Rabbit Trail Post: Of Arrows and Juggling Acts

This week is a prime example of the myth of the “stay-at-home-wife/mother” who doesn’t work. To be fair, I know that if you’re reading here, you likely are not among that ideological crowd, but the image persists nonetheless.

This week I am trying -often poorly- to juggle a million little things at once. I don’t think that makes me in any way special. I think it’s typical of the feminine life. It is why women are less likely to live the arrow kind of life that Hearthie wrote so well about in this post:

Like most all of you, I am knee deep in preparations for Thanksgiving. We are hosting, which means the typical one-two punch of meal prep plus house prep. Even when you clean regularly, you inevitably notice those cracks and crevices that need improvement as you anticipate the arrival of people who do not live with you on a daily basis. However, the Thanksgiving prep is just one more thing on an ever expanding pile.

There’s the ever-present teaching prep. There’s our kids’ big drama production that is three weeks away. There are lots of costume, set, and prop preparations that the moms all deal with. This yearly event is fun but demanding. When we see our kids on stage, it will all have been worth it, but getting there is a beast.

There’s our church Christmas party, our school’s Christmas party, the Christmas cookie bake I’m hosting. None of those takes into account the normal stuff of Christmas that everyone deals with. Christmas cards? Ugh. Don’t remind me.

I haven’t even mentioned the work of keeping records for my husband’s independent contracting work. There are a million other things I need to find the time to comb through also. I’m sure I’ve left out something, but that’s more than enough for you to get the idea. You’re no doubt living a similar life as well.

This however, is the normal trajectory of the feminine life. We may not be arrows, but our contributions are enduring and of a different sort. I often say to women who fancy that we can anything that a man can do: Men build civilizations, yes, but women build societies. Even if we could do everything that men can do [we can’t], no one is served when we abandon our posts, or veer out of our lanes.

Arrows are only as valuable as there are healthy societies in which the trails they blaze can provide usefulness to the overall target. It’s a luxury of modernity that we fixate on the great things we might be able to do if only we weren’t doing…what we should be doing? I am reminded of these words from the Apostle Paul

“If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts,e yet one body.”

So, to my dear sisters, if you find that being stretched thin keeps you from being an arrow who can change the world through your the passionate commitment to that one thing that means so much to you, don’t lament. God, in His good Providence, has given you a patch of ground to till. Till it with joy.

(*she encourages herself on an overwhelming day*).

Karl Marx On “Fiscally Liberal, But Socially Conservative”

“The Communist revolution is the most radical rupture with traditional property relations; no wonder that its development involves the most radical rupture with traditional ideas.” -Karl Marx, The Communist Revolution (Penguin, p 243) In other words, Marx didn’t believe a man could be “fiscally liberal, but socially conservative.” If you’re game for a new way […]

Karl Marx On “Fiscally Liberal, But Socially Conservative”

Joshua Gibbs states what should be obvious to any thinking person. However, we Westerners don’t think anymore. We emote.

Anyone who knows me well probably knows that I often remind my friends: “Nothing goes without saying anymore.”

Questioning the HBCU Funds Faucet

Lieutenant Gov-Elect Winsome Sears from here.

I was riveted by the speech from the aptly named Winsome Sears in Virginia on Tuesday night. She spoke words that made my heart cheer. I appreciated her in-your-face approach to the racial issue, and the way she pointed out the absurdity of many of my fellow black Americans’ wailing and chest beating about racism as if we are still living in 1963. I applauded her emphasis on restoring quality education. I loved her finishing touch of giving ultimate honor to her Savior and Creator for the historic victory she achieved. I enjoyed all of it, except for one point she made that stopped me short. This too, was an educational point, but one that I have wrestled with for quite some time.

