Saturday, November 14, 2009

Almost There!

Ran back over the blog tonight. Back to the first post, about how this was just a Library School class assignment at first. There's some stuff in here I'm pretty proud of; I can think and I can write it down after I think it! I never really expected that. I've been thinking that I might be a writer sometime soon. Especially now that I'm within a month of my MLIS, and I'm a Substitute Reference Librarian at Dayton Metro Library, with my first shift next Tuesday. With Social Security, my Shim Enterprises part-time job at 10 hours a week, and a few more hours at DML, I'll have an adequate income and enough time to hone my writing.

But what will I write? I've got lots of ideas. One new one is a biography of Electra Collens Doren. I was at the E. C. Doren branch library most of today. This branch is the only one of DML's 20 branches named for a person, rather than the neighborhood. I have learned a bit of her life, and she was a true library hero, easily the greatest such in Dayton. I would like her life to be better known outside of Dayton (inside of it too, for that matter.) This might require more education, but I might be able to get that from U. D. Maybe when I audit some German language courses I will also audit a biography-writing course. If UD has one. I'll have to find an English professor sometime.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Depressing thought

Today I heard Tangled Up in Blue from Dylan's "Blood on the Tracks". At the line "There was music in the cafes at night and revolution in the air" it occurred to me that one definition of revolution is going around in a complete circle, ending exactly the same as you started.

This is a very depressing thought for an aging counter-culturalist, still trying to make sense of his "cultural revolutionary" youth. Many of the things we advocated so loudly have backfired so badly. And yet we weren't entirely wrong! Some other things have worked; racism really is much less than it was when I was a kid. And others were never tried; maybe they will work. God, please help us sort this out!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Strawberry Statement, again

I finished J. S. Kunen's book The Strawberry Statement, my birthday present from Tom. It was as delightful as I remembered. It is good to remember that everyone back then was not morbidly serious about everything.

Kunen wrote a preface to the 1995 reprint. In it, he said that while the movement accomplished much less than many of us had hoped for, it had at least slowed America down from getting into any more such wars as Vietnam. How I wish that was still true.

(I have been sorely neglecting this blog. Maybe it will get easier in the Fall semester. It's been worth it, though; the practicum has been a blast!)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Patriot's Dream

Today I heard on the radio “Patriot’s Dream” by Arlo Guthrie, and it really struck me. Hearing it so soon after reading Mark Rudd’s autobiography churned up a lot of thoughts and feelings I wanted to set in order and save. The verses of the song ended with “…try to rekindle the patriot’s dream.” It hit me hard that my generation smothered, to a great extent, the patriotic dreams of earlier generations, particularly our parents’ generation. Those of us who grew up middle-class Americans, in families, simply cannot believe that we would ever actually not know where our next meal was coming from. To us hard times meant giving up cable TV. The worst poverty we thought might actually happen to us is not having a working car, and taking public transportation. We saw the good things in America and took them for granted; the good was somehow immortal. So we tried to correct the bad things.

One of the bad things was what looked to us to be the abuse of patriotism. Yes, America is a great place and I was and am very happy to be an American. I’m not proud of it particularly; it only came to me as God’s gift. Or as Arlo said, “Placed by fate's mysterious schemes.” But it’s a fine line between patriotism and nationalism, between patriotism and imperialism. “America first” is one thing, but “America only” is something else.

When young, we cheered the Third World’s liberation from European colonialism, and did not want to see it replaced by American imperialism, or some form of neo-colonialism. The American actions in Vietnam, and now in Iraq, look too much like an attitude that America can decide what government other people may have. We were (and some of us still are) bitterly opposed to that attitude as the opposite of the country we were taught to believe in, the country we love. When we are told that patriotism means blindly, mindlessly supporting America at the expense of anyone and everyone else, we rebel. And patriotism gets a bad name. It galls me no end to see the right wing fruitcakes appropriate “patriot” as applying only to them. The politicians and other windbags who have done this remind me of Dr. Johnson’s “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”

We all have heard Stephen Decatur’s toast “My country right or wrong, but right or wrong my country.” (The quote is not accurate, but it’s what we’ve all heard.) This is not necessarily a bad attitude for military people, and the original is even more so. In entering military service one must give up a degree of independent thought for the sake of necessary discipline. This is why civilian control of the military has been such a cardinal American principle. But in politics and policy making, it is deadly. In my time we much preferred Sen. Carl Schurz’s reply “My country right or wrong; if right to be kept right, and if wrong to be set right.” I also like G. K. Chesterton’s “’My country right or wrong’ is a thing that no patriot would say except in a desperate case.” (Boy, once I start looking up quotes…)

We need to get back to the middle, here as elsewhere (cries the lone voice in the wilderness.) Americans must get back to supporting American long-term interests. Let me emphasize LONG-TERM interests. Being the bully of the world, telling people who wanted to be our friends to take our orders or get out of our way, may work today but ultimately it will be our undoing. Jesus said we must love our neighbors. Why Christians think that His word does not apply to international affairs baffles me. Do you really think that “neighbor” stops at the coasts? At the Rio Grande? I don’t.

