History: To Study or Not To Study

The more I study history the harder it becomes to ignore the ignorant who have been fed propaganda and generalizations rather than actual history with all its good, bad, and complicated parts.

The notion that one must tear apart mythology in order to seek fact does not appeal to me, nor does the idea that all facts must be conclusively proven in order to be held as true. Yet on the other hand, I find the the idea that mythology and popular lore should be the only history consumed by a patriotic citizenry just as unappealing.

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The Sadness of Finding Fault

We all do it at one time or another, finding fault. In the process of evaluation, it is vital that both positive and negative attributes are noted and examined. Yet, even when the evaluation presents a finding of greater negative than positive, it is up to the individual to choose how to process the findings.

When buying an object, say like a car or a sofa, it is clear that the positives must outweigh the negatives. However, since very little in life is perfectly positive, we do well when we focus our thoughts to the positive attributes of the imperfect.

Sadly, it is often the case that when evaluating people, whether it be an individual or a group, we focus on the negative aspects more than the positive, even when the positive attributes outweigh the negative. Worse yet, we seek to blame others for the things that make us sad, angry, or depressed. True, the actions of others can adversely affect our emotional and physical state of being, but in the end we seem to choose to find fault with others more consistently than we try to find happiness in ourselves. When we focus on fault finding and neglect to nurture a spirit of compassion, we become the originator of a greater sadness than that which may have come from the actions of others. For while we can separate ourselves from others, we cannot walk away from our self.

 

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Saith Me… Choosing to be Miserable

Interpersonal connections through various modes and methods, specifically during this past two months, have reminded me of the old saying,

“You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time.”

There is one category starkly missing, some people can never be pleased because they are determined to be miserable.

Regardless of the justifications of misery – temporary or chronic – there is a stark difference between experiencing misery and being miserable.

Wretched, distressful events occur, but it is a choice one makes to become wretchedly distressed by the events. The key factor separating the experience of misery and being miserable is Choice.

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Saith Me… Fact Check Rant

It is understandable that we may not have time to fact check every story that pops up in the news. However, it is appalling that inflammatory or sensational stories are so readily and eagerly shared by people who are not the authors and have not taken the time to check the basic facts. As dismayed as slanted media makes me, I am more dismayed by the people willing to share stories that are more tabloid than news, more lies than truth. In an age of information, it is discourteous to pass on incorrect material – regardless of what political agenda you may think will benefit from a “bit of exaggeration.”

Check the facts

Who Will Survive Unscathed?

I just love it when a journalist tells it like it is… (see the link)

My favorite section was on the IRS and the difficult job they have.  Like any other government branch, the IRS is made up of humans and humans often make bad decisions, especially when there are new or complicated policies to manage.

What I find most odd about this latest round of “scandal” is the comparisons being made between President Obama and President Nixon. Nixon was a tightfisted president when it came to decision making and oversight. He trusted few.  Obama seems to trust many and seeks to let the professionals in each bureau run the day-to-day.  This is what causes him so many problems – he trusts people to do their jobs.

Mistakes happen in every administration, that is a given. There has never been nor will there ever be a “perfect” president, not even ole George Washington himself was without flaws. Sometimes mistakes get reported, sometimes they don’t, and in some cases mistakes are covered up – hopefully in all cases mistakes are motivators for change and better training.

Mistakes will happen but if WE THE PEOPLE keep going on witch hunts and continue on a path of losing faith every time someone makes a mistake – including the people in the Oval Office and in Congress – then WE THE PEOPLE will be making the biggest mistake of all. Our lack of faith in our system is the greatest threat to our nation! When bad things happen, when mistakes are made, and when threats are not halted at our borders, instead of rallying we gnash our teeth and rend our clothes in anger over our governments failure. But our government is of the people and by the people. People make mistakes  – some from good intentions and other from arrogance, but this is nothing new.  The only thing new is the speed and volume of information availability. Mistakes now become public fodder even before they are fully investigated. Human mistakes!

Just as the laws are made to protect the common man, those same laws protect the common man who works for the government whether they be elected, appointed, or hired by a bureaucratic supervisor. During a witch hunt, would you voluntarily give up your right to remain silent? So why then would you expect any public servant or employee to give up that same right? Instant news and the public outcry that follows instant news do not negate the right to a fair hearing.

Seeking change, disagreeing with policy, disliking personalities – these things may direct your voting choice but they should not cause you to distrust those who are elected, nor should they cause you to lose faith in the system. During the election cycle there is much complaint about mudslinging and the lack of truth, but where is the outrage and disgust over such underhanded politically motivated tactics during the non-election cycle (if there is such a period anymore)? Hiding political agendas and mudslinging behind demands for transparency and demands for instant details is appalling. Even when mistakes are less mistake and more intended actions, the rights of individuals and the protection of innocents must be considered. Even a witch hunt targeted at one, may cause unintended casualties and unintended consequences. People make up our government and their lives and their freedoms COUNT!