She committed, and I believe Virginia’s Governor-Elect Glenn Youngkin has as well, to “fully funding our HBCUs”. That bit left me internally squeamish, and I’ve spent a couple of days now organizing my thoughts into what I hope is an articulate and coherent argument for why we should tread lightly on this particular issue. I formulated a hypothesis based on my own observations, which I will share first. I spent a little time parsing the data to determine whether my suspicions are based in fact or whether I am, to borrow from the illustriously, redundantly verbose Michael Eric Dyson, simply a victim of subconsciously internalized white supremacy. Here’s my take on why HBCUs are so woefully underfunded that Republican former president Donald Trump had to bail them out and Republican governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has committed even more funds to keep Virginia’s HBCUs afloat.

To say that I am ambivalent about HBCUs is an understatement. I would argue that fully 80% of them are subpar. Moreover, I suspect that 100% are hotbeds of divisiveness and perpetuation of the CRT narrative, even if they don’t actually call it that. It is not a philosophy that serves the future prospects of the students who attend those universities.

I wish I could care more about them even for historical purposes. I do have a personal interest in the legacy of those who came before me. Still, I wonder if HBCUs don’t in aggregate, do more harm than good. I also question why their graduates, like those of other universities, don’t provide enough in donations for them to have generous endowments. If there is any collection of colleges whose coffers should be perpetually replenished by the students they have propelled into lives of professional prosperity and social richness, I’d think it would be HBCUs. I wonder why that isn’t the case.

Actually, I don’t wonder why, because I have a strong suspicion that I know exactly what is going on there. I believe the issue is that a significant percentage of their freshman enrollees never graduate. Of those that do, few graduate with the education and skills in demand to earn the level of income and status to enable them to generously pour into the coffers of their alma mater. In other words, most HBCUs are no longer worth what they once were, which is why they flounder.

Granted, this hypothesis is almost solely based on my personal observations of students I have watched enter the revolving doors of several HBCUs. Some of these have been small colleges and others have been the more celebrated colleges such as Spelman, Morehouse, Howard, and Hampton. Regardless of the school’s word of mouth, I have seen very little evidence that debunks my hypothesis. So I decided to click around a bit. There is plenty of data to be found, but this 2013 article from The Philadelphia Tribune does a thorough enough job for our purposes here. An excerpt:

When segregation was legal, Black colleges were responsible for almost all Black collegians. Today, nearly 90 percent of Black students spurn historically Black colleges.

“Even the best Black colleges and universities do not approach the standards of quality of respectable institutions,” wrote economist Thomas Sowell. “None has a department ranking among the leading graduate departments in any of the 29 fields surveyed by the American Council of Education. None ranks among the ‘selective’ institutions with regard to student admissions. None has a student body whose College Board scores are within 100 points of any school in the Ivy League.”

Sowell wrote in an academic journal in 1974, yet with few exceptions the description remains accurate. These days the better Black schools—Howard, Spelman, Morehouse – are rated “selective” in the U.S. News rankings, but their average SAT scores still lag behind those at decent state schools like the University of Texas at Austin, and lag far behind Ivy League schools.

In 2006, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the six-year graduation rate at HBCUs was 37 percent. That’s 20 percentage points below the national average and eight percentage points below the average of Black students at other colleges. A recent Washington Monthly magazine survey of colleges with the worst graduation rates featured Black schools in first and second place, and in eight of the top 24 spots.

So, where does that leave us on the HBCU issue? Should they go extinct? Perhaps, but that is not my desire. My desire would be for the schools to step it up, raise standards to attract the top students who spurn them, and then produce an education that is worth something on the open market so that their graduates can increase their endowments.

I recognize that all colleges receive some government fundings, and I’ll leave my thoughts on that out of this for the present moment. My overarching view of education is that the best way to improve it, is through increased competition. It is not coincidence that HBCUs perform as dismally as public education writ large.

I wish Winsome Sears the best, and I hope she makes waves for the foreseeable future, but those Virginia HBCU dollars need to be tied to measurable results.

Idiomatic Investigation: “Bloom Where You’re Planted”

While I feel strongly that we need to be cognizant of the implications wrought by our political sphere, it’s time to return to the sunny side of life. Don’t you agree?

