone less deserving, less well off, beneath them. This is the way of the angry Trump supporters learning this weekend to love their right-armed salute.

Another is to say nothing and hope for the best.  This is the way of the trimmers, the Tadpoles and Tapers in life who value their status above nearly all things. They fear running the gauntlet between the old and a new order of things, for there, Machiavelli reminds us, lies great danger:

And it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them. Thus it happens that whenever those who are hostile have the opportunity to attack they do it like partisans, whilst the others defend lukewarmly, in such wise that the prince is endangered along with them.

It is not that good people are gone, it is just that too many of them have gone silent.

They, like you have watched this tragic chapter unfolding and feel they are powerless to do anything. They, like you feel alone and hopeless and outnumbered. They too are holding their breath and covering their eyes and waiting for the good people to show up and twist the plot.

Stop. Freaking. Waiting. Already.

You are the good people.

You are the one who can step from the shadows and tell the darkness that it has had the run of the house for long enough. You can send the brilliant floodlight of hope streaming into the places where it had been vanquished.

It is only a matter of opening your mouth and releasing the truest of your truth without fear or hesitation or decorum.

Whenever our world has lost its way and lost its humanity and succumbed to terror, it has happened when people of decency and compassion refused to raise their voices, when they believed the lie that their silence was of no consequence, when they became saddened but complicit spectators.

These are such days, friend.

In these days it is not enough to be good. You must be both good and loud.

And, I add, you must persist.


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