Last Monday I was driving back to the cape. As I often do on long trips, I turned on conservative talk radio to see what stories had been skewed to incite the listeners.
Rush Limbaugh was criticizing President Obama’s speech at Ohio State University’s graduation the previous weekend. He was complaining that while the president listed some characteristics that made us Americans, he had not listed ones that Rush would have liked. Not listing everything should be understandable as the president was delivering a speech, not reading the dictionary.
As he usually does, while making sure we understood that he, himself, was not a “libarull”, Rush explained that he knew more about what “libarulls” believed than liberals did.
He announced with moral certitude that “libarulls” did not include self-reliance among those things that made Americans Americans.
I am a Liberal. During my teaching career I began every class on the first day of the school year by having my students copy lines from “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“There comes a time in each man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better or worse as is his portion. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what it is that he can do, nor does he know until he has tried”.
After this I would read the whole essay and explain its meaning.
I did this to set the tone for the year, emphasizing to my students that their futures depended on what each student did to bring about a successful future life without expecting that someone else would do that for them. It was why they needed to take care of their own education and not allow anyone to control what they learned. The worst they could do to other students was to limit their learning, and the worst they could do to themselves was to allow someone else to limit what they learned.
Rush said NO liberal would include self-reliance in American characteristics, nor would any liberal tell others about their need to be self-reliant.
I had mentioned in an earlier blog posting that the surest way to lose an argument was to appeal to absolutes such as “all”