The effects of sacrifice


Memorial Day has become somewhat convoluted in our culture. Instead of maintaining its original purpose, it has become the unofficial kick-off to summer and, to a less extent, a day to honor all veterans. As much as I love a good cookout and do honor those who have served, respectfully, that’s not the purpose of the day. Memorial Day is a day to remember those who have died in service of their country. Because it’s a day to honor the dead, we try to attend a Memorial Day service every year. Sadly, those services can be hard to find. While there are a number of Memorial Day celebrations, with fireworks, concerts, hot dogs, and even ceremonies to honor veterans, those events fail to honor the true meaning of the day. But we were able to find a local event sponsored by the VFW, and the kids and I headed out into the rain to pay our respects.

At the end of the service, the M.C. asked if those who had lost loved ones to war to share their names. Younger voices proclaimed names of those who fell in recent wars , and older voices shared the names of the fallen in Vietnam and Korea.  But one voice was much older, and filled with tears. In a voice heavy with emotion, a man I couldn’t see through the crowd named his father who killed in 1944 in World War II. This man has to be at least 71 years old, and perhaps never even knew his father, but there can be no doubt he still felt the of the impact of his father’s death.

While I have no immediate experience with the sacrifices honored on Memorial Day, I, too, feel the ripples. In 1944, my great uncle, Gorman Hardin, was killed in the early days of the Battle of Luzon. His death profoundly effected his young brother, who at 14 years old enlisted in the Navy to seek vengeance for his brother’s death. My grandfather was big for his age, but still only 14, and perhaps not prepared for the challenges of war. His loss effected my grandfather, and his children, and me.

Most of us don’t realize the impact of those honored on Memorial Day. Because we don’t know the names on the headstones, we don’t understand what we’ve lost from their absence, and we don’t understand what we’ve gained from their sacrifice. But we have gained and retained much because faithful and courageous men and women laid down their lives. And it’s precisely because we have gained so much without paying the cost that we must pay attention to the meaning of this day. The summer party can wait. There will be another mattress sale. For this one day, let’s stop, remember, and be thankful.

Related: “I’m a Veteran, and I Hate ‘Happy Memorial Day’ Here’s Why”

Facts be damned

Argh! I’ve been working on and off on this stupid blog post for a week. Then yesterday it comes out that the researcher faked his data. Stupid scientist. (PSA: Science is a process, not a religion, not “facts.” Science is done by humans whom–whatever their academic qualifications–are just as prone to being lying jerks as the rest of humanity.) So, anyway the study is fake, but I think my thoughts on it still hold true. What do you think? And the title–which I had already written prior to the revelation of skullduggery–certainly still applies. Rotten liar.


Anyway, the original post, bear in mind the study is a fraud.

This American Life recently did a show called “The Incredible Rarity of Changing Your Mind.”  In a segment called “Do Ask Do Tell, ” activists canvassed neighborhoods where people opposed to their issue lived (in this case gay marriage and legal abortion), talked with individuals, and asked them to change their minds. In statistically significant numbers, the people did change their minds.

You can listen to that here:

What’s interesting is the canvasers (new word?) didn’t report using facts or arguments to gain support, but rather merely sought to connect with the people they talked to on a personal, emotional level. You know, “Hey, I’m a nice person and I am/did this thing you disagree with. You don’t really think I’m a bad person do you? Don’t you think you should change your mind rather than think I’m a bad person, which you can clearly see I am not?” (Seriously, listen to the piece. Offering arguments in support of their position resulted in less success changing opinions.) In fact, making an actual argument lead to a lower conversion rate.

All manner of cliches come to mind, the most prominent are, “People like what they know, they don’t know what they like,” and “People won’t care what you know til they know that you care.” But basically it boils down to this: people are far more emotionally driven then they’d like to believe, and often we believe what we believe, not because we think it’s true, but because we like the people who say it’s true.