Over the past few years, “Bloom where you are planted” has become one of my favorite sayings. This is because up until the past decade, I never imagined a scenario in which I lived out my entire life here in my home state. I was positive that at some point, we’d be moving on. We considered it more than once, but various obligations induced us to stay put, and now we’re happy to do so. There comes a time in life when you mature and see that you have what you always wanted, and pipe dreams give way to attainable goals. We replaced speculative discontentment with determined gratitude.

My recent post, in which I shared recent vacation photos, caused this idiom to bubble up to the surface of my consciousness again. As I often do when an expression captures my attention, I began exploring the origins and meanings of this particular idiom, beyond the obvious. We have certainly learned to bloom where we are planted, for which I am grateful! I still wondered, however, who first coined this phrase and to what degree should it be embraced so that “blooming” doesn’t turn into “getting stuck”?

To get to the point, as far as I can surmise, the saying “bloom where you’re planted”, is most often attributed to Saint Francis de Sales, The Bishop of Geneva (1567-1622). The exact quote is as follows:

Truly charity has no limit; for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by His Spirit dwelling in each one of us, calling us to a life of devotion and inviting us to bloom in the garden where He has planted and directing us to radiate the beauty and spread the fragrance of His Providence.

That’s the oldest recorded mention of this particular expression, but there are various iterations on record. One of my absolute favorite (though not an exact quote), is attributed to Charles Haddon Spurgeon:

He who does not serve God where he is would not serve God anywhere else.

My inarticulate restatement of that is along the lines of:

She who cannot be content where she is will not suddenly be content anywhere else.

One of the things I like to tell the restless, wandering souls who desperately believe they will find greener grass on the other side is this (and yes, I know it’s neither new nor original):

Wherever you go sweetie, there you are.

As I researched this particular idiom, Bloom Where You’re Planted, I found several sources that referenced an article written by the late, great Paul Harvey in which he used the phrase. I have looked diligently for it. My Google-fu is pretty weak, but I can usually find what I’m looking for eventually. It’s been a week and I haven’t found it, so it is with heavy heart that I forge ahead and follow this trail to completion.

Along this path, I found an article written by a man who advocated blooming where you are planted (’cause life, man!), but without making the mistake of getting stuck if you are genuinely planted outside of your natural soil. While I have contentedly -happily, even- learned to bloom where I am planted as it becomes increasingly unlikely that I’ll be going anywhere, this guy offers a different take. I think he’s fairly insightful:

So how does this translate for us? How are we to bloom where we are planted? How are we to thrive in our lives if we are living in “too shady” or “too dry” a setting? It is fair to say that we all have different versions of how we would like to live. For some, the intensity and vibrancy of a metropolitan lifestyle is essential for happiness. For others, clearly a more rural, small-town setting is where they feel more comfortable.

Is it that we are pre-wired for our spot in the “garden” of our life? Do we all have some “type” some “hard wiring”  at birth that determines where we will “bloom?” What if that were true? What then becomes of the small town, mountain-loving, rural “type” if they are “planted” in the city? Can they ever feel at peace? Can they ever truly bloom?

I don’t know where the ultimate wisdom lies. Perhaps, it really comes down to two things. Bloom where you are planted, BUT you better know who you are and understand that if you are “country” living in city, or “city” planted in the “country” you might want to make a change and get to the sunnier side of the garden.

I think he has a point, and a good one, but I still believe that it is incumbent upon each of us to find reasons to live life of joyful gratitude and cultivate fruitful relationships wherever we are.

I mean, for all we know, we could be dead tomorrow, and do we really want to expend our last moment in a state of ingratitude? Keep on the sunny side of life!

Word Nerd Wednesday: Culture Wars

In honor of Mr. Obama’s most recent attempt to gaslight us, I thought a repost of this July 2021 Word Nerd Wednesday post was in order.

Our entire culture has been upended using ambiguous language and sleight of hand. Sadly, most of us have fallen for the ruse in one way or another. Rather than list all of the lies that have been re-framed as truth to great effect, I want to focus on one particular phrase and how our misunderstanding of it has been used to exploit us in a bid for power.

