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This is not about God or religion.  In fact, I'm not sure I can really explain what it is about.  It is not something that I have prepared, sketched out.  It is the product of some serious thinking, some of which has been reflected in my recent writing, but not all of it.  I share it because perhaps my struggle with trying to find meaning may find some resonance with others who face similar struggles.  And I had hesitated to write it until I received an email this evening.  

I hope if you continue reading you will find some value in what I have to offer.  If you choose to stop reading now, or at any point as you go through, I will understand.  So I offer now my customary final salutation:


And now. . .   credo

I believe  

I am not always clear on what I believe.  I struggle to find meaning and purpose, in my actions, in the actions of those around me.   I participate politically for the same reason that I teach:  I want my life to have meaning beyond my own self gratification or comfort.  

I recognize that politics requires compromise, that unless we can move to where we find common ground we will reproduce the Hobbesian situation of the war of every man with every other man.  Our politics, our business, our sports, our international relations, our human existence is imbued with the seeming need to win totally at all costs, crushing the "other."  As one who grew up in a political family I understand the need to fully explore ideas, at the same time as one cannot be rigidly tied to ideas, or ideology, or philosophies, at the expense of the lives of others.  I know that at times we must face difficult choices, with no good options, that we must decide on words and actions that by themselves are repugnant to that which we hold dear.  And yet we must act.  I believe that we have a responsibility to recognize when we are choosing an evil, however lesser it may be than the alternative, to acknowledge it, to in humility accept that some will be harmed by what we choose and there may be no words of explanation or regret that can make up for the harm we do.  

I believe

that is is possible to find common ground on some issues among those who may have strong disagreement on others.  That is why we should never demonize the person.  I read in scripture the idea of condemning the sin and not the sinner.  Perhaps I am not so generous, because when I see a persistency of words and actions that I think harmful I have to raise questions about the person speaking those words and doing those actions.  I think at times we have to draw lines beyond which we will not go.  If I  believe strongly enough in something, if it is part of what makes life meaningful to me, or defines who I am, will I be willing to lose all for its sake?  

I believe

that I have a responsibility to speak out.  I acknowledge that the words I may offer in challenge may themselves be wrong, that my perception is as flawed as am I.  If I offer pointed or questioning remarks, I must be willing to accept the consequences that may flow from those remarks.  I may be ridiculed, or fired, or challenged.  I may even be listened to, I may be asked for advice of what next to do, and not have an answer.  But none of these should serve as reason for me NOT to speak.  

I believe

that I have a responsibility to listen, even when I do not understand, especially when a person is seeking to find common ground, or to explain what they think I misunderstand, or wishes to challenge me as I challenge others.

I believe

that is incumbent upon us to speak truth to power, to those who hold high office or seek to hold high office.  They need to hear from us, and if I have voice or pen or keyboard able to penetrate into the mind, heart, or psyche of someone with power and I do not use it, then I have in someway betrayed the reason I have such voice, pen, keyboard.

I believe

that I really do not fit into society.  I have understood since early adolescence that my most important role in life was to challenge, provoke, prod, question.  If I seek to ingratiate myself because of my insecurity or my at times almost pathological need for affirmation then I am of little use, whereas, paradoxically, even when I may make people uncomfortable by my words I have greater connection to others and less isolation within myself.

On Saturday I posted this diary in which my expressions were of a piece with what I am describing above.  There were many kind words offered in response.  Because of the bluntness of my language -  comparing our actions in Fallujah to those of the Nazis in Lidice, for example -  I felt I had a responsibility to ensure that those political figures with whom I have an association, perhaps because of work I have done on education, perhaps for other reasons, have a chance to choose to distance themselves from me.  I wrote to them, with a link to the diary, as follows:

you might, as a result of how strong my feelings are and how express them, choose to disassociate yourself from me.  I give you that option, and if you ask me to cease communication with you, I will honor that request.

