Posted in book lists, family life

literary explorations – traveling the world with picture books!

Inspired by the great resource Give Your Child The World, a globally-inspired picture book anthology by Jamie C. Martin, as well as by Rondel’s fascination with animals from around the world, we had a sort of Africa focus in our home a couple weeks ago. Martin is actually hosting a virtual book club spending one week on each world region over the summer, which I’m attempting to keep up with, but I’m woefully unprepared for Asia this week…

Anyway, Africa was a great place to start since most of Rondel’s favorite animals live there, and it was a natural connection to then begin reading stories involving those animals and the people who live near them. We also experimented with some African recipes (there is a huge variety of cuisines across the continent, so we were barely able to explore any of it and it still felt like a lot!) and crafts (but my kids don’t do so well with directed crafts). Of the books we could find from Martin’s recommendations at our library, two really stood out as our favorites: Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain, a Nandi folktale retold by Verna Aardema; and Wangari’s Trees of Peace, a brief pictorial biography of Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize laureate who helped restore land degraded by irresponsible logging (and in the process helped maintain peace and prevent poverty in her home country), by Jeanette Winter.

The biography of Wangari is written at a level that even Limerick, at 3.5, can understand and follow along with, so many of the details of her life have obviously been omitted – this is just the general arc of her story. But those spare elements have been woven together, with the help of beautiful images, to create a compelling narrative. Every time we read it (which was often, since Limerick kept requesting it), Rondel would be devastated when Wangari returns to Kenya after studying abroad to find the forests cut down, the village women walking miles for firewood and food, and desert encroaching upon the arable land. The boys’ eyes would widen, riveted on the book, when Wangari stands “tall as an oak” to protect the remaining forests, when the government officials beat her and jail her for protesting their course of action. And at the end, when millions of trees spread across Kenya again, the boys would be all smiles and laughter, imagining the birdsong in the forest. So I would highly recommend it as a brief introduction to Wangari and modern Africa for young children.

In addition, it has given me a point of comparison when talking with the boys about current events in our own country. When Wangari is jailed, the book tells us that “Right is right, even if you’re alone,” and the whole story demonstrates how the right thing to do can sometimes be the opposite of what the government or people in authority want to do. So when the boys heard our president talking for a few minutes before I changed the radio station (I usually only listen to talk radio when I’m alone in the car), and asked questions about what he was saying, I could explain his position and then also explain how I thought it was wrong, morally wrong if not legally wrong, and how his power and authority didn’t make all of his beliefs or actions morally right and good. And I was able to tell them that unlike Wangari, people like us would be able to peacefully protest those wrong things without fear of imprisonment, because our nation makes space for differing opinions and protests (ideally, of course, but since they’re 3 and 4 they get the idealized version on some things still).

Wangari cared deeply about her country – she loved it – and that’s why she was able to work for its improvement with such persistence, devotion, and passion. She started with small things she knew she could do (like physically planting new trees to replace the harvested ones), and let her love guide her into bigger and bigger forms of activism. And when I look around me and see people cynically apathetic about this country, it makes me want to instill in my children a love for their country and a passion to make it better, in small personal ways and perhaps even in big political ways. It is only with the love and dedication of people like Wangari that we can heal our culture, our environment, and our world; I’d much rather my children be like her than like the enforcers of government authority who beat and imprisoned her.

At this point I’m doubtful that any other picture book we find for this book club will influence our family quite as much as this one has! But every one we’ve managed to find so far from Martin’s anthology has been worth a second read at least; we’ve learned a lot, and we’ve laughed a lot, and we’ve filled our home with beautiful pictures and stories, and there isn’t much more to ask for from a picture book 🙂

At the time of posting, Amazon has Give Your Child the World available on Kindle for only $0.99! It is a resource worth far more than that.

Posted in musings

this broken beautiful world

My heart is heavy with the brokenness of the world tonight.

Tonight my family sleeps under one roof, with full bellies and soft blankets. Tonight my children’s memories are of books and snuggles at bedtime, an afternoon swimming with their grandparents, a morning of music and crafts at church. Tonight I have no reason to worry about where I will find food to feed them in the morning, or whether I can let them play outside safely, or whether the water they drink will make them sick. Tonight I can sleep with the confidence that nothing is likely to break in upon the refuge of love I have built around them.

