Category: CIVICS

3 Core Principles found in the Declaration of Independence

Check out my episode “Episode 3” from MALADJUSTED on Anchor: https://anchor.fm/ted-mallory/episodes/Episode-3-e1n3qr

With Independence Day coming up next week, here are a few thoughts I like to think of as “THAT’S what America is all about, Charlie Brown!”

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Memorial Day Sentimentalizing

Here are a collection of Instagram and Facebook posts from this weekend. They’re more sentimental than angry or political, but because they’re so personal and passionate, I decided to post them under the “rant” banner rather than “Civics 101.” This isn’t about teaching or encouraging thought or discussion, this is about sharing my personal feelings and beliefs. That said, I hope I didn’t just scare you off. Original posts are regular and new comments are blue and in italics.

Do leave your comments in below, but don’t be a jerk or a troll even if we disagree- especially if you’re a Russian bot.


This weekend remember, if we’re not dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, then we’ve let those who gave their last full measure of devotion so that any nation so dedicated might live, have died in vain. It’s not the flag, it’s the “liberty and justice for all” that needs our allegiance and respect. Otherwise we’re just going through the motions.

Must be because in Civics class I just taught about the Gettysburg Address and passage of the 13, 14 7 15th Amendments. maybe because I just take myself and history and holidays all WAY too seriously.


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Sure, I honor those who served and those who gave their last full measure, but it’s not about flags or ceremonies or even about those who fought. It’s about the principles they were fighting & sacrificing for. When we forget that, that’s when we truly dishonor them. That’s when we allow them to die in vain. If we allow government of, by and for all people to perish, then all our pride and patriotism is nothing more than vanity. #Lincoln #GettysburgAddress #mashup #MemorialDay #equal #equality

 


Lots of WWII movies on this weekend. Know what I’ve noticed? NAZIs are evil and Americans oppose them. American’s don’t trust Russia. Ah, simpler times.

Most Summers you see ‘Midway’ on all weekend. This year I saw ‘Patton’ and ‘Battle of the Bulge.’ Both excellent films, although- with all due respect, George Patton was a narcissistic piece of work!


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I suppose it’s because Memorial Day ceremonies are so similar to the military rites

of internment that I think about losing my dad more this weekend than on his birthday or on the anniversary of his passing, even though he was always humble & never made a big deal about his service.

Some of why I miss my Dad is that he’s the one who taught me about treating ALL people with dignity and respect, about equality. He’s the one who taught me to be respectful yet scrutinize those with power and authority. He taught me the value of military service, but also of civilian service, duty and responsibility. He helped instill in me a love for history and reading and learning. He’s the one who taught me to respect and honor women, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Native Americans, workers & unions, and immigrants too. And he’s the one who taught me how to see through political BS.


Dissent is not ridicule.

Scrutiny is not persecution.

We indeed allow them to have died in vain not so much by failing to recognize their sacrifice, but when we are not dedicated to and devoted to that same proposition that Lincoln and Jefferson both claimed that our nation is dedicated to- that all men are created equal.

Honor and duty certainly are noble, but how much more noble are liberty and justice- especially livery and justice for ALL?

Certainly we should honor all those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom, but venerating veterans shouldn’t become the idolatry of militarism.

Being proud of our patriotism will only be hollow if it is about mere nationalism rather than striving and working and continuing to sacrifice for the principles for which our flag stands, not just for the flag itself: Equality, rights, social contract, unity, justice, domestic tranquility, common defense, general welfare, perpetual democracy, freedom of religion, of speech, of media, of assembly, association, to protest, to criticize and scrutinize our government and to petition for redress of grievances.

If it’s not about these principles, for everyone- even those different than us, even those we disagree with, then what good people is it?

This, no doubt was partly in response to the Address at our town’s Memorial Day ceremonies put on my the American Legion. Their guest speaker was one of our State Assemblymen. I really prefer it when they invite veterans or officers on active duty rather than politicians.

did a good job for the most part. He spoke mostly about a speech Genera MacArthur made on honor, duty and country. It’s not so much that as a history student, I prefer Eisenhower and Truman to Mac- it’s probably that this legislator and I went rounds about confederate statues on facebook a few months ago and he called me “stupid” and “crazy.” Maybe it’s because he’s such a huge Trump supporter or that he’s screwed teachers and public worker unions.