There is a tendency in our country among media, academic, and politically elite institutions to rail against conservatives engaging in an endless “culture war” while ignoring the greater threats of climate change, economic inequality, and lack of affordable health care.

These are straw man arguments, designed to keep Americans from thinking about the reality of what it means to wage war, what it means to wage a culture war, and who is really waging said war. I’ll start with an example.

Let’s assume I have a next door neighbor named Larry, whom I dislike. Larry has never actually done anything to me personally. He lives a different lifestyle from me. He believes different things than me, and his likes and dislikes differ from mine. In fact, he disagrees with much of what I hold dear. He’s never mean, though. He always waves hello, and he even picks up the newspaper off my driveway every morning when my family is on vacation so that it’s not obvious that our home is unoccupied for the week. We’re never going to be besties; that much is clear, but overall, we coexist well enough.

One day, I decide that I can’t stand Larry’s smug politeness nor his disagreement with my beliefs. So…I take a brick and throw it through his windshield. I want him to pay attention to me, to engage with my beliefs and ideas. I know that if I throw a brick though his windshield, we can no longer play this game of polite coexistence. He has to confront me, because I broke his windshield!

When Larry comes out of his house to confront me about the brick in his driver’s seat and broken windshield, imagine if I said to him, “Why are you so upset about a broken windshield when I just heard that the guy in the house on the corner is selling marijuana out of his garage? Isn’t shielding your kids from a potential drug dealer more important than a stupid broken piece of glass that your insurance company can take care of before the day is out?”

My response to Larry sounds ridiculous on its face, and most people would readily say as much. However, many of these same people will screech and howl that conservatives are waging a culture war, simply by noticing something absurdly inappropriate, and noting that said thing is absurdly inappropriate. The issue of course, is that we have a large swath of people who are offended by the very idea of appropriateness. We have reached a place in our culture where standards, which all societies have, are considered evil. Hegemony, they say (ooh! there’s another good word), must be resisted at all costs. I just decided to take a detour to discuss hegemony in its purest form, rather than get stuck with Antonio Gramsci’s interpretation of it:

noun: hegemony; plural noun: hegemonies

  1. leadership or dominance, especially by one country or social group over others.”Germany was united under Prussian hegemony after 1871
  2. Opposite:self-government

Origin

mid 16th century: from Greek hēgemonia, from hēgemōn ‘leader’, from hēgeisthai ‘to lead’.

I have a minor quibble with this definition, because it indicates that a dominant cultural standard, even one that flows from the top down, necessarily undermines self-government. Any Christian can tell you that isn’t true. Any wife in a traditional marriage can tell you that. Any child can tell you that having family rules doesn’t negate the necessity of each person to exercise self-government.

For what it’s worth, I’m not particularly enthralled with top down control any more than the next American. Free markets are good, the ability to move up in socioeconomic status is good. This of course, makes our current wholesale embrace of Gramsci and his understanding of hegemony even more ironic. But that’s a topic for another day. We’re trying to decide what a culture war is and how we have come to misunderstand who is waging one in our current cultural moment.

I have a question: Who started the war between me and my hypothetical neighbor, Larry? Was it him, or was it me? The answer should be obvious. Now who started the culture war? Is it the people who push boundaries and rebel against everything that mankind has known (and largely agreed) to be good, true and beautiful since the dawn of civilization? Or is it the people throwing the bricks through the window of created order and natural law for the sake of destroying cultural cohesiveness?

Someone suggests, “Disregarding the necessity sexual self-control in favor of unchecked desire is the road to freedom“, handing men and (mostly) women all manner of options to sever the tether between sexual behavior and reproduction, including killing babies in the womb. “Larry” objects that this diminishes the value of both mothers and children, and the retort is always some version of, “You just want to infringe on women’s freedom!” Who started the battle?

Someone suggests, “Marriage should be available to anyone who wants to marry no matter their sex“, and not based on the natural law that under girded it since the beginning of mankind. Larry objects, “Once we do that, we shatter the foundation which has proven to provide the best outcomes for children”. The retort is, “Love is love, you bigot. Nothing about this is going to lead to worse outcomes for children.” Did Larry throw the brick?

Someone asserts, “Men and women are interchangeable; so much so we can simply do away with the concepts, and let people choose their sex.” Larry objects, “But wait. We’re supposed to be living in the age of science. Biology is clear. Male and female are concrete, biological reality. Doing this will create utter chaos. Especially for children.” The retort is more ranting about bigotry and marginalization, along with the idea that the slippery slope thing is just a fallacy. Larry, with his wheelbarrow of bricks!

Time for the next frontier. “In order to acclimate children to this new, more tolerant and loving reality, they need to be taught from an early age that two mommies are natural, two daddies are natural, men as women are natural, and women turning into men is natural. The best way to do that is through exposing children to these sexual realities from a very young age; in school, at the library, even via television programming for preschoolers“. Larry, growing increasingly concerned, objects more strenuously. He is treated to invective and ridicule from all corners of the media, academia, and on social media. He is called a bigot. He is threatened with the loss of his job. He is told to shut up or else.

Instead of choosing to start a culture war based in bigotry, discrimination and cultural hegemony, Larry would have been better off trying to save the planet, which is about to be destroyed by climate change.

He hasn’t even figured out yet that the teacher at school has been teaching his son Justin that he is an evil oppressor, and that his son’s best friend from church, Michael, is being taught that he is the victim of Justin’s evil oppression. When he objects, he’ll be accused of selfishness for complaining that I set his house on fire when people in Guatemala are suffering under a corrupt and oppressive regime.

Larry needs to get his priorities straight instead of being distracted by stupid culture wars, our former President says to the parents whose daughter was violently assaulted by a “gender fluid” boy wearing a dress for admittance to the girl’s bathroom.

In Other’s Words: An El’s Rabbit Trail Post

In which I wax political…

This may seem wholly irrelevant on a blog dedicated to education and literature, but it’s relevant to me because I teach history, and am currently immersed in studying the end results of one-party dominance combined with the inability of a people to educate themselves and self-govern.

If you had told me, even 5 years ago, that large swaths of the American populace would be literally begging for the state to govern them harder, I would have thought y’all crazy. In my naivete, I thought the rule of law would somehow assert itself because even the most partisan of partisans would surely see that laws selectively enfored are no laws at all. But here we are, and as I am taking my students through the Communist revolutions of the early 20th century, I am perturbed.

So, bear with me as I share this post from Sondjata at Garvey’s Ghost in its entirety:

Lawlessness in Virginia

Last year I practically begged Democrats, particularly black Democrats, who won’t vote for a Republican or Libertarian or anyone other than a Democrat, to at LEAST vote for sane Democrats.  Y’all voted for an early alzheimer’s patient anyway.

So at this point I don’t expect much. Well I actually don’t expect anything.

Two points for those who may still not have their mouths firmly attached to the Dem phallus:

First, the VP is releasing a tape to [black] churches in VA in which she openly endorses a candidate for governor. I don’t care WHO the candidate is, ’cause that’s not relevant. The fact is, that it is against the law for a church or any other 501c3 (tax exempt) organization to engage in partisan campaigning. Hence, by showing the video those churches are in violation of the law and *should* be subject to revocation of their tax exempt status (something I think they should be anyway for other reasons) and be subject to taxation.

But the fact that they would engage in this blatantly illegal behavior tells you what you need to know. You cannot be expecting the police to “treat us” (as in black people) fairly and to be held to account under the law, and then reward blatant law breaking by your church.

That would make you a hypocrite.

Secondly, A school board in your state actively covered up multiple sexual assaults by a student claiming to be “binary” or whatever the hell they want to call themselves. A parent of one of the victims of assault attempted to petition the school board (his absolute right) to address that situation (among others) and he was arrested and charged.

This is what these people are about. They have no regard for your children anymore. A candidate for state high office said that he doesn’t think YOU have a right to determine what your schools teach children.

Ya’ll voted these people in. I would think you all have enough sense to vote those people out. But I’m not holding my breath.

Y’all made a bad choice some 11 months ago and now you have to wonder if your supermarket is going to run out of stuff you need. Gasoline prices are through the roof and winter is coming. Oh, and some of you are being fired for asserting the right to decide your own medical care.

Let’s see how many of you wake up in time to say no to those responsible.

/End rant.

The Colors of Fall

We live in the tropics, which means we don’t experience the changes that those of you in northern climes associate with the onset of fall. It’s green here year round in Florida, which makes our beautiful winters. However, I’ve often wished we experienced the spectacular bursts of fall color that inspires post cards, calendars, and photography.

I do love where I live. It has taken me nearly all my life, but somehow I found the resolve to gratefully bloom where I’m planted, and see that God’s fingerprints exist here as much as anywhere else. Ironically, it was the pandemic that kicked our exploration of our home, The Sunshine State, into overdrive and caused us to explore places, some as little as an hour away, that we never even knew existed.

What follows is not a lament for greener grass. After all, there is nothing to be gained from that! However fall colors are stunning, and worth a trip to see in all of their glory, so that’s exactly what we did last week. For our fall break, we spent several days in the mountains of North Carolina. One of the best parts, in addition to all of the natural beauty, was having conversations with people from all over the United States who, like us, made the trip to see fall in of it’s east coast glory. Enjoy the show!

Fresh-picked apples!

I am always struck by my relative lack of fitness when we hike in the mountains. Jogging around on flat, paved streets and sidewalks does precious little to proeare one for elevated hikes.

Along the trails

The best part of fall is the stunning colors.

Look at it!

I suppose a picture of me on the mountains is in order as well:

One of my husband’s favorite parts of traveling to the mountains is the water, streams, and rocks:

I hope you’re enjoying the changing seasons; if the seasons are changing wherever you are.

Happy Fall y’all!

In Other’s Words: Literature as Prophecy

In a recent post, I offered a quote from Michael Knowles’ Speechless, in which he noted that in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, authors around the world prophesied the effects of political correctness. The chattering classes of our day, particularly those who lament the loss of tradition, education, and common culture, often point to George Orwell’s seminal work, 1984, as the most prophetic of all the novels exploring the ends of unchecked political correctness. It’s easy to see how Orwell earned this honor. Are these not the expressions of a man whose brain is a crystal ball?

“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”

How much more these words?

“We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it.”

Much ink has been spilled by postmodern commentators striving to determine whether our current cultural and political iteration has more in common with Orwell’s 1984, or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Astonishingly, we live in a time and place where both men’s visions of the future are unfolding simultaneously.

Hearthie, at Hearthrose.com, took an insightful turn at exposing all of the ways we have succumbed to Huxley’s version of the future. From her post, Soma:

In Brave New World, soma is the government supplied drug that numbs and offers blissful escape from any unpleasantness, whether great or small. Modernity has built up her offerings until it is nearly impossible to avoid dusting oneself with our own versions of soma. One starts with the obvious – the internet. But it is not the internet that is soma, it is what we grab while we are here on the web.

We grab numbness. We grab stimulants. We grab psychedelics. The internet simply makes the grabbing easier – these have been progressively more available through the years. Luxury and free time offer us the opportunity to do anything. Being humans, “anything” tends to be that which makes the pain disappear.

I was the child with few friends, the one with her nose in a book. At first it was not my deep love of the written word that drove me, it was the pain of being alone. I found friends and adventure – safe adventure, with nary a skinned knee – between the pages. One thing led to another, and most of my summers were spent with stacks of books. I gorged. I dreamt. I fell.

Music calls to some, as they lose themselves in the sounds from the radio, youtube, headphones… there is a virtual cacophony these days, where the absence of noise is more precious than the sound of rhythm. You need never be out of earshot of your favorite music.

You should click over and read the whole thing, because she’s right. The unlimited number and varied versions of entertainment are our soma, here in the West.

Pause, and think about that.

I wonder if Orwell and Huxley would receive news of their eerily accurate predictions with smug satisfaction or justifiable horror.