Continue reading “this broken beautiful world”

Posted in book lists, musings

zombies, democracy, and the definition of humankind

Having made my first foray into the world of zombie fiction, I am struck by the idea that zombies are the end product of dysfunctional democracy.

In a democracy there is rule by the many, leading to decisions that may be good for individuals in the majority but not so good for individuals who are part of minority groups. As social structure and community connectedness decreases, more and more people feel that democracy is failing them by its inability to address their needs (since, as people splinter away from each other, almost everyone is bound to end up in the minority with regards to at least one significant issue in their lives). They observe society crumbling and blame the vast hordes of their fellow citizens – not without reason, as those vast hordes are the decision-makers of a democracy!

Similarly, in the zombie apocalypse, society breaks down (in very dramatic ways) at the hands of the vast masses of humankind. We, the reader, identifying with the main characters of the book or film, see ourselves as the rational few who still cling to sanity and good judgment, while the rest of the world is wildly destroying itself around us. And since our democracy is so huge (at least here in the US) that there isn’t much we can do to tangibly alter its course, zombie fiction allows us an escape into the lives of people who are even more horribly stuck – but who aren’t limited to polite social mores in their methods of dealing with their frustrations and problems!

Of course, I have no idea if this idea has any basis in reality, but it was interesting to me 🙂

If you’re wondering how I decided to make entry into the world of zombies, I did it by reading The Girl With All The Gifts, by M.R. Carey, on the recommendation of my boss. The introduction is brutal, mysterious, and haunting; the end is absolutely perfect. The middle feels rather stereotyped or trope-ish: you have the tough and experienced military man, the disposable underling, the obsessive and unethical scientist, and the bleeding-heart who is sympathetic to the zombies’ plight. However, I still definitely enjoyed it! As a science nerd, I particularly enjoyed the description of the source of the zombie plague (for reference, Cordyceps is a fungus that attacks ants, infiltrates their nervous systems, and controls their behavior for the purpose of spreading its spores; most species of Cordyceps are specific to a single species of ant):

“At some point a Cordyceps came along that was a lot less finicky. It jumped the species barrier, then the genus, family, order, and class. It clawed its way to the top of the evolutionary tree, assuming for a moment that evolution is a tree and has a top. Of course, the fungus might have had a helping hand. It might have been grown in a lab, for any number of reasons; coaxed along with gene-splicing and injected RNA. Those were very big jumps.”

It made me happy that they acknowledged the implausibility of the fungus mutating that much on its own – but also the possibility of some scientist designing it to do so. It reminded me of the professor of my senior capstone class, who told us that we now knew everything we needed to create a bioweapon that would devastate humanity, and were responsible to conduct our science ethically. If humanity is wiped out by some pathogen, I won’t be surprised to learn that humanity had created that pathogen to begin with.

I also appreciated that this book was not overly graphic (this is the reason I’ve avoided zombie films in particular). It allowed me to enjoy the concept and implications without having to deal with excessive violence and gore! So I recommend it for anyone wanting an action novel that will, if you permit it, also raise the question of what it means to be human.

Posted in musings, quotes

the social underpinnings of racism: Trump and the 1950s

In the wake of Trump’s ascension to the presidency, a lot of people like me were left wondering how so many Americans could be so angry and feel so wronged that they were willing to tolerate blatant racism and misogyny in their leadership. There’s been a lot of confusion and a lot of anger, and not a lot of dialogue; each side tries to defend its beliefs by reciting wrongs against itself, or attempts to seize the moral high ground and demonize its opponents instead of listening to their grievances. It’s one of the reasons I’ve had to severely limit my social media time…

But as I was reading The Family Nobody Wanted, by Helen Doss, written before the height of the Civil Rights Movement, in the aftermath of the Japanese internment camps of WWII, I came across a passage that seemed quite relevant today:

First, prejudice is a contagious disease, as easily caught as measles, the babe from his parents, the school child from his playmates, the adult from his fellow workers and neighbors. To compound the social tragedy, prejudice once caught is hard to cure, since it unwittingly serves a number of morbid purposes. When a man is picked on by his boss, he can slam home and take it out on his family, and frequently does; however, a more socially approved outlet is to turn around and release the feelings of hate and anger on those of a minority racial group. If denied certain yearned-for opportunities and privileges, there is a devilish quirk within man which gives him perverse satisfaction in seeing that at least one segment of the population enjoys even less opportunities and privileges than he.