In the days of old, the witch hunt often targeted innocents, and just as often ended up targeting the very people responsible for the witch hunt’s origin. When January 2017 rolls around, who will have survived this latest witch hunt unscathed? Will it be WE THE PEOPLE or will WE perish due to our own mistakes rather than from those we perceive made by others?

Questions… Taking Sides and Losing Unity

Is there a danger in supporting YOUR TEAM rather than supporting OUR Team? Have we lost the OUR NATION and become irrevocably divided in a contest of finding fault? Has history become only the Myths and Legends with which we batter and attack the opponent? Or can history still teach us something about the reality of human fallibility and the imperfect nature of trying to do our best and falling short of expectations? Can truth ever be found if we only see what we want to see, only hear what we want to hear, and only perceive what we already perceive?

Are we still trying to learn, grow, evaluate, and improve – or are we simply taking sides?

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“Note to Democrats and Republicans: This Is Not a Game” by Mathew Dowd

Saith Me… Myth or History – Which do you Study?

People keep talking about the ills of our government, about our liberties being at risk and about how bad the nation is now. But I really wonder how many of them have ever studied any history – real history, the kind that goes beyond even the freshman level American History course of most colleges. Before they spout off about the loss of rights, do they really do their very best to understand the basis upon which those rights were created or do they simply agree with the masses screaming foul?

I often wonder if the propaganda material of 1770s and 1780s is all the people of today know about and whether they understand that not all the Founding Fathers agreed on the propaganda. The one thing they did seem to agree upon was creating a Constitution that did not hem us in but rather grew with us, adapted as we adapted, and outlived the political rhetoric of any one generation.

Lastly, I wonder if the spouting masses of today have any real idea of how much compromise those Founding Fathers put into not just the Constitution, but into the governance which then had to follow in order to provide for the protections the Constitution promised. Or how many times it took the threat of war before they would step down from their soapboxes and agree to compromise.

Maybe it is our turn to set aside the soapbox and pick up a scholarly history book, one that challenges our notions rather than simply tells the mythical side of the story.

Saith Me… To Stand not Fight

It is a good and noble thing to stand up for that in which you believe. Sometimes you may even need to fight for your beliefs, but remember when we choose to fight, we are seeking to change the will of others. Changing someone else’s will is not simply changing their mind, but changing their desire to resist the result you propose.

The decision to fight, to try to change someone’s will, should not be decided upon lightly.  Even a fight of words can result in harm and injury.  Before you start a fight, make sure your fight is for something in which you are willing inflict injury to achieve.  Be sure the thing you are willing to injure others over has a great enough value that it will offset the damage you will cause.

We can stand on principles without resorting to a fight, but to do so we much have respect for the principles upon which others stand. In almost all cases, it will be better to stand than to fight.  It is a profound task to figure out the exceptions.

Saith Me and My Son… Fear

Fear is the easiest way to distract people from seeing issues clearly. It creates “something worse” and thereby allows bad to be perceived as good.

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Is it a good thing when your kids start arguing with you as to whom the credit for pithy ponderings should go?

What history will teach us…

What history will teach us…

I recently saw a meme that defined treason as including giving aid to an enemy. It started me thinking about the debate over foreign aid and the role it plays in diplomacy. While I certainly agree that foreign aid must be scrupulously administered and should not be simply a default in the national budget, I disagree on the implication of who one might call our enemy*.

Interestingly, during the years between WWI and WWII the United States, while not enemies with Great Britain, saw Great Britain as being the greatest potential for threat to US security and prosperity**, second only was the rising threat of Japan. These threat assessments were based on the notion that with Germany having been weakened after WWI, a naval, and thereby commercial threat was only really viable by Great Britain and Japan.

Yet, when France fell and Great Britain became bombarded, President Roosevelt devised a scheme to aid Great Britain despite US isolationist rhetoric and congressional policy. So does that mean Roosevelt committed treason by helping a potential threat? Or does it simply mean that an unstable region, a region lacking a balance of power poses a greater threat to US security and prosperity than the potential threat of any one nation?

History teaches us that diplomacy and national policy is not as clear as political talking heads would like us to believe.  I really don’t think history will record much of the opinion of the talking heads, rather history will view the intent, implementation, and result of policy. Then history will most likely teach us we were fools to listen to the talking heads in the first place.

 

 

* enemy is defined as a hostile nation or state. The presence of hostile factions does not make the state an enemy.  Just as the US cannot universally control the ideas and actions of its citizens, the US cannot expect another nation to do that we cannot or will not do ourselves.

** National Security and Prosperity Interests was the terminology used prior to the Cold War when the language changed to National Security Interests.