Whatever the case, I know I’m a hypocrite for being so angry and judgmental about him- but if he genuinely thinks that Democrats, progressives or immigrants are actively trying to destroy America or our treasured way of life, he is very insecure and doesn’t trust democracy.

To say that people who criticize politicians or their policies are “ridiculing” patriotism is about like Evangelicals, who are in power and in the majority somehow imagine that they are being “persecuted” and denied religious freedom.

Anyway, it seems such a shame that we have the Gettysburg Address read every year, but no one seems to have a clue about what Lincoln was saying. At least if they do, they don’t agree with him. Perhaps those disagreements about confederate war memorials were still too fresh in my mind. How can you serve in the USMC for 20 years and want to honor men who, in direct violation of the Constitution, wanted to destroy this country? Especially so that they could owning human beings as property? If that makes ME a “radical” and a “liberal,” I can live with that.

Yeeeeah… I guess this post has now earned it’s “rant” label. I apologize for that. It’s hard for me to not be indignant when people are offended by Black football players reverently taking a knee to draw attention to racial injustice, but when ICE lost almost 1,500 children of immigrants, they coldly say “shouldn’t ta broke the law,” or when the Mueller investigation is bringing in dozens of indictments and it’s clear that Russia DID hack our election, they shrug it off with “all politicians do it on both sides…”

Okay- I know that last paragraph alone will incite TONS of angry comments- May I just say, I know that this politician loves our country, and I absolutely value and honor his decades of military service- my problem is that he does not acknowledge that people who disagree with him politically can ALSO love our country and want what’s best for it.


I know its Memorial Day, not Veterans Day or Armed Forces Day, but I can’t help thinking of, praying for, worrying about and thanking not just the members of our community who served but have since passed away, but peers who enlisted after 9/11.

Former students who served already and students who are about to begin their service.

Thank you for the sacrifices you & your families make.

Please remember as you work for “Uncle Sam,” that it’s not the branch you serve in or even our flag you serve under, but the ideals and principles our nation was founded on that you are working to uphold and protect. Equality, Liberty and Justice are not just words, or even ideas or abstract concepts, they are self-evident truths worth sacrificing for.

God bless you & keep you safe as you do your duty to keep us all safe.

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A Valuable Read/View for Our Times

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” ~Rev.Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1963

Thank you Kirwan Inst. and kudos to Jamaal Bell. I teach middle school civics and we’re studying Dr. King’s letter and how it relates to the civil rights movement as it’s covered in our textbook and the 14th Amendment. I think that both having a variety of narrators rather than a single actor portraying King or merely reading the letter, combine with the still images and historic footage you’ve woven together made this a more meaningful and compelling piece- especially for rural, mostly white Iowa eighth graders in 2018, who otherwise may not have understood or appreciated the letter as well.

When I re-read or re-teach this letter, I am reminded of Dr. King’s intelligence, patience, compassion, and insight. This letter has inspired me to write poems and blog posts and paint paintings.

This year, however, just as Dr. King wrote it in response to well intentioned white clergy fifty-five years ago, I wish I could introduce it to all the well-meaning white Christians, especially moderates and conservatives.

King, speaking to clergymen after all, even though it’s an “open” letter that the entire world was privy to in newspapers and magazines, alluded to several saints, philosophers and scriptures. He referrers to the teachings and examples of Jesus frequently in the letter.

These days, my family, friends and neighbors don’t understand the protests over police brutality in the last 2-3 years in Ferguson, Baton Rouge, Baltimore, etc. They saw white supremacists demonstrating in Charlotteville, VA and somehow they blamed former President Obama for being racially divisive during his time in office.

President Trump started his campaign off by describing Mexicans as drug dealers and rapists and started his administration off by calling for a ban on travel and immigration from predominantly Muslim countries.

Just this week Attorney General Jeff Sessions let slip during remarks to law enforcement officials in Washington that he thinks that sheriffs’  have an”AngloAmerican heritage.”