Conversely, we’re very often closed to hearing the case for some position we disagree with because we don’t like–or we think we don’t like–the people associated with that idea. In college, I interned for National Right to Life Committee. One weekend, my roommates and I were hanging out with my landlord’s son and a friend of his. After having a pretty nice time, she said, “You guys are great, you don’t seem like you’d bomb an abortion clinic.” We were probably the first (out) pro-lifers she’d ever met, but her image was that pro-lifers bombed buildings. So I wonder how open she was to hearing a case for protecting life? (My response, “Thanks, I guess?”)

Of course, you have to wonder how deeply held these beliefs were when a conversation with a stranger who merely held the opposing view could change them. We all have things we decry with certainty that we haven’t really thought about at all, usually because those are the correct beliefs of the tribe we associate with. Andrew Kern said (and I agree), “You don’t have a right to an opinion about an issue you haven’t thought about,” but that’s absolutely contrary to human experience. We have opinions about everything, even if we’re completely ignorant of the matter! And the easiest way to have an uninformed opinion is to go with what the people you like believe.

This is why so much advertisement–both in politics and the market–are appeals to celebrity. Honestly, people don’t look to mechanical engineer Bill Nye for his opinion on evolutionary science or sex education (!!!) because he has special knowledge or insight, they look to him because he had a television show. Bless their hearts.

If we know vaguely that our religion or associated political party holds a view, but not the reasoning behind that, we’re happy to spout loudly about that belief until we form an emotional attachment with someone holding the opposite belief. Then without much thought, we change our beliefs.

I don’t think the answer is “abandon logic and reason, and just go with your gut and the people you think are nicest!” But I do think that 1. we ought to be aware of the instinct to “think” with our heart, and 2. we ought to remember it’s not just the best argument that wins the day, but that we have to be likeable as well as informed. This will be harder for some of us, because frankly it feels a bit like a high school election: one big popularity contest. To which I say, “Suck it up, buttercup, life’s not fair.” And also, “Be on your guard against charming snake-oil salesmen and politicians. But I repeat myself.”

But primarily it comes down to this: People are people, they are neither machines working on pure data nor beasts working on pure instinct.  We are rational and relational creatures, and we would do well to remember that, whatever side of the argument we’re on.

Cuteness for Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to your mama. Or you if you are a mama. And also to your mama.

Fine Arts Friday: My own thing

This month, I like neither the hymn nor the folk song suggested by Ambleside Online. They hymn, which is actually quite lovely, isn’t really singable for our untrained voices. And frankly, that’s the number one quality (after truth, beauty, and goodness) when it comes to picking a song. If we don’t end up adding it to our singing repertoire, what’s the point?

The folk song is “Pick a Bale of Cotton,” which is a well-known slave work-song. It’s catchy, fun to sing, and has a lot of history attached, but not happy history. I’m not opposed to teaching my kids songs with complicated histories, but somehow I’m just not up to this month.

We just finished reading The Underground Abductor, a fabulous graphic novel about Harriet Tubman. Tubman used songs in her work freeing slaves, so I thought I’d look at that. Since these are both religious and folk songs, they satisfy both requirements. (One of my favorite things about being a homeschooler: I’m the boss of the curriculum!)

Underground Abductor

So for May, I give you some of the songs American Superhero Harriet Tubman sang that were really coded messages that helped her bring so many captives to freedom.

“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” was one of her favorite songs, and was sung to let people know to be ready to leave. (We’ll call this the hymn.)

“Go Down Moses” was her song was code to warn of danger. (We’ll call this the folk song.)


This site has more songs Harriet Tubman used in her remarkable career, as well as more information about the woman herself. Enjoy the songs and the stories of a great American.

Harrison Bergeron, the prequel


“THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal  before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter  than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was  stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213 th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing  vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.”

Sixty-six years earlier:

“What we realised we needed was a way of thinking about what it was we wanted to allow parents to do for their children, and what it was that we didn’t need to allow parents to do for their children, if allowing those activities would create unfairnesses for other people’s children.”