 No one has as yet made that request, which is heartening.  One response sticks out, as does one comment on the diary itself.  I want to share both, because they speak to what I am writing this evening.

The first was a comment, offered to me publicly by my beloved spouse:

A prophetic voice

teacherken, you speak for me, and for so many others.  You have spoken in a way that is truly "prophetic," in the ancient Hebraic sense: you are crying out to the community to warn it of the danger it has incurred by straying from its deepest values, and are recalling it to those values with passion and eloquence.  Thank you.

The second was an email I received this evening from an elected on the Hill whom I will not identify, but whose sentiments are similar:

Ken, I do not want to disassociate myself from you.  I want to hear what you have to say...even if it is a rant.  I mostly agree with you and find myself upset with myself sometime because so much of what we do here in Congress is illogical, and I go along to get along.  Please continue to be our conscience now and as we get stronger and have a president we can trust and follow, it will be easier to make good things happen in this government and stop the bad things which we are having difficulty doing right now even though we want to.

I offer these remarks because

I believe

that if we speak out and communicate our public officials will listen.  They need our challenges and our encouragement.  They are often struggling with conflicting priorities, trying to determine on what to push and where to give.  

It is arrogant of me to think I have a voice that matters, even as it is arrogant to view myself as a good teacher.  In both cases I see my manifold sins and weaknesses.  But

I believe

that I am capable of motivating and moving most of my students to a deeper understanding - of themselves, their minds, their own values, the society around them

and I believe

that occasionally in all the verbiage I offer I am able to strike a chord that resonates, to touch or motivate others by what I write or say.

I am tired.  I will be 62 in May.  I am trying to do far too much, and  must let go of some things.  I have probably coached my final soccer game, I will not do musical theater this year.  I am leaving my position on the board of William Penn House either at the end of my term in March or when my Meeting finds a replacement, and tonight I resigned from the board of my community association.  I am wrestling with what work I will be doing after this school year - I may not stay in the classroom, or even in education.  I try to sort out how I can best make use of my life.  Why?

I believe

that for all my weaknesses, my blind spots, my selfishness, my insecurity, I can be of service to others.  Without that service I have no purpose.

I believe

that this community can be a wonderful place in which to explore - people may support you, others may challenge you.  Like the larger world of which we are a microcosmic reflection, we have our bad actors, our impatient people and moments, our full panoply of human strengths and weaknesses.   have grown from my participation in this community.

I believe

that it is time for me now to listen more than I speak.  I will not be silent, but just as in Meeting for Worship not every thought that arises rises to the point that it should spoken from the silence of the worship, not every insight I believe I have nor every piece of good or interesting writing I encounter needs to be posted.

I believe

that there are now other good voices writing on education, so I need not feel so responsible to keep that issue before this community.

I believe

that most of those who have read what I have written will understand that I am not saying goodbye.  I will not leave.  But I may speak far less frequently.

I am not primarily verbal, or as Howard Gardner would put it, Verbal-Linguistic. The non-verbal expression of music is of greater importance to me, with or without words being sung.  

I believe

that I need to listen to music with full attention, understanding the role that silence plays in music.

I believe

that the most important thing anyone can do is listen to their own heart.

I believe

that I am listening to mine.


Originally posted to teacherken on Wed Oct 24, 2007 at 05:26 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  what do you believe? (27+ / 0-)

    you need not share it publicly, I am not requesting that.  I am suggesting that a similar personal reflection might be in order for others.

    Or perhaps because I am somewhat alien to human society, that suggestion has little value.

    In any case


    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

    by teacherken on Wed Oct 24, 2007 at 05:25:50 PM PDT

    •  TK (7+ / 0-)

      Again, well written. You kid when you say you can not write well.

      I, unlike you, am not active in these manners to give a larger meaning to existence, or life. At all.  I think these things have value, but I would chooose to do other things.  

      I am active because I perceive the need.  A strong need.

