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    "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
    James Adams, from his essay "To 'Be' or to 'Do': A Note on American Education", 1929

    We're a Canadian family of five, farming and home schooling. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 17/Grade 12, 15/Grade 10, and 13/Grade 9.

    Contact me at becky.farmschool@gmail.com

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Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold

Maureen Dowd in today’s New York Times on “Myth and Madness”,

Obama’s bloodless rationality has helped spawn the right’s bloodletting of irrationality. His ivory tower approach to the nation’s fears and anxieties about the economy gave rise to a tower of angry babble. Tea Party is basically a big tent for anger.

The president’s struggle to connect and inspire passion is a dispiriting contrast to, as Yeats said*, the worst, full of passionate intensity.

The first African-American president, who wrote in his memoir that he trained himself as a young man not to let his anger show in a suspicious white society, now faces anger on an unprecedented scale from a mostly white movement.

He seems weary of crisis management, conveying the attitude of the hero in “The Incredibles” who has to keep saving the world: “Sometimes I just want it to stay saved!”

The president seems put upon and impatient with reality while his foes seem happy to embrace fantasy.

Obama can connect with policy. He just can’t connect with the objects of policy. Empathy seems more like an abstract concept than something to practice.

He has never shaken off that slight patronizing attitude toward the working-class voters he is losing now, the ones he dubbed “bitter” during his campaign. There is no premium in trying to save people’s jobs and lift them up and give them health care if they feel that you can’t relate to them. That’s how Mayor Adrian Fenty lost his job, despite D.C.’s progress on schools and crime.

The insane have achieved political respectability while the sane act too good for it all. The irrational celebrate while the rational act bored and above-it-all.

When Rahm Emanuel leaves to go run for mayor in Chicago, all the blood will drain out of the White House. And Obama can go to Ben’s Chili Bowl for lunch every day and it won’t matter.

Read the rest here, and weep.

* passionate intensity

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11 Responses

  1. Becky, I often find the Maureen D. is off the mark (and, even more often, too silly, though this isn’t one of her silly columns). I absolutely do not think that Obama seems unempathetic or patronizing toward people with blue-collar jobs. Extreme social conservatism seems to fuel at least some of the anger out there. I’ll read her current piece, though, before I say more!

  2. You don’t think so, and I don’t think so, Susan, but I think a large part of America — the tea-drinking part — does think so, and it’s had me mystified, especially watching from Canada. Though Dowd’s article, for me, went far in explaining why. And it makes me so very sad…

  3. Well, I can’t speak for President Obama but if I can be so bold as to count myself among “the rational,” I’d suggest to Dowd that she’s mistaking my heavy-hearted-ness for so-called above-it-all-ness. My “boredom” is actually anguish – and despair. People I’ve known most of my life are barely recognizable to me; last week, I received a letter (from a former neighbor) in which she used the word “vermin” to describe undocumented immigrants; my daughter brings stories home from school that break my heart (apparently, many parents are hard at work, passing their thoughtless thinking on to our next generation)… It’s so hard to be hopeful these days.

  4. I heard another interview today (with Shelagh Rogers on CBC) with Andrew Potter, Canadian author of the recent “The Authenticity Hoax: How We Got Lost Finding Ourselves” — which I haven’t read yet — and he had a brief mention of American politics. It reminded me of what I’ve read in reviews during the past year. I had to look up the WSJ review, by Paul Beston, to get the wording right because it was a few months ago:

    “But the authenticity fixation, according to Mr. Potter, goes deeper than consumer choices. It is the culprit, for instance, behind ‘a debased political culture dominated by negative advertising and character assassination.’ Political candidates are always selling their own sincerity, so that any crack in the façade (never too hard to find) launches a hundred attack ads. …

    “It is the disillusionment with modernity, Mr. Potter maintains, that underlies the authenticity quest. When man was preoccupied with finding food and appeasing capricious gods, he didn’t have the time or inclination to ask whether he had “sold out” for an easy paycheck or failed to align himself with some abstract ideal of the ‘authentic’ life.”

    So now we’re stuck with “twilight in America”, with supposedly authentic hockey moms, straight talk, and mavericks. We haven’t really learned much since Ronald Reagan (and his “morning in America”) — it’s not how authentic you are, it’s how authentic you’re able to convince others you are. Branding comes back to bite us in the bum.

