Wednesday, October 14, 2009

on schoolchildren being taught to praise the President

Dialogue last night and today with my friend Dave (a former student and someone who has often disagreed with my positions, although not--thank goodness--my mode). I was tempted, outside the dialogue, to add a final editorial bloggy word from me, but then decided to leave the discussion as was.

Dave: Loathe though I am to consume your time, and please don't consider this to be a request, I'd be interested in reading your thoughts on this mess on your blog/Facebook/somesuch: [A YouTube video of schoolchildren being taught to praise the President.]

Al: Just like what I had to do for JFK in grade school!

Dave: That your *reassuring* citation to precedent is boomer Kennedy devotionals (I'd love to read one) isn't a good sign, especially for Obama (I mean that on a policy level) or the well-being of the country. Anyway, I'm not going to be a time schnurrer. Be well.

Al: My point is perhaps that presidential devotionals, performed by idiotic teachers and civic leaders, are ubiquitous across eras and ideologies. Americans have devotedly prayed for their presidents, and instructed their children to do so, long before YouTube could capture the phenomenon. Doesn't make the purveyors of such crap any less or more idiotic. But doesn't either require us to change or perception of JFK or Reagan or Ike (oh did the heartland love Ike piously) or the current president. And Prezes who came along in times of malaise (Washington, FDR, Reagan, Obama) stir this idiocy more than others, but not, to me, significantly.

Dave: You'd know better than me, which is why I was curious what you thought. I don't find the ubiquity reassuring. There's differences in eras, depth and scope of devotion, and what's driving the devotion (reaction). The new devotees are last year's dissafecteds and the tea partiers and birthers are last years devotees. If you see these things as inversely correlated oscillations, your reassurance that they are constant is undermined to me by the idea that they can get further and further out of whack.

Al: Bottom line for me is that there are some people out of whack on both sides of liking/disliking the president (as for any Prez*). I don't pay much attention to them on either side. (* I've read over the years about the intense hatred of JFK. I'm not a fan of JFK's presidency but I really can't give much credence to those irrational views; my disappointment with him has little or nothing to do what those people were feeling.)

Dave: To steal a play I learned from you, the reassurance by ubiquity sounds...ahistorical ;-) On an abstraction-level, doesn't how far out of whack and where matter? And what they're doing to put it back on track? One of the things that's been interesting to me lately is the conversion of unlike things between different forms--there are people, for instance, who turn degrees of volatility (oscillations in price) into money irrespective of whether the change in value in up or down. And that's things that get incrementally measured--ideas are doing all sorts of unmeasurable, even contradictory, things at once. I've decided I don't like these people--they're very big and uncoupled from things. Their motivations are suspect and their means to implement their motivations, good or bad, aren't reliable or safe to bystanders.