Now I realize that these are just a couple of philosophers* tossing around “purely theoretical” ideas on how we might make a “better society,” but ideas have consequences. The “I’m just asking questions and throwing out ideas” of today becomes the culture of tomorrow and the law soon after that.

It’s telling that these gentlemen* follow the Handicapper approach: “equality of opportunity” requires not pursuing advantages for all children, but rather removing “unfair” benefits some children have. Benefits like intact families, education not controlled by the state, and an inheritance from their parents. And of course, their solution is the the state, because that’s always the solution: “What we will allow” to be legal, to be legal but regulated, or flat out forbidden, enforced at the point of the gun.

The thinkers* throw around–but ultimately reject–the idea of preventing parents from reading bedtime stories to their children. The quote, after much hand wringing over the unfair advantage implicit in bedtime stories, is “We have to allow parents to engage in bedtime story type activities.” Emphasis added. So very kind of you, gentlemen*. How, exactly, would such a law disallowing that practice be enforced? Are you familiar with the phrase “Come and Take It”?

In the end, they decide (graciously) that familial benefits ought not be touched, “‘We should accept that lots of stuff that goes on in healthy families—and that our theory defends—will confer unfair advantage,’ he (Swift) says. . . For Swift and Brighouse, the line sits shy of private schooling, inheritance and other predominantly economic ways of conferring advantage.”

So they’d forbid individuals from choosing the education they wish for their children or passing on the fruits of their labor to their children (or grandchildren, or great-grandchildren), but they’ll allow Goodnight, Moon and Sunday dinner. Such kind tyrants.

Of course, the most obscene and glossed-over premise of the entire absurd episode is the school yard whine, “That’s not fair!” To wit: the author–not the philosophers–states, “So many disputes in our liberal democratic society hinge on the tension between inequality and fairness: between groups, between sexes, between individuals, and increasingly between families.” Inequality is accepted as a problem that must be fixed at all costs. Better to have an equal outcome of collective misery than worry that someone, somewhere is making a better life for himself and his family.  The abolition of liberty and individuality is small price to pay for the noble cause of making sure that everyone is kept equally miserable, equally envious, and equally shackled.   (Fun fact: inequality is greatest in progressive strongholds. Something about a plank in your own eye.)

For these sages*, Harrison Bergeron is not a cautionary tale, but a goal.


*I’d like you to appreciate how much self-editing was done on this post, with many colorful and fitting adjectives and nouns removed.




An appeal to my fellow introverts


Nothing. I mean everything. I mean, given the right medium, introverts won’t shut up. Don’t believe me?

Exhibit A. (That’s a link to Buzzfeed, so if you have moral qualms with click baity content thieves, you’ve been warned.)

We have memes:

introvert turtle

And cartoons to explain us.

introvert cartoon

And quizzes to categorize us.

If you’ve ever wanted to understand an introvert, you’ve got all the tools you need!

But let’s be honest, most extroverts don’t really want to understand introverts. I mean, was there really a huge cry, “Please help us understand you, introverts!”? No, there was not. So why the intro-splaining?

Well, as all these tests and memes and cartoons and articles explain, introverts aren’t shy. It isn’t that they don’t have opinions or want those opinions heard. It’s just that the “people” aspect of sharing those opinions with other people can be overwhelming or irritating or otherwise not their (our) cup of tea. Communicating with the (decidedly non-people) internet, however, is another story.

Now that we’ve found out platform, we’re as expressive and vocal as the extrovertiest extrovert ever. But oddly, a lot of that expression is devoted to the topic of being an introvert. I understand some of that impulse. We’ve found our tribe and we can say, “You, too!” without actually having to, ya know, interact with actual people. It’s the best way to be friends, ever.

(Side note: the great thing about social media as an introverts is that you can get to know people without that face to face thing, then when you do finally meet, it’s awesome, not awkward. Usually.)

So the internet is a great and wonderful tool for introverts to express themselves, and we’re doing that really well. But perhaps we can move on to new topics now? The internet is forever, so we can always point back the uninitiated back to our favorite meme, but really the topic of introversion has been well covered. How about we use our new-found voices for some of the other fascinating things going on in our introverted noggins? What do you say?