  5. To me, this is like the bully blaming his victim for his own nastiness.

    Much of this anger is not coming from the unemployed, the desperate. It’s coming from those with jobs who don’t want to accept the social contract, that it is in all our best interest if we educate children, build and maintain roads, pay taxes to support the soldiers who fight out wars, etc.

    Like Lynn, I feel desperate. Although I am preternaturally optimistic by nature and just find it difficult to believe that people will actually vote for some of these nuts. Also I am in an area that I hope wants to “throw the bums out” because my incumbent senator and congressman are Republicans and they need new jobs.

  6. “It’s coming from those with jobs who don’t want to accept the social contract, that it is in all our best interest if we educate children, build and maintain roads, pay taxes to support the soldiers who fight our wars, etc.”

    Not to mention health care…

  7. Ruth, your comment reminded me of linguist George Lakoff’s notion that ideal (ha…) liberal families are based on nurturing, which includes excellence (code for elitism, no doubt!), empathy, and responsibility. Lakoff has written that liberals assume that these values are the only objective ones, whereas conservatives value most highly strengthening and perpetuating the conservative moral system itself — spreading conservatism by spreading conservative populism. Rather like conservatives are from Mars, liberals are from Venus…

    And as Charlotte Mason and kidlit types understand, people want story and narrative. Dowd, like Lakoff and also psychology professor Drew Westen seem to be trying to get the Administration to understand — with time running out before the elections — the importance of narrative, of emotion, and the idea of morality. Reagan understood this, and so did Clinton. Appealing to reason just won’t work, especially once people are riled up. That’s how you get middle class Wal-Mart tea partiers parking their brains at the door to support their own worst interests and corporate fat cats. Westen has been writing about this for almost a year now and must be tired of beating his head against the wall…

  8. Oh, I understand about the narrative and the passion. Pride in ignorance and racism, I don’t get, though.

    I hope it’s not too late as well.

    Ruth, proud elitist from Venus

  9. Dowd is actually just like Obama–blames everyone but him. First it was blame Bush, then blame the Tea Party, now blame all the white dumb folk who just can’t seem to grasp how terrific he is (that’s be all of us). Look, ladies, the guy is a Marxist–he as much said so in his books, his friends, and his appointments. Really, get a grip.

  10. With Maureen’s complicity Obama and his party have sliced open the goose that used to lay the golden eggs. Shockingly, there are no eggs inside. Socialism doesn’t work, it has been tried over and over and over again. Free market capitalism works wonders every time it’s tried. Who is John Galt?

  11. Coming from an American caught in this maelstorm in middle America, I agree with a comment that said there are people that I hardly recognize now. I am one of those people. The ‘change’ that this president promised is the only promise he has kept. The past 2-3 years have been psychologically crushing. In my 50+ years as a middle class boomer, college educated American growing up in USA’s historical economic growth, optimism, ‘superpower’ status I have witnessed it’s breathtaking fall and decline, and the hollowing out to the American psyche. We are now a wasteland of what was…and could have been people. The Tea Party that is so demonized is simply the knee jerk reaction to this, which is a candle in the wind. The anger of Americans is palatable, I stew in it everyday, as does my elderly father, an 86 yr old WWII Navy Veteran who has seen his lifetime of savings dry up overnight, as well as millions of my age group in the private/public sectors on the cusp of retirement, struggling to recoup lost retirements, getting fired/laid off from jobs worked 35+ years, losing health insurance and priced out of getting any healthcare, losing homes in foreclosure because of crashed reat estate markets ect ect…. yes there is anger…and now there are protests by state workers who’s livelihoods/pensions/benefits are being cut because state coffers are broke. There is NO money left…only a treasury printing press, and a president who is leaving future Americans indebted and impoverished, a generation of 80 million boomers without any social security or medicare health benefits and a smaller, less educated young workforce that cannot possibly pay enpough taxes to support them. But you ask…why are Americans so angry? We have given the world our money, huge banks and business trillions in bailouts, sent our young men and women to die in wars oversees for what? However, you may think America is dying, getting it’s due, payback for being a bully to the rest of the world…when SHE falls, where will the rest of the world, who clammors still to come to her for freedom, the chance to live out one’s dreams, to live without hunger, oppression GO TOO? Better hope that American anger never goes away…because that American anger is what got this country founded, and built to where it is today ( albeit in debt, in wars, conflicts, raged, divided scorned, scourged and suffering from massive unemployment and heavy taxation) Anger is good.

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