      And you asked what I (or anybody else) believes.

      I believe that this site, and the Democratic party, is not making enough of an effort to take the same positions and policy views that it holds, and focus on ways to communicate these things outside of the largely self reverberating blogosphere.

      I believe we, as Democrats, take far too much for granted, regarding what others "know," or don't know.

      I believe was greatly underestimate the effect of right wing, and particularly far right wing, rhetoric.  And we greatly underestimate the effect of poor, misleading, incomplete information from the mainstream media, as well as the need to address this directly, and indirectly through the issue of media deconsolidaton.

      I believe we are too focused on policy, and less focused on process. That this has not only led to poor policies, but has led, more disturbingly, to poor underlying process, and a government, presently, that is altering the processes (and founding principles) this county was based upon.

      I believe we greatly underestimate the importance of making a case; not a case that appeals to those who are like minded, but a case that has appeals beyond partisan boundaries, without changing the partisan implications.  

      I believe we underestimate the amount of saturation and repetition of ideas and facts that is necessary to cut through all the misinformation and rhetoric; and that we mistake the often unhelpful repetition of staid phrases, with the very helpful repetition of powerful underlying themes, supported by constant example and suggestion.

      And I believe that we underestimate the importance of using the rhetoric and statements of those who have moved America heavily to the right, in order to define them. Not because I have an interest in undermining anyone's credibility personally; unlike many on here it seems (though I may be mistaken), I like Republicans on a personal level as much as Democrats -- I do not like or dislike people because of their political affiliations. But because they have misled this country, distorted the facts, and misrepresented both themselves, and Democrats.  

      I believe the effect of this is significant, and that the most effective way to correct the underlying issues (as well as lessen, rather than exacerbate, the increasing trend towards misleading rhetoric) is to make the mistakes, the mischaracterizations, the misconstructions, the tactics, of the Right and Rar Right, into the story itself.  I believe the importance of this is greatly underestimated.

      I believe that Democrats in large measure underestimate exactly what it is that the Right does, politically. I believe we hear things that we find outrageous, or hear things the way that we want to hear them, but don't see that part of the reason that this rhetoric works is that once again, we confuse something that has partisan implications, with sounding partisan.  That the right does not sound as partisan as the suggestions that they are making. That the right tends to lead, suggest, show, sell, build a case.  While we Democrats tend to conclude, take things for granted, tell, and argue.  

      I believe that while we may feel that the Right -- and again in particular the Far Right, today -- does this by misleading and misrepresenting, we don't seem to understand the importance of making, and showing, that case:  To correct the record, have the effect of the mistake -- for once -- politically harm those who engage in the mistake more than those who are its target.

      I believe rather than focusing on how to effectively make that case to America, as opposed just to each other, we Democrats are too busy slapping each other or ourselves on the back for some minimal successes that may have simply been correlated with -- or in some cases even despite -- rather than directly due to, our efforts.  

      I believe again that we take far too much for granted, and that we are too quick to find blame, or excuse, or fault, all with others, and politically minimize the results we have seen over the past seven years, rather than take a hard look at or own presumptions and what we are doing wrong, the only thing we Democrats control; that is, what our role is, and how we are approaching it.

      I believe we don't take responsibility for what is happening, since we "opposed it," even while we allowed the near constant stream of rhetoric and misleading characterizations to work, because we did not make the necessary adjustments to work to counteract it, and turn it -- that is, republican and Far Right mischaracterizatoins, into an advantage, rather than the huge disadvantage, they have been for the Democratic Party.

      While anger, substantiated with reason that others can see because it has been shown why, can sometimes be effective in extreme times, I think we confuse standing up and getting mad, with making a successful case; and we confuse our own passionate emotion with the idea, thus, that Democrats must be connecting emotionally, with others.  Similarly, I think we often confuse calling names, with somehow standing up for our rights or principles, and making a powerful case.