If a person feels socially or mentally inferior, has a persecuted feeling that society is crushing down on him, it is easy to bolster waning self-confidence by convincing himself, “At least there are whole groups of people socially, mentally, economically inferior to me.” Worse yet, he will try to keep minority groups in a deprived and subjugated position, to prove what his ego wants to believe.

Psychologists and psychiatrists have long told us that bottled-up feelings of aggression and anger can be dynamite to the happiness and well-being of the individual who refuses to recognize real causes behind his maladjustments. Multiply these fearful and emotionally tense individuals by thousands, by even millions, and you have social dynamite… Hostility will be exploded in any area where society permits it…

War has always been a socially glorified outlet for pent-up angers and frustrations of whole peoples. In America, our Negroes have provided another scapegoat, and so we have had race riots, Jim Crowism, and the Ku Klux Klan. On the West Coast first the Chinese, then the Japanese, provided another handy outlet for our inner tensions, and we have had discrimination in jobs and housing, an Orientals Exclusion Act, and the “relocation centers” of World War II.

The anger and other negative emotion of the dissatisfied people who voted for Trump is real. Many people felt disenfranchised, ignored, stuck in a world they didn’t ask for, unable to change their fate, feeling like their communities and families were broken. And Trump acknowledged those emotions when most other politicians were oblivious to them. Would these people on their own have decided to take out their anger on immigrants, women, and other minorities? I’m not sure; in many cases, I don’t think so. I know a lot of good people, who care deeply about human dignity and equality, who voted for Trump for one reason or another, trying to look past his faults. But Trump himself has most definitely established those groups as “acceptable” targets for the pent-up anger of anyone who feels ignored, overlooked, or under-appreciated; he has made them the scapegoat of the failures and frustrations of the majority.

Like it or not, whether you as an individual are racist or not, Trump has bolstered the cause of racism by making it more socially acceptable once again; he has directed the force of social anger towards some of the most vulnerable and unrepresented groups of all; he has given hostility a safe place to explode, and so set our country back in its fight against racism and for the equality of all. Racism is in so many ways a systemic issue, not an individual issue; that is why the attitude of the president is so powerful and influential. That is why it matters so much, especially now, to speak up against racism, to push social pressure against it as much as possible.

Posted in musings

a prayer for hope

Our Father, who art in heaven
Hallowed be Thy name.

Father, your name goes unspoken, or mocked, or used for profit and manipulation. The names of all the people in the world – the movers, the powerful, the close at hand – constantly echo around us, while your name lies forgotten and unspoken on the side. And you feel so far away from us, enthroned in heaven in glory and peace while this world falls apart beneath you.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.

It seems as though your kingdom is so far from coming, Father. This world seems more broken every day: my Facebook feed is filled with laments, with arrogance, with anger, with half-truths; the news constantly reminds me of pain and division, oppression and war, hatred and selfishness. What principles are right and good and worthy? What means of applying those principles are most effective? People who love you and long for your kingdom don’t even agree with each other on the answers. And I feel lost, and confused, and I wonder how your kingdom will ever come, how your will may ever be done, when even your people are divided among themselves. Our brokenness seems complete, our hope extinguished.

Give us this day our daily bread

And yet, each day comes, and we are still here, and even the food we eat is a gift from you, a gift of hope, a promise of life. Every day we need it. And some, because of war and poverty and famine and corruption, do not have it. Where is their hope? Are you present for them like you are for us who have never known hunger? Is your power too weak or your love too small to provide for them also, when they cry out for food and their children die around them? Why do you not intervene when people tear the world apart and condemn others to starvation for their own gain? And it goes beyond the physical bread we need to live: we need emotional bread – love, hope, friendship, purpose; we need spiritual bread – the body of your Son given for us. Why do you allow so many to be cut off from those things, bereft of those great blessings, caught in misery and despair, for whom each morning is not a cause for joy at your faithfulness but simply the start of another journey through darkness and fear?

And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Is that why you wait so long to intervene in the evils of this world, Father? Are you offering even the oppressor a chance at forgiveness, a chance to work for the redemption and setting right of the brokenness they have caused? It is a hard and painful wait for the oppressed. For us, a thousand years are not as a day, but as an eternity, and we fail, eventually, to extend again forgiveness when it has been met time and time again by continued oppression and trespass. We forget our own sin in the burning awareness of the sins committed against us; we seethe with anger, hold onto our hurt, and drive your kingdom still further away in a cry for justice that does not extend beyond ourselves.

