Standing Army

From “We Who Dare to Say No to War”, William Jennings Bryan at the Democratic National Convention 1900.

“A large standing army is not only a pecuniary burden to the people and, if accompanied by compulsory service, a constant source of irritation but it is even a menace to a republican form of government. The army is the personification of force, and militarism will inevitably change the ideas of the people and turn the thoughts of our young men from the arts of peace to the science of war.”

“A small standing army and a well-equipped and well-disciplined state militia are sufficient at ordinary times, and in an emergency the nation should in the future as in the past place its dependence upon the volunteers who come from all occupations at their country’s call and return to productive labor when their services are no longer required – men who fight when the country needs fighters and and work when the country needs workers…”

Our nation should not be an empire but a “light on a hill” representing liberty and peace. All around me I see the “personification of force” every day. I’m oppressed by it and constantly reminded of the United States empire all over the world. I’m afraid we can only hold onto this empire for so long before we fall like Rome.

Epictetus

“When one took counsel of Epictetus, saying, “What I seek is this, how even though my brother be not reconciled to me, I may still remain as Nature would have me to be,” he replied: “All great things are slow of growth; nay, this is true even of a grape or of a fig. If then you say to me now, I desire a fig, I shall answer, It needs time: wait till it first flower, then cast its blossom, then ripen. Whereas then the fruit of the fig-tree reaches not maturity suddenly nor yet in a single hour, do you nevertheless desire so quickly and easily to reap the fruit of the mind of man? – Nay, expect it not, even though I bade you!”

I have a wish like this. I want someone to reconcile to me. It may take years and it may never happen. But I cannot make it happen. I can only wait. And if I move toward making it happen, I only slow the natural order of things. I must go about my life, satisfied with the relationships I do have. Which leads me to one more Epictetus quote.

“When we are invited to a banquet, we take what is set before us; and were one to call upon his host to set fish upon the table or sweet things, he would be deemed absurd. Yet in a word, we ask the Gods for what they do not give; and that, although they have given us so many things!”

Entertainment

Is today’s entertainment of worse quality than times gone by? I don’t think so. I think there have always been bad books, theater, music, movies, games, etc. It’s just that the only things that have lasted through time have been the pieces people love to see over and over again.

“Classics”, things people get something from every time they experience it, be it cars, movies, books, or games, are the things that get to us through the past and into the present time. We don’t hear about the book that someone wrote and no one liked, or the performance a group put on and no one ever went to see again.

What we see today is everything that anyone puts out. There is more of it due to technology. There are classics being made today, we just won’t know what they are until our grandchildren ask if we ever played Halo or went to a Britney Spears concert.

Does this sound familiar?

From “We Who Dare to Say No to War”. The following is an excerpt from William Graham Sumner’s Essay about the effects of the Spanish-American war. The whole thing is amazing and I could have quoted it all.

“The point is that each of them repudiates the standards of the others, and the outlying nations, which are to be civilized, hate all the standards of civilized men. We assume that what we like and practice, and what we think better, must come as a welcome blessing to Spanish-Americans and Filipinos. This is grossly and obviously untrue. They hate our ways. They are hostile to our ideas. Our religion, language, institutions, and manners offend them. They like their own ways, and if we appear amongst them as rulers, there will be social discord in all the great departments of social interest. The most important thing which we shall inherit from the Spaniards will be the task of suppressing rebellions.”

“Now, the great reason why all these enterprises which begin by saying to somebody else, We know what is good for you better than you know yourself and we are going to make you do it, are false and wrong is that they violate liberty; or, to turn the same statement into other words, the reason why liberty, of which we Americans talk so much, is a good thing is that it means leaving people to live out their own lives in their own way, while we do the same. If we believe in liberty, as an American principle, why do we not stand by it?”

Why don’t we stand by it? Why do we seem to need to be involved in everything around the world? Reading things like this does give me hope though. The battle has been going on for a long time. It’s not new to our era.

This idea of letting people alone to do what’s best for themselves where they are is not just for politics. People’s personal lives can be ruled by this idea as well. Why do we as a human race need rule over others? If more people took better care of their immediate surroundings instead of harassing others about what they do, we’d all be in a better state.