      And I believe most of all we are resistant to ideas, and we are resistant to the consideration of ideas, that challenge our dearly held notions of why the Right is successful (or not successful) and what we may be doing or presuming right or wrong, that is getting in the way of us.

      And I believe that it is this last, which is our greatest impediment.

      How can one get democrats to focus on fixing the engine, or the foundation, instead of always arguing about the roof?

      by Ivan Carter on Wed Oct 24, 2007 at 06:13:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  thaks to those who read, whether or not (5+ / 0-)

      you commented or recommeded.

      There has actually been more visible traffic than I expect.

      I have to have my wife at Dulles Airport by 6 AM tomorrow, so I have to head off to bed now.  I promise to read any additional comments that may get posted.


      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

      by teacherken on Wed Oct 24, 2007 at 06:52:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I believe -- (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      that the current way of life pursued by nearly all in this American society of ours is running out of time.

       Our present-day political economy is based on the jerrybuilt structures of dollar hegemony, our wealth is vulnerable to the predations of excessive capital investment (which has at this point reverted to primitive accumulation to get what it wants).

      Our present-day political structures are no salvation because they have become merely a conduit for the predatory economy I've described above.  The pathetic nature of the neoliberal state is reflected in the elite's choice of George W. Bush.  Our elites, those who have made it to the top of our pyramids of power, can find no better reflection of their megalomania than W., and that they so need someone of W.'s "stature" in charge that they're willing to discard democracy (note the elections: one adjudicated, one rigged), human rights, the school system (NCLB), the environment, the nation's credibility, and so on just because they needed someone of W.'s stature in power.  It will be amusing to see what they will do when he refuses to leave the White House in January '09.

      Our natural environment is currently being replaced by the shifting winds of abrupt climate change and by the tragedy of the commons that plagues the oceans and brings us the biodiversity crisis of the sixth extinction.

      We can't go on like this indefinitely, and probably not even for very long.  No technology god will magically descend from the sky to make everything OK -- our society develops technology to expand the consumer complex, which itself needs to be shrunk to fit the ability of ecosystemic carrying capacity to satisfy consumer demand.  "Electing Democrats," by itself, will accomplish nothing of note.  Global, human society needs a sea-change in mentality; the civilization itself needs to make a u-turn.

      What's necessary at this point is communal, group action to prepare for the traumas to come.  Immediately we find ourselves face to face with America, conditioned to individualism and consumerism.  We will get nowhere if, blind to our society's doings, we are blind-sided by their effects.  I don't plan to do a lot of shutting-up between here and the grave.

      "Imagine all the people/ Sharing all the world" -- John Lennon

      by Cassiodorus on Thu Oct 25, 2007 at 07:55:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We've never met (14+ / 0-)

    and may not ever meet in the future, but I am one of your students for life (and somehow have always been).  Thanks teacherken, again.

    "A revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having"

    by Mensor on Wed Oct 24, 2007 at 05:35:08 PM PDT

  •  I Do Not Know (15+ / 0-)

    that there is much I wold say differently for myself.  Obviously many of the specifics do not apply, but the political/social philosophy in which this is grounded is virtually the same as what I strive for.

    Thank you for putting this into words for us all to appreciate!

  •  I believe a lot of the same things you believe (11+ / 0-)

    And among other things, I believe one thing for which I'm currently being attacked on another diary: that calling people of faith "child abusers" simply because they believe in God is irrational, anti-progressive, mean spirited, inaccurate, just plain stupid, and on par with the kinds of niceties we've come to expect from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Falafel Boy, and most Republicans who run for public office these days.

    If we act like them, we get congresscritters who do the wrong thing "just to get along" -- and we deserve no better.

  •  I believe that this... (11+ / 0-)

    I can be of service to others.

    ...says much to your credit, and likely applies to many of your readers here.

