Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Maybe there was some thoughtfulness

In a debate considered nasty by many of its viewers, there was a moment of great thoughtfulness. Secretary Clinton said the following:

I think implicit bias is a problem for everyone, not just police. I think too many of us in our great country jump to conclusions about each other, and therefore, I think we need all of us to be asking hard questions like, ‘Why am I feeling this way?'

That was a refreshing bit of clarity and honesty from a politician, and I hope it doesn't fall on deaf ears. Sadly, this is an election where many voters are having a hard time seeing nuance on very nebulous dilemmas. In a binary (I'm trying not to say black-and-white) political climate, it's more likely that Clinton will be excoriated for calling some group a racist or not siding with police than praised (or at least acknowledged) for raising a broader American dilemma.

We all hold prejudices and assumptions that are harmful.

We all have the ability to overcome those prejudices and assumptions to some extent.

Doing that is hard.

Doing that is a mark of character.

Acknowledging and feeling humility over those moments when we fail to do so shows character.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Potted Plant

Lester Holt, when asked about how he approached his role as a moderator in last night's debate, said that he didn't want to be merely a potted plant. He wasn't. In fact, many of Mr. Trump's supporters are wringing their hands today over his allegedly unfair treatment of the Republican nominee. Pardon me if I don't shed any tears.

What am I supposed to be in school, when working with high school Social Studies students. Certainly not a potted plant. One can be assertive and objective and professional at the same time. I do share with my students where I stand politically, and I take pride in how I can do so dispassionately and objectively. This requires me to temper what I say, but also to adhere to what I perceive to be true. Fortunately, my training as a historian, a discipline that calls on us to remember humility as we assert historical truth, helps me out a lot. But if I don't engage and share with my students, how else can one model civil political discourse.

However, here I don't need to hold back.

Donald Trump is a bully. It's as clear as that. Last night's debate simply confirmed and deepened that conclusion I've drawn about his character. He picks on those who cannot easily defend themselves. He casts insults and insinuations, then cowardly won't accept responsibility for what he said. It's meanness masked as bravado. If I were to vote for him, I'd be voting against all the values I was taught by my parents, my teachers, the parents of my friends, and my role models at church as I grew up.

There, that's what I couldn't say at school.

Okay, now back to being objective. But potted plant? No.