Political Education? –Robert M. Shelby, 11-17/12-14-10 [1057 txt wds]

Sad comedy often attends reading newspaper Letters to the Editor. Some who contribute their confusion lack the knowledge of basic political terms we expect of middle-schoolers. They write like empty vessels filled with noisy rubbish. One recent contributor (11-16-10) believes the Nazis were leftists, no doubt because the word “Socialism” appears in National Socialism. He thinks Fascists are way over on the left with Communists. Clearly, he never heard of the Prussian Junkers, cartels, the Weimar Republic, the German depression, Mein Kampf or the mystic prophets who egged Hitler on. How can one possibly talk in a useful way to such ignorance? One wonders how he avoided information on 20th century history or the language of political science.

Another immature scribbler thinks he has facts in advance of the 2012 election. He demonstrates dim understanding of what a fact is. Political “facts” that won’t appear for two years can be nothing more than wishful projections. One fact most clear is, the fact that he vacuously believes that liberals don’t have any facts. Who brainwashed him so spic & span? His allusion to “sound thinking” suggests his idea of soundness is merely simplism loudly repeated too often, revealing the use here in today’s scene of Hitler’s Big Lie technique. These letters convey facile writing minus comprehension.

Dictionaries will not help these people unless they want to use them. Merriam-Webster and Oxford contain vast resources of language which no sensible student of any subject ignores. Many specialized dictionaries, thesauruses and encyclopedias are useful, even essential to advanced studies whether academic or personal. One can acquire learning both wide and deep without expensive university attendance, although classes can help hasten that process of learning by efficient steering and comprehensive oversight.

Dictionaries are primary tools. One’s grasp of language and reality is strengthened and polished by reading great fiction in large doses. It sets a standard for lesser novels and stories. Works of history are indispensable to understanding one’s own life and time. Poetry is the gymnasium of relation between thought and feeling. Without it, we suffer unaware of the loss, like living in a world without music, without color. The spiritual poverty of living in an ultra-right psyche is unimaginable to me. To be wholly content with material values and owning things, continually escaping from inner experience save as lightened by constant entertainment, church worship or gaining of power over others, must be as Socrates implied: the joy of hogs on a farm with a full feed-trough and access to water for drinking and wallowing. Human hogs need only that plus what they see others having around and over them. Always to want more is hoglike human. Imagine what hogs do with dictionaries. Their language consists of squeal and grunt.

We hear and read a lot of squealing and grunting from people who show less than a hog’s power of analyzing situation or self. One recently used the word “parroting” to describe an alleged “Socialist’s” concern about creeping fascism. That from a parakeet who says everyone to his left works from a “red book” of slogans — by who? Mao-tse Tung? But we know where “red shirts” get their slogans, talking points and marching orders. Talk about robots! They all make the same, silly mistakes with language.

Education begins with language, but one must love language to teach it well or keep on learning. It was never enough to love money, power or a class-utopian dream before language. How can people understand the sort of conservatives they are without understanding more about liberals and “Liberalism” than the tainted, twisted paintings of them they’re shown by far-right spokespersons? Rightist voters need to do their own research, not gobble like baby birds in the nest whatever their Karl Roves and FOX Nays pundits drop into their beaks. This is not the place to quote dictionary definitions but to refer to their use. Those interested in learning about liberalism can find no better resource than Eric Alterman’s WHY WE’RE LIBERALS, A Political Handbook for Post-Bush America, 2008, Viking, the Penguin Group. It shows where Rightists are wrong.

Even deeper grasp of American political psychology and speech can be obtained from Prof. George Lakoff’s book, THE POLITICAL MIND; Why You Can’t Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Mind, 2008, also by Viking and the Penguin Group. Read these books and you will experience a revolution in your own thinking unless you have sealed off your mind from all input, in which case you should read nothing but those books stationers sell containing blank pages for recording your dreams or daily doings. You have all you need, and need learn no more. But, if you read these, there are dozens more awaiting you, as well as fine publications like the tabloid-formatted Liberal Opinion Week and the monthly magazine, The American Prospect. These are by no means socialist or communist “rags” like The Daily Worker (if in fact it’s still printed. There may be urban news-kiosks where it can yet be found, if you care to view its extreme, opposite template to The American Heritage magazine which surely ranks with AARP’s monthly organ, Modern Maturity, though offering less of interest than AAA’s VIA, The Traveler’s Companion.)

There’s no better closure for this short treatment than a couple of quotes from Mark Schmitt’s article, “The Ideas Deficit”, in the current issue of The American Prospect. He writes, “. . .the right seems to have decided that ideas are unnecessary baggage. They’ve embraced candidates of staggering ignorance. Their half-hearted attempts to show that they would have a policy agenda should they [actually] take control of Congress have been embarrassingly vague, and not one of their plans would reduce the federal budget by a dime.” Later, he says: “Without a persuasive alternative vision for the economy, it’s no surprise that voters and legislators would be attracted to vacuous slogans like “lower taxes” or “smaller government.” And finally, “We [Democrats] don’t need ideas that will help Democrats win; we need ideas for the country. We need clarity about just how different the economy will be, even after the recession ends, and a strategy for how we can, once again, make sure that the vast majority of people will have a place in it.”

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