My own Congressman, Steve King (R) of Iowa has opposed immigration because he doesn’t think we can restore our “superior culture” with “other people’s babies.” King has met with and admires Tomio Okamura, the leader of a neo-fascist white supremacist party in the Czech Republic.

As much as people would like to think that we’re more enlightened than Americans were in 1963 or have somehow achieved racial harmony, but obviously we haven’t. I fear that too many of us ARE the “white moderates” that Doctor King criticized in this letter.

We have become complacent or numb to injustice and inequalities. We’re reluctant to recognize let alone repent of our own latent racism. Many of us our even either in denial about or oblivious to institutional forms of racism and the racism of many of our leaders, either because recognizing it would mean having to do something about it or worse, recognizing it would reflect poorly on ourselves. We don’t want to admit that we could possibly be wrong.

Then there’s women’s inequality. Why do we hesitate to equate sexism with racism? Are they not the same? I think that when King talks about Austrian philosopher Martin Buber’s discussion about “I and Thou” rather than “I-It,” we could apply that to women as well as to people of color. Don’t we too often treat women as things rather than people?

And of course today discussion of LGBT rights is much more prominent than in the 1960’s. Even if you have difficulties getting past religious qualms about non-traditional (“non-binary”) sexuality, its impossible to get around that the Constitution’s requirements of equal protection and due process for all, regardless of race, creed, gender, and political persuasion. Discrimination is discrimination, no matter who it’s against or what your motivation.

This year, what made an impression on me was King’s discussion about just and unjust laws. Too many politicians have been using the argument about following the “rule of law” to whip up anger and indignation against DACA “Dreamer”immigrants, who’s parents brought them to this country when they were young children and who essentially have never known any country (home) than this one, but now face deportation decades later.

Doctor King handles head-on the fact that morality and justice are more important than the letter-of-the law, especially when state or local laws are abused by those in power to discriminate, segregate, or violate the rights and protections guaranteed by the Constitution. Had he been a judge or a lawyer rather than a pastor and organizer, he probably would’ve quoted the Fourteenth Amendment directly.

I wish my loved ones would realize that when laws are inadequate, unclear, or unfair, it is our responsibility to revise, reform, or replace them. And that challenging them, protesting, sometimes even deliberately breaking them are all part of our constant democratic process.

I feel like ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail’ is a masterpiece of writing. Personally, I consider it part of the broader American “unwritten-constitution,” along side things like Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or Washington’s farewell address or Teddy Roosevelt’s corollary to the Monroe Doctrine and along side his own ‘I Have a Dream’ speech which he made just four or five months after he wrote this.

If you’ve never read it, I encourage you to find a copy. If you have about an hour that you’d otherwise end up using on Netflix or YouTube anyway, watch the video linked to at the top of this blog post. Consider it kind of an audio version of this letter. My prayer is that it will impact you half as much as it has me.

 

Lessons from Doc

5376582452_9b812aa1f4_bI realize that MLK Day was a couple of weeks ago but this blog post has kind of been nagging at me ever since then.

Everyone knows him from his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech from 1963 and as an important civil rights leader who was assassinated in 1968. But how many of us have ever took the time to really read, study or digest that speech?

History buffs and civil rights advocates may know more about him. They may know that he’s also remembered for his ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail,’ for leading protests there and a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama to draw attention to state discrimination in voting rights.

They may credit him with helping to put pressure on President Johnson and Congress to pass both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. They know that after fighting so long against legal segregation and political equality in the South, he had begun campaigning for economic justice nationwide.

But we forget that he was a pastor, a theologian, an intellectual, a husband and father, a reader, thinker and writer. “Rev. Dr.” means that he was ordained and had a PhD. He wasn’t just a gifted speaker, activist and organizer. He was a ridiculously prolific writer.

He’s one of my personal favorite writers.

As a History/Social Studies teacher, I think his most fascinating piece, in therms of political science, sociology and philosophy has to be his 1967 speech ‘Beyond Vietnam.’

Two of my favorite books aren’t political speeches or editorials though, they’re sermons, devotions and essays on spirituality, love, and King’s  trademark non-violence. Strength to Love  from 1963 and The Measure of a Man , from 1968.