And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.

Everywhere I look, there temptation and evil lie in wait. The temptation to put myself first, to let anger take root in my heart, to attack and demonize the people who disagree with me or inconvenience me, to close my ears to the hurts and needs and stories of others. The evil of corrupt institutions, of dysfunctional families, of systemic poverty, of generational sin – broken homes, communities, and nations, catching people in nets of pain and pride and wickedness. Deliver us, Father; restore us to your righteousness. It is such a faint hope, sometimes, a light believed in though still unseen, but it is the only hope we have.

Amen.

Posted in musings, quotes

patriotism vs. the presidential election

As the weeks go by, my hope for our nation in the upcoming presidential election is steadily eroding. We’ve narrowed the race down to two people who are known to lie and manipulate events for their own gain; one of them is, in my opinion, of significantly worse character and far more dangerous as a leader, but I honestly would rather have neither of them. I suppose the difference for me is that while I can find some things to respect about Clinton, despite my utter disagreement with her on abortion, I haven’t been able to find anything to respect about Trump. Being rich and marrying attractive women, his sole accomplishments in life, are not particularly worthy of respect in my opinion…

And the thought of Trump winning the presidency and representing my country on the global stage makes me blush with shame – to the point where I am tempted to abandon my country, flee somewhere else, attempt to build a new identity and integrate into a different nation, one that actually valued honesty, self-control, responsibility, and community. But these words keep coming back to me, the words of G.K. Chesterton that I’m sure I’ve quoted before:

My acceptance of the universe is not optimism, it is more like patriotism. It is a matter of primary loyalty. The world is not a lodging-house at Brighton, which we are to leave because it is miserable. It is the fortress of our family, with the flag flying on the turret, and the more miserable it is the less we should leave it. The point is not that this world is too sad to love or too glad not to love; the point is that when you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more. All optimistic thoughts about England and all pessimistic thoughts about her are alike reasons for the English patriot. Similarly, optimism and pessimism are alike arguments for the cosmic patriot.

Let us suppose we are confronted with a desperate thing—say Pimlico. If we think what is really best for Pimlico we shall find the thread of thought leads to the throne or the mystic and the arbitrary. It is not enough for a man to disapprove of Pimlico: in that case he will merely cut his throat or move to Chelsea. Nor, certainly, is it enough for a man to approve of Pimlico: for then it will remain Pimlico, which would be awful. The only way out of it seems to be for somebody to love Pimlico: to love it with a transcendental tie and without any earthly reason. If there arose a man who loved Pimlico, then Pimlico would rise into ivory towers and golden pinnacles; Pimlico would attire herself as a woman does when she is loved…  If men loved Pimlico as mothers love children, arbitrarily, because it is theirs, Pimlico in a year or two might be fairer than Florence. Some readers will say that this is a mere fantasy. I answer that this is the actual history of mankind. This, as a fact, is how cities did grow great. Go back to the darkest roots of civilization and you will find them knotted round some sacred stone or encircling some sacred well. People first paid honour to a spot and afterwards gained glory for it. Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.

 – G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

What our country needs is not for us to wring our hands in fear, or throw them up in dismay, or give up in despair; what she needs is for us to love her and to labor for her restoration and beauty. It is a harder and a more painful task, especially when faced with the anger and resentment of so many who don’t love their country or their communities, but a necessary one if true and worthwhile change is to take place. And this is where the virtue of patriotism lies, not in praising our country or her leadership no matter what poor choices are made, but in loving her enough to care about even the poorest and least likable of her people, to make right the things that are broken and rotting in her systems and communities, to see both her beauties and her flaws and admire the one while acknowledging and working to change the other.

Posted in musings

Holy Week in the midst of everyday life

Holy Week.

When the profound realities of the liturgical year – the past that comes again, ever new, with each turn of the calendar – should be coming alive in our hearts and minds.

When the passion and suffering of our Lord should be the meditation of our hearts and the prayer on our lips.

When we remember the gift of His body and blood, in the once-for-all-time sacrifice of Friday’s cross and in the ceremonial establishment of the Eucharist at Thursday’s Passover meal.

