I will be glad when November 3rd arrives because I am SOOOOO tired of all the political ads. The negativity and the inaccuracies are ridiculous, on both sides. I lament the decline of rational discourse, the inability of so many Americans to be civil, rational, and truthful. This is on both sides: negativity is an equal-opportunity style of campaigning. In Arizona we are innundated with propositions on our ballot; on the one hand, evidence of democracy and the voice of the people in action. On the other hand, many of these are crafted by very special interests, and these propositions do not have the best interests of the people in mind. Yet they are presented in a slanted manner to try and sway people who have no real grasp of historical impact. Every “solution” brings interesting new problems.
Case in point: the Interstate Highway System, started by Eisenhower as a way of being able to move troops and weapons across this country easily during the Cold War. Resulting new “problems” were decline of small towns and loss of downtown businesses. But without some good grounding in American history, we rarely see these trends from the past.
I believe there is a real lack of understanding of American history. Immigration is a major issue this year, yet so many people do not understand the trends in immigration throughout our history. While we openly admire ourselves for being a “melting pot” of nationalities, the reality is far from this. Native Americans – we tried to exterminate the race. African-Americans – we tried to enslave the race. We tried to send the Chinese back to China. Every immigrant group has had to assimilate and faced issues while doing so. We have never had a “fence” – and the thought of one just smacks – to me – of the Berlin Wall. Do we need to address immigration? Absolutely, but from a reasoned, historical, and economic approach. These are people’s lives, regardless of race or ethnicity. Unless you are 100 percent Native American, we are all immigrants.
There is also major religious intolerance in this country, we who expound our freedom of religion. The Compact of Religious Toleration of 1649 in Maryland (Maryland Toleration Act) is an eye-opener; we use this as the earliest example of the country’s belief in freedom of religion….
Passed in accordance with instructions from Lord Baltimore, this document protected Maryland from the charge of intolerance toward Protestants. When the Protestants were in charge of the colony for a time after 1654, Catholics were not protected in their faith, but this document was reinstated with the restoration of Lord Baltimore as proprietor. The Maryland Toleration Act constitutes the broadest definition of religious freedom during the seventeenth century and was an important step toward true freedom of religion. It sounds strange to our ears that such a harshly worded document should be called a toleration act, but the breadth of toleration defended also required that the sensibilities of religious people not be offended regardless of denomination. Aside from prohibitions on the calling of names, the meat of the act is found near the end of the text—no one will be punished or disadvantaged because of his religious beliefs. In any case, the harsh blasphemy provisions were never enforced. (http://oll.libertyfund.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1048&Itemid=264)
But when you read the actual act, it is “Christian” – nothing about Jewish persecution. (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/497485/Act-of-Religious-Toleration). Strictly Catholics and Protestants. I remember reading this for the first time and realizing that our ideal of religious toleration in this country was not realized.
It is the profession of the ideal…we – everyone in the world – needs to make progress in this direction – toward the ideal. But it seems like those of us who actually refer to the wording in the US Constitution are tagged with the “L” word – when did liberal thinking, respect for all, a desire to help those who need help, and a wish that all could reach for the stars without barriers become something to be ashamed of? When did it become a disease, an affliction?
And when did it become acceptable to slam the office of the Presidency and the President? We may disagree…I certainly did many times over the past 8 years, and that is my right, but never to the level of hate we see today. I truly fear for the direction this country is headed. I will continue to educate my students when I can about the historical connotations of some of the things they see and ask about. I will be respectful of others’ opinions while I try to get a student to think about what they are saying and what facts they have to back up their statement, regardless of whether or not I agree with it.
Rational discourse and civility – much needed, desperately lacking…..
And now, back to our regularly scheduled art programming……