A Hobbity birthday

Today is my birthday, and as a good lover of Tolkien and observing that the world kinda sucks right now, I give you gifts.

Here’s is a puppy trying to attack the hiccup monster.

Here are the helpers in Baltimore.

Baltimore helpers

Here is a four month old baby pulled to safety in Nepal after being buried for 22 hours.

Nepal baby

Happy birthday to me! If you really feel the need to give today, there are many worthy charities helping the victims of the earthquake in Nepal. One of my favorites is Team Rubicon. Now if you’ll excuse me, the children and I are going for ice cream.

A mama’s prayer

I pray you find him.


I pray you reach him. (Strong, not unnecessary language. I can only imagine the fear that mama was feeling. Yes, children, that was fear that motivated that reaction. Fear and love.)

I pray Baltimore finds peace and reconciliation. I pray our nation, our communities, and our families find peace and reconciliation. There are a lot of opinions–I have a bunch of my own, but right now this nation needs prayer, not pontificating.

Will you join me in praying for Baltimore?


The dangers in our midst

This post contains affiliated and dangerous links.

We’re listening to Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing in the car. It was published in 1972 and I read it as a kid. I have fond memories of the whole Judy Blume oeuvre. But listening to it with my kids, I have to say I’m shocked that it’s still allowed in children’s libraries.  At one point, Peter explains that his dad has told him what to do when he (inevitably) gets mugged as he goes to and from Central Park alone: give the muggers whatever they ask for and try not to get hit in the head.

I must have blacked out that horror from my memory. How could I let my children hear such dangerous words? Then I started thinking about all the other hazards lurking on our book shelves.

In The Courage of Sarah Noble, the eight year old protagonist is left with a newly met Native American family while her father goes to fetch the rest of the family to their new home in the Connecticut wilderness. I mean, they barely speak the same language,much less know one another. And her father is gone for weeks!

In Sign of the Beaver, 12-year-old Matt James Hallowell is left alone–completely alone–for an entire summer. And I don’t want to spoil it, but things get pretty dicey. I was biting my nails.

sign of the  beaver

Nothing about this cover is comforting.


In The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, 12-year-old Claudia and her 9-year-old brother Jamie run away and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Running away AND endangering priceless artifacts!

And then there’s A Wrinkle in Time. Those kids leave the solar system! With three total strangers! Who aren’t even human!

Don’t even get me started on My Side of the Mountain.  (All those books have won awards. Can you believe that sort of recklessness was encouraged?)

In a world where people panic over children walking to the park unsupervised and neighbors call Child Protective Services for letting a kid play outside on their own, it’s surprising that these books are allowed anywhere near kids. Forget banning Tom Sawyer because of the offensive language, that whole cave scenario will have parents clutching pearls and demanding a bonfire be built to purge ourselves of the dangerous words.

Let you think this is paranoia, remember vintage Sesame Street is no longer considered appropriate for children. That’s probably the future of these books: nostalgia curios for adults of a certain age rather than soul-forming literature for impressionable children.

Of course, those of us who love these books and want to pass them on to their children have hopefully developed just the adventurous, creative and rebellious spirit to do so no matter what the nannies say. We’ll carve out hidden compartments in the walls and safe spaces under loose floorboards. We’ll teach our children secret passwords and unbreakable codes. Because if there’s one thing these stories teach, it’s that if you really want an adventure, you have to take risks.

To quote a great book, “Keep up your courage.”

What is your favorite subversive children’s book?

Related: All the best stories have one thing in common: No parents.


The next adventure is here!

This post contains affiliated links.

Underground Abductor

Well, not here-here, because I forgot to order it early. But we’ll have it by Monday. What is it? The latest from Nathan Hale: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor.

I’ve previously written about these great books and my re-evaluation of the place of graphic novels. (Also, I may have squeed when I saw this post.)

We’re all very excited about the new book, and you should be too. Check out the book trailer:

You can getall five Hazardous Tales here.

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