When the truths that fade away from us so easily – the forgiveness God offers, the love He extends, the high cost of His grace, the mercy that seasons His justice, and the pathway to unity that He creates – should be standing out to us in sharp relief.

And yet, in Holy Week, the world still keeps spinning and life still keeps going on as it always does.

In Arizona, we held presidential primaries on the Tuesday of Holy Week this year, distracting ourselves from the King of the Universe in our quest to choose a new president to lead us to greatness. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the crowds acclaiming Jesus on Palm Sunday, sure that He would be the Messiah to rescue them from Roman oppression, only to turn on Him a few days later when they realized that His was a heavenly kingdom. A heavenly kingdom doesn’t fix our problems here and now, like Trump and Sanders and Cruz and Clinton all promise to do in their various personal styles – so the heavenly kingdom can wait, right, while we focus on cleaning up the issues we’ve got going on right now? (Well, no, actually, that heavenly kingdom should always come first, and should inform our approach to the temporal problems we’re facing.)

In Brussels, another terrorist attack left the city (and Europe) reeling and devastated, unsure of the best way to respond to danger without losing freedom and integrity. With friends and family killed or injured, people are dealing with a sea of sorrow and, most likely, anger and a desire for justice. Does God offer that justice and revenge this week? We see Jesus’s grace and forgiveness extended even to those who murdered Him, and we cringe because such an act is too great for us, in the raw pain of our grief and outrage. He says, watch, I have suffered for you, and I suffer with you – and we say, go somewhere else with Your presence and Your comfort, and let me find another who will promise me the security and vengeance my heart craves.

People still go to work, performing the same tasks and interacting with the same coworkers as on every other day of the year. Families still deal with bedtime battles, dirty diapers, potty learning, sicknesses, homework, friendship drama, housecleaning, and marital stress. The daily commute, the daily chores, the daily routines are all the same.

And into the middle of everyday, normal life, Christ comes.

With the power of His sorrowful passion, He comes. The details of Jesus’s suffering on the cross make us uncomfortable and uneasy, but in Holy Week we are almost forced to think about them.

Let these daily routines be baptized in Me, He says. Let your great worries and great sufferings find solace in Me; come drink of peace and rest. My suffering has purchased for you redemption – that all the banalities and all the piercing sorrows of life, alike, might be worked into new life, and beauty, and purpose.

 

Posted in musings, quotes

Arizona primaries, and loving my state well

Well, the results for my state’s primary election are in, and I’m really not surprised by them. Disappointed, yes, but not surprised.

We’re known as a state that undervalues education, that struggles with racism, and that wrestles with substantial income inequality and poverty. Our national “face,” for a lot of people looking at us from afar, is Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a man who has faced accusations and lawsuits concerning abuses of power, racial profiling, election misconduct, and failure to investigate sexual crimes. So it’s not really a surprise that people who dismiss illegal immigrants as lawbreakers rather than understanding the dynamics of family ties and desperate need, who are okay with law officials playing racial favorites and coming down more harshly on Hispanics and Muslims, who harbor some nostalgia for the Wild West when might made right and the strong man was the honorable man, would overwhelmingly vote for Donald Trump.

For me, who have always looked at my state in the best possible light, it’s a disappointment that’s hard to get over. Maybe my fellow citizens here aren’t as good as I thought they were, from the subset that I happen to know well. Maybe this isn’t such a good place to live and raise my family as I’ve always thought, if people are so incredibly welcoming of the dishonest and self-serving “leaders” who offer them satisfaction and validation.

But do I love my state because of its (actual or perceived) good characteristics, or do I love it because it is my home and I want it to become the best that it possibly can be? Chesterton wrote on this exact topic over a century ago, and here I’m going to replace his example city with Arizona:

Let us suppose we are confronted with a desperate thing – say Arizona. If we think what is really best for Arizona we shall find the thread of thought leads to the throne or the mystic and the arbitrary. It is not enough for a man to disapprove of Arizona: in that case he will merely cut his throat or move to [California]. Nor, certainly, is it enough for a man to approve of Arizona, for then it will remain Arizona, which would be awful. The only way out of it seems to be for somebody to love Arizona: to love it with a transcendental tie and without any earthly reason. […] If men loved Arizona as mothers love children, arbitrarily, because it is theirs, Arizona in a year or two might be fairer than Florence. […] Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.