Without having open copies by my side, or a tab open to search for quoted from MLK, I want to share some principles I’ve gleaned from Doctor King’s writings that I try to apply as life lessons. Full disclosure; I’m a white male that grew up in the middle-class suburbs of Phoenix in the 70’s (‘Leave it to Beaver,’ only not in the 50’s).

Maybe that’s the point though- while as a progressive it ticks me off to see right-wing extremists and conservative Republican pundits and politicians try to co-opt Dr. King’s quotes or use his image to try to evoke pretend inclusion or phony compassion- much of King’s teaching really does transcend race, gender, and era.

King made no secret that he was influenced by Mahatma Ghandi, Henry David Thoreau, Martin Luther, and Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  I bet he was also influenced a lot by Mahalia Jackson and Cloretta Scott-King too. What positive role models? We could all use some role models like those today.

When I read King, I see much of his ideas and beliefs echoed in secular authors like Viktor Frankl and Christian authors like C.S. Lewis. white And in white evangelicals like Tony Campolo and black activists like John Lewis and Cornell West. Most of all, I hear echoes of Saint Paul and of Jesus.

If I could pass anything on to my children or my students, I wish I could plant these lessons in their hearts and minds, but I know they have to read Kings books for themselves, listen to his speeches for themselves, study history, read scriptures and encounter God all for themselves. I can’t do it for them. Be that as it may, here are some things I learned from Dr. King.

Off the top of my head, & from the well of my heart-

Lessons I’ve learned from Doctor King

  • Meet physical force with soul force
  • Peace isn’t just an end, it’s a means to many ends
  • Forgiveness is hard, but it shouldn’t just be a habit, but a way of life
  • Be a thermostat, not just a thermometer
  • Better to be tough minded and soft hearted than hard-hearted and soft-minded!
  • Never give up hope, seek to become a prisoner of hope
  • Undeserved suffering is redemptive
  • ALL of our destinies are inextricably tied together
  • Injustice ANYWHERE is a threat to justice EVERYWHERE
  • Never stop; if you can’t fly, run, if you can’t run, walk, if you can’t walk crawl- but keep moving forward.
  • Hate can’t drive out hate, only love can do that
  • Just a sneeze can change history
  • Just because something is a law doesn’t make it just and unjust laws sometimes may even need to be broken to draw attention to the fact that they ought to be changed
  • Change comes from faith, prayer, love, community, and sacrifice
  • Words are powerful
  • It’s one thing to claim to believe something, it’s another to live out the true meaning of those beliefs
  • Love
  • Love others, even your enemies

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How to not waste your shots

Emotion is your enemy… Losing control of your emotions, at work as much as anywhere, is a losing proposition. As a leader, it’s important that you manage your emotions instead of letting them manage you.” ~John Wooden, UCLA Basketball Coach

“Complaining about a problem without proposing a solution is called whining.” ~Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States

Gotta tell ya, some politicians irk me. I mean make me so angry I just want to shout expletives. But my wife reminds me that I’m a Civics teacher, and a Sunday School teacher, and a parent.

Part of me is so full of angst when I see the groundwork for authoritarianism being laid that I feel like I HAVE to say something. After all, as a History Major in college I had British parliamentarian Edmund Burke’s words pounded into me- “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

But I think about the poor “spaz” on the elementary playground. So full of frustration that they must lash out at their bullies, but all they manage to do is flail around spasmodically- only giving the bullies and their schoolmates more material to ridicule, instead of injuring their tormentors.

Wouldn’t you rather get in one good knockout punch, thus delivering a powerful lesson in who not to mess with?

So, some advice, and believe me, this is a case of “physician heal thyself,” but nevertheless, advice on when and how to exercise one’s First Amendment rights rather than to abuse them.

  • Be articulate
  • Be specific
  • Avoid being coarse or profane
  • Attack policies, positions and actions- NOT persons, personalities, or appearances
  • Back up you assertions with facts (even though your opponents may not use them, or may believe in “alternative” facts).
  • Allow trolls to troll (and make themselves look ignorant and angry), or delete their comments, but don’t engage them.
  • Above all, speak out of your passion FOR something, based on principles, rather than get carried away with your anger against someone or something.

Granted, “do as I say, not as I do” may indeed apply here plenty of times. But this is still advice that I recognize that I myself need to follow.