So how do we rekindle the patriot dream? It won’t be easy. Arlo’s song is not hopeful. He is of my generation. (Born in 1947, like Mark Rudd and I; a very good year to be born.) We have seen revolutions fail; we tried for earthly paradise and found only imperfect people. The longer I live the less I can understand any faith in human perfectibility. People have always been imperfect and I see no reason to believe they won’t always be, in this world. But if we can’t make it perfect, we can make it better. Our history is full of examples of making changes that improved our communal life, in one way or another. That is the lesson of the America I love: we can make it better. That is the patriot’s dream to rekindle: that once again America can be a beacon to our world of hope for a better tomorrow.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Economics and Education

This may turn out to be another rant about why America is going to the proverbial inferno in the proverbial vehicle. (This one I am doing on the fly; I usually do the more serious ones off-line and edit them carefully.)

Saw an article in the paper this morning, one of many I've seen the last few years. Basically, it said that middle class jobs of the future will need much more education than in the past. Most people see this as a plain fact; some seem to think it a good thing. I am pretty unusual in seeing it as ominous. If it continues, I believe that it will ultimately be a destabilizing factor in American society. Here's why.

When I was young, a sober, industrious young man (yes, "man" in those benighted days) could aspire to the middle class suburban life with a plain high school diploma. With a decent job at a (usually unionized) manufacturing plant, he could marry, have a few kids and live comfortably in a nice house with some yard, and expect to own it outright by retirement. This was a reasonable expectation for anyone, of almost any background. Even the most run-down inner-city slum high school would provide what you needed for this hope. It required no expensive college or trade school, or even underpaid apprenticeship.

Now, for all practical purposes, this dream is dead. The low-skill jobs, union or otherwise, have mainly left the country. Remaining well-paid jobs require a high degree of some kind of skill. The problem with this is that skill is the result of a combination of talent and training. The training, or education, can be very expensive these days, and government doesn't support education beyond high school. And for people who lack talent, even expensive training is not enough. We now have people who finish high school and have no reasonable chance to get out of the working poor. That can only breed dissatisfaction with their society.

One of my heroes, G. K. Chesterton, said "There cannot be a nation of millionaires, and there never has been a nation of Utopian comrades; but there have been any number of nations of tolerably contented peasants." (Outline of Sanity CW. V. 192) When too many peasants are no longer contented, trouble looms.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Spring in the back yard

Ahhh... A warm spring day, Sunday afternoon ... in the newly mown back yard ... Mass in the morning, a hearty brunch, several necessary chores accomplished ... a comfortable chair, a good book and a cold beer ... our Father's house has many rooms, and one of them is exactly like this.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Flyers Win!

Hey, the U. D. Flyers men's basketball team won their first-round NCAA tournament game, for the first time in 19 years. Yay, I'm happy about sports for the first time in quite a while. Sure, I still have some reservations about how the University is being run these days, but the team is still Dayton's team, and I'm still a Daytonian. Now if my alma mater, Wright State U., can just get it together it will be really great in our town. Go Raiders!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Me - Arms Merchant!

Wandering around the Internet a while ago, I ran across a quote that cheered up this librarian wannabe and disgruntled centrist no end:

Our whole American way of life is a great war of ideas, and librarians are the arms dealers selling weapons to both sides.
-James Quinn

Don't know who James Quinn is, but he has said at least one really clever thing. I found it on the Nancy Pearl Action Figure website,, and I may need to buy a figure to repay them for that quote and others on that web page. I love that thought; as a librarian I stick strictly to no side, not even the middle, impartially providing everyone whatever they think they need.

I have been amazed lately at just how much I like the library, and the possibility of me being a librarian. I have always liked being helpful to people, and one thing that was hard to come by in information technology was having someone say "Thanks!" It did happen; I had some really good people to work with at U. D. But it is an everyday occurrence at a reference desk. God, please get me a reference job soon. Thanks in advance.