A Quote

I found this on Forbes.com this morning.

“Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.” – Auguste Rodin

I love it. It’s exactly what we’re talking about when unschoolers discuss our ideas about education. Everything you do (or not do) can be useful to your life and your goals. Even that teenaged kid who comes home from school and plays three hours of GTA is most likely using that experience wisely. He may need that time to decompress from the stress of the school environment. You may see wasted time and harass him, therefore defeating his purpose and making it harder for him to find a way to cope with life. He sees a block of time to “play” and relax. Time to let his mind wander and release tension that has built up over the day. He may not be able to express it but it’s still there.

Plato’s “Apology”

Socrates says, “For neither in war nor yet at law ought any man to use every way of escaping death.” and “The difficulty, my friends, is not in avoiding death, but in avoiding unrighteousness; for that runs faster than death.”

I only hope I can run faster than unrighteousness. I love Socrates! The end of Apology is just so perfect. He’s standing the before those who will kill him and he actually feels sorry for them. And he’s right about death. Complete non-existence after death? Like a perfect sleep, forever without worry from this world? Ok. Or an afterlife (as they believed) with those that have died before them? Chatting it up with the heros and philosophers of old? Even better! Why would he want to live among them anymore?

An Example of How “Unschooling” Works

They are fans of Simon & Garfunkel. They saw them on an old Saturday Night Live. They bought several albums and have been playing them in the car a lot. They dug out an old song book we had and looked up guitar tabs online. If I get up in the middle of the night I will find them playing guitars together much of the time.

One of the songs is called “Freedom Rider”. It’s powerful. But what is it about? I had an inkling it was something to do with the civil rights movement. They looked it up online and read a bit about it, filled me in.

Separate event, my husband told me that he had recently read that it wasn’t just that whites would not allow blacks to eat in their restaurants, but that it was illegal to do so. Even if you wanted to, you weren’t allowed. I’d never heard that in school or in movies. I’d also heard from my MIL that when she had gone to the south in the 60’s she was amazed at how they treated black people. It wasn’t like that in most other areas. Sure there was some natural separation or grouping of like people, but not the legal separation like the south.

Another separate event, I learned in one of my free online law classes that in our system you  must be harmed by a law to bring it to court and have it deemed unconstitutional. You can’t just believe it is, hire a lawyer, and bring a case. This goes for  any case brought by a citizen. Another time, I had been reading a lot about jury rights and how the jury was created to work by not just judging whether or not you have broken the law but also if the law is just and should be law.

Months later, we watched “The Butler” on DVD. There were college kids sitting in white areas of the restaurant and politely asking to be served. That is against the law. It is an act of civil disobedience. The point (which was not illustrated in the movie or any other public school class I took) is that they would be arrested, a lawyer would take the case and put it to a jury that the law separating blacks and whites was unconstitutional. Even if the restaurant owner wanted to serve them he couldn’t, unless he were willing to break the law and take it to court as well. It’s costly in many ways and the students were under the direction of adults trying to make a point. They knew the risks they were taking and willing to take them to improve things. The “Freedom Riders” were doing something similar and getting the violence on TV news across the country would enlighten people and change hearts, encourage the laws to be changed. Politicians usually want to do what will get them elected and make them not look bad.

So I’m excited about the connections I’ve made and tell the family. We all discuss it to great length. Talk about what could have been done differently, how the federal government got involved, how some of the violence could have been avoided, what the civil war was about, how other countries dealt with slavery, how we did it differently, how black people are perceived in our country as opposed to others, etc. It went on and on. And it still goes on as we learn new things and find new sources.

This is common at our house. We are always finding new things in the most unlikely places and they are vitally important to our understanding of the world we live in. I really don’t think that it would have had the same impact on any of us if I had decided that today we would discuss the civil rights movement in the United States and brought out a government issued book. Or any subject for that matter.

Biography

I just finished reading the Harvard Classics Lectures on Biography and now I’m even more excited by the genre. The only one I’ve ever read it Ben Franklin’s and I loved it. We’re currently reading it aloud in the evenings for the whole family. I have several others sitting on the shelves. I guess I’ll start there!