– G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

I don’t know many people who love Arizona in this way (although I do know a few, and I’m incredibly thankful for them). So many people I speak to are using the state for what they can get out of it, and counting down the time until they can move away. College students come for the universities and then head out again, glad to be gone. Snowbirds come down for the golf courses and mild winters, but keep themselves apart from the permanent population and head back to the places they truly consider their homes each spring. People gripe about the job prospects, the pollution, the bad drivers, the housing market, the immigrants, the homeless, the transit system, the public schools, and (above all) the weather.

And I get that we have problems, a lot of problems, and some very serious problems. But this is my home. This is the place I love, the soil into which my roots have sunk deep, even if it is pretty lousy soil (clay or sand, take your pick!). I get angry sometimes, at work or on social media, about the constant cloud of Arizona complaints, even when they’re completely justified, in a similar way to how I get upset when someone casts aspersions on my children (I was angry at my brother-in-law for over a year because he made a negative comment about Rondel once… I’m not quite that bad about my state).

Am I going to let this love just be an emotion, or am I going to put it into action, working to transform my home into a thing of beauty and grace? I tend towards contemplation instead of action, but true love will, I think, result in both. I think of a pastor at my church who, after years of traveling and living across the world, has settled down here and devotes himself to building community, establishing relationships across lines of race and religion, and creating a literal oasis in the desert. He sees Arizona with objective eyes, but because he also sees it as his home, he has made it part of his vocation to labor for its betterment, instead of leaving or complaining. If there were more like him, maybe someday Arizona really could become “fairer than Florence” – and maybe then, we would elect politicians who displayed things like beauty, love, justice, and truth.

Posted in musings, quotes

the politics of anger

I have been trying not to post much overtly political content on this blog, because it’s not my area of expertise and because it’s not what I typically enjoy writing about.

However, I wanted to share a quote from Mitt Romney’s recent speech condemning the candidacy of Donald Trump, because I thought it was particularly eloquent and historically informed.

I understand the anger Americans feel today. In the past, our presidents have channeled that anger and forged it into resolve, into endurance and high purpose, and into the will to defeat the enemies of freedom. Our anger was transformed into energy directed for good.

Mr. Trump is directing our anger for less than noble purposes. He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants. He calls for the use of torture. He calls for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protesters. He applauds the prospect of twisting the Constitution to limit First Amendment freedom of the press.

This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.

When I was younger, and would think about the beginnings of WWII, I always wondered how the leaders of those nations had risen to power. What was there about Francisco Franco, Benito Mussolini, or Adolf Hitler that appealed to the average citizen in their countries and enabled their positions? Believing (naively, I suppose) in the basic decency of humanity, I couldn’t understand the draw of a strongman manipulating society’s anger and discontent for hateful and violent purposes.

To be honest, I still don’t understand. I know that Germany was broken after WWI, poverty-stricken, ripped of her national pride, and that there was an easy opening for a leader who could ride that anger to power without the constraints of conscience. But that anger could just as well have turned to national reform, to the iron strength of will needed to accomplish the slow and difficult task of national transformation – as in fact it did in the years following WWII. Did the anger lead to all that evil simply because one man decided to use it for his own advantage, for the fulfilling of his own twisted ideology and vendettas?

This election cycle is forcing me to admit that my people, my fellow Americans, are not at heart such a good people as I had always hoped and believed them to be. They are angry – maybe justly, maybe not – and they are letting that anger carry them away, without watching their feet, without taking care to stay within the boundaries of morality and good conscience. The strongman is playing off their emotions, using and manipulating them for his own purposes, and they don’t see it. Or maybe they do see it, and they don’t care, because it feels so good to be able to openly blame someone else for all their problems and struggles, whether or not that scapegoat has any rational basis. So anti-Mexican rhetoric is spewed forth in the southwest, anti-Cuban tirades in Florida, and anti-Muslim attacks on a national level. What happened to liberty for all, my racist conservative compatriots? Does freedom only extend to those who look and think like you?

I used to think that America was a great nation because her people were great, because her people held a basic set of principles that were good and noble. Maybe she was, once, but she is not anymore, because her people have forsaken their calling and their creed. Maybe she will be again, if enough people care enough to begin rebuilding the traditions and principles that gave her beauty and strength through the centuries, but when the siren of the strongman sounds so sweetly in the ears of her people, I fear for when it comes time to pay the piper.