Would people view President Johnson more favorably if they knew this story?
In spite of the Vietnam mess of which Johnson was obviously a major player, I think he was a great president and am disappointed in the low esteem in which many hold him. I despised Vietnam as a kid and still do, but there is more to a man than that disaster. How about civil rights, voting rights, fair housing, Medicare, anti-poverty legislation like Medicaid, Head Start, food stamps, and work study, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, the Public Broadcasting Service, promotion of science including our first trip to the moon (started by Kennedy, finished by Johnson), immigration reform/liberalization, massive aid for education, among others?
That’s quite a list. However, this sordid tale of Nixon’s misdeeds makes Johnson even more appealing.
This teaching assignment that compelled students to take a pro-Nazi position against Jews was obviously a bad mistake, but it is one in which we all of us (especially those in the Jewish community) need to demonstrate compassion and forgiveness to the teacher. Justification of hatred is not something that is legitimate in a class teaching students how to think, especially in a classroom of teenagers. Yes, we can justify any horrible action or idea through reasoned argument, but humanism and our ethical principles have to intervene at some point. At the same time, the teacher was probably not intending to promote antisemitism and hatred, but rather the opposite. Further, all the time we permit actors in theater and film to portray Nazis (think Ralph Finnes as Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List or Bruno Ganz as Adolf Hitler in Downfall [Der Untergang]), and we want them to do so in a convincing fashion. In fact, we applaud them for it and give them awards. This is not an easy topic, and it’s one where all of us can go astray. Let this event not be an opportunity for recrimination and shouting, but a teaching moment.
If you don’t like history, simply rewrite it and persuade people that lies are true. That’s the conservative method of attaining political victory.
As I read this, we can see how much the unions in Wisconsin learned from the mistakes of the New Jersey unions. They agreed to concede wages and benefits in order to keep more fundamental rights. The result is thus far remarkable, even though the legislature passed the bill in what amounted to a coup against freedom. What worked for Christie in New Jersey has been up till now politically damaging for Republican governors and legislators in Wisconsin and Ohio.
This is inspiring. New York city has introduced a massive healthy food program that will affect children’s food choices not only in NYC, but throughout the country.
As in most things, practicing what you will be doing at a given time is excellent preparation for actually doing it.
How many lifetimes does it take to learn a lesson? As many as it takes to learn the lesson.
We are here to learn.
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