For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.” ~Thomas Jefferson, President of the United States.

 

 

 

Multi-Front Attack on the First Amendment

c_fasm_rpr_2Collective Bargaining is the very embodiment of at least three, if not four of the five rights guaranteed by the First Amendment & public employees, police, fire, civil service and yes public school teachers MUST have it protected for them.
Meanwhile the Supreme Court has equated campaign money with “free speech,” so that billionaires and corporations have enormous leverage over individual voters, but workers are denied the leverage they need to balance their needs with the interests of employers, corporations and political pressure groups.
A free and freely functioning press/media is not only vital, but imperative for the functioning of a participatory democratic-republic. Incidentally, this is also protected by the First Amendment.
If Christians are honest about wanting “religious liberty,” they MUST protect this right for all religions, no matter how egregious their teachings or some interpretations or misinterpretations of their teachings may be. Ironically, the contentious travel ban on 7 majority Muslim countries not only violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment, it also violates many of the teachings of Jesus Christ about welcoming strangers, loving our enemies, and caring for the dispossessed.
The First Amendment protects our rights to free speech & expression, peaceable assembly & association and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances. If you don’t want people to riot, let them march and picket. If you don’t want them to burn or walk on flags or fly them upside-down, then don’t deride them for taking a knee instead of singing the national anthem.
Voting is the most important means of exercising our First Amendment right to freedom of thought and participation in our democratic-republic. The Voting Rights Act was intended to protect this. In recent years it has been gutted and Congress has refused to renew it. In that climate, state governments and officials have taken advantage of the opportunity to make it harder for groups of voters to exercise their God-given right.
Meanwhile systemic dysfunction plagues our criminal justice system. You can argue that you don’t believe it’s “institutionalized racism,” but regardless of cause, there is unarguably demonstrable gross inequity in arrests, grand juries, prosecution and incarceration. Even if this weren’t deliberate discrimination by design- it is undeniable that huge portions of our population are having their 5th, 6th, 8th, and 14th Amendment rights violated or ignored.
So that when Senator with a recognized history of racism has been nominated to become the Attorney General, who’s very role it is to insure justice and fairness and protect the Constitutional rights of American citizens, it is only fitting that another Senator might oppose his nomination by reading a letter from the wife of a slain civil rights leader.
And when the Senate majority leader prevents her from being heard in the well of the Senate itself, not only is he violating the First Amendment right of that Senator, he his violating the rights of ALL Americans who would stand for justice and equality.
Make no mistake- “…our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.”
THIS is why we can’t remain silent. I teach my students that your rights (and your brains, for that matter) are like your muscles, “use ’em or lose ’em.”
Disagree with me. Be offended by me. Think I’m over reacting to the changes in government since the election. But I can’t shut up. YOUR rights are being challenged and eroded and violated. Not just foreigner’s rights, refugees’ rights, Muslim rights, Black rights, Mexican rights, not just liberal’s rights, not just my rights, not just your political opponent’s rights. OUR rights. Americans’ rights. Human rights.
Please take this seriously. It’s not complicated or boring or academic and theoretical.
If you don’t like “#BlackLivesMatter,” how so you feel about #democracymatters? Does the First Amendment matter?
  • Religion
  • Speech
  • Press
  • Assembly
  • Petition

Don’t give up any of them. Don’t deny them to ANYONE, no matter how different they are from you, no matter how differently they exercise each right or how much you disagree with them. These are fundamental human rights. God-given rights. These are the principles on which America was founded.

Iowa Voters in Crawford County; Save our Schools!

Dear Jason & Steve,

I am very concerned about recently proposed cuts to our community colleges, state universities, correctional facilities, and human services.

Iowa legislators have failed to abide by our 1995 allowable growth law for several years in a row now.

But I know that you will remember, that Iowa children are our most vital investment, not corporations or out of state interests.

Please do everything you can to oppose the bills which came out of appropriations committees this week. Prove to your constituents that you are willing to put Iowa’s children first.

Thank you for your consideration.

Feel free to copy & paste, although phone calls work even better.
jason.schultz@legis.iowa.gov (712)269-2178
Steven.Holt@legis.iowa.gov (515)281-3221