    I'm struck by the descriptive transition you make when discussing your personal beliefs from the "I" of your own perspective to the "we" that represents us all, and the place we should like to inhabit, i.e. "common ground."  

    Our counterparts in the RW don't say such things, and instead seem to inflexibly believe that whatever efforts are made by the collective "we" can only be judged by how it benefits the "I".  Obviously, this plays itself out in the ways we've seen the past few years with our federal govt.  Whereas, OTOH, you (and likely many progressives here) judge your actions and motivations by the benefits or positive impact of those actions upon others...

    In any event, you've set out your world-view well here, one in which I feel a consonance with, and I applaud you for your community-enriching efforts and many wonderful diaries.  Thank you as well for sharing your thoughts about listening and responding to other viewpoints.

  •  Teacherken, I believe....... (11+ / 0-) are someone I hold in high honor and esteem. Thank you so much for being here and sharing such inspiring words.

    Where are we going? And why are we in this handbasket?

    by Ekaterin on Wed Oct 24, 2007 at 06:08:31 PM PDT

  •  I believe ... (10+ / 0-)

    ... we need every able-bodied person available to help our next gerneration beat back the corporate takeover of our public schools.

    Oh. And I believe that students benefit because of your writing, teacherken.

    "Using church pews as precincts, Rove turned religion into a weapon of political combat" --- Bill Moyers

    by Spoonfulofsugar on Wed Oct 24, 2007 at 06:10:16 PM PDT

  •  I believe... (8+ / 0-)

    I am on the path I am supposed to take.

    I believe just as strongly that others must be free to find their path.


    I shall miss your voice being a frequent one.  I will treasure the ones you choose to share.  And I hope for you richness in the silence you have decided to embrace.

    In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas.

    by jgilhousen on Wed Oct 24, 2007 at 06:13:29 PM PDT

  •  ! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mensor, xysea
  •  I will meditate on this (4+ / 0-)

    much appreciated.

  •  I believe (6+ / 0-)

    that I have not yet (at 57!) found the unique niche in which my gifts and talents fit, but that if I am granted enough years and enough grace, I may fulfill my promise.  

    I believe that if I remain consistent and loving with my students they will come to appreciate their own gifts and be eager to share them in service to others.  

    I believe that perfection is God's business and that we are all just a little part of that.

    I believe that I have been enriched by your thoughts and counsel in the the few months I have been here.  I will treasure what you do choose to post in the future and look for ways in which I can more actively participate and contribute, both here and elsewhere.

    Peace and blessings, TK!

    "We told the truth. We obeyed the law. We kept the peace." - Walter Mondale

    by luckylizard on Wed Oct 24, 2007 at 07:02:53 PM PDT

  •  I have always appreciated... (5+ / 0-)

    your diaries. I have enjoyed your insights on teaching as well as hearing of your connections to the policy-makers in Washington. Knowing there are people like you who care about education makes it much easier to face the daily and on-going issues confronting us in our schools.

    I'm glad you're not leaving here completely. I'm sure whatever you do will definitely serve others. But, you must also take care of yourself! (Another round of chicken soup may be needed??) Looking forward to hearing more from you when the spirit moves!

  •  It is my faith, my belief - (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ultimately that keeps me going when nothing else will.  It has a power all its own.

    I can't give up.  I won't.  Giving up = death to me and I'm not ready to do that yet.  If and when my time comes, I go prepared.  But today is not that day:  Today, I fight.

    I will fight imperfectly.  I will not always be reasoned, or as compassionate as I should be.  I will sometimes hurt people unintentionally.  I will make mistakes - and I will learn to do them less and forgive more.

    But mostly I will work, moving forward with the best of intentions and ideas.  Mostly, I will rely on my instincts and my heart, both of which (when I stop listen) have never guided me in the wrong direction.

    I cannot accept the meekness displayed by our leaders.  Things may seem impossible now, but one must take a reasoned, strong stand in the battle in order to not cede position.  We may, and probably will, lose many battles.  But my eyes are on winning the war.

    Thank you, for your inspiration and your message, teacherken.

    "Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments - Shakespeare, Sonnet 116"

    by xysea on Wed Oct 24, 2007 at 07:08:49 PM PDT

  •  You are too modest, Ken (3+ / 0-)

    I can certainly understand being tired.  I can also honor your desire to listen, for those who don't listen are unlikely to learn.  But if anyone on this site has earned the right to speak and to be listened to, it is you, sir.

    As to a credo, I will quote myself twice, to give a couple of different perspectives on my beliefs.

    Progressives believe:

      1. That the purpose of government is to improve the lives of all its citizens.

      2. That Ameican values are not sectarian but universal, and are hallowed by the generations who gave their lives for those values.

      3. That we have certain inalienable rights, which are not subject to the whim of a passing majority or a fearful moment.

      4. That we have responsibilities: to ourselves, to each other, to our children and to the world; and that those responsibilities increase with the benefits we gain from our society.

      5. That lies, greed, hate and fear will never motivate us nor defeat us.

      6. That we represent the vision of the Founding Fathers of this country, and that we must bring that vision forward into a new century.

    And, on a more personal note:

    As a partly humorous, but deeply sincere parable to help people in my business, I've developed a little story I call my philosophy of life.  It explains around 90% of the mysteries of life--those things that cannot otherwise be understood--in three simple words:

    People are stupid.

       There are a couple of things to remember in order to convert this from a misanthropic little rant into a philosophy of life.

       1.  All of us are stupid.  Some of us may have more of a talent for it than others, but sadly being smart and being stupid are far from mutually exclusive.

       2.  If you remember people are stupid, you're not apt to expect more from them than they're likely to deliver.

    Remembering these two things transforms those three words into a philosophy of humility and forgiveness.  If you can learn those two lessons, and explain most of the unexplainables in life besides, that's about all you can expect from a philosophy of life, if you ask me.  

    Enjoy music, and silence.  Listen to the voices that call out to you, and come back to speak to us when and where you will.  I for one will look forward to those occasions.

    Don't expect to live in a democracy if you're not prepared to be an active citizen.

    by Dallasdoc on Wed Oct 24, 2007 at 07:16:29 PM PDT

  •  I heard me in your recent posts. (0+ / 0-)

    Several weeks ago I also got fed up with our Congresscritters and declared I was outta here and I was not going to be involved any longer.

    Now I have not been anywhere near as active as you. My efforts have been limited to writing my representatives and posting an occaisonal comment here and other places.  I am 68 and I just got fed up with the futility of shouting in the wind -- I felt nobody was listening.

    A friend sensed that besides some other things I was having trouble accepting, the role that our culture wants to force on its senior citizens, i.e. "Shut up, you had your turn now go away." was getting to me.

    I have no idea if that could be an issue for you but he suggested a book, The Fountain of Age, by Betty Frieden.  I have just started it so I can not really recommend yet but it was highly recommended to me to help understand why no one wants to listen to we older folks and (I hope) some tips on how to overcome the frustration.

    So, take a rest, recharge if you will, know that your viewpoints are valued by many of us and consider saying a word or two in the future if you feel called.


    The RWCM is not our friend. We need change.

    by california jim on Thu Oct 25, 2007 at 06:57:44 PM PDT

    •  oh, I'll still be around (0+ / 0-)

      I posted this morning, and I posted yesterday about something I read that I thought was really worth sharing.

      I am aware of the Friedan book, but I am very backed up on my reading right now.  I have to get through at least one of two books I am supposed to review this weekend.  During the week I have little time to read books,  And until we get past Virginia elections in 10 days, I really do need to put some effort to helping out some candidates.  Some of that can be done online, by posting and/or emailing, but I need to do my sharing of phone calls and lit drops as well.


      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

      by teacherken on Sat Oct 27, 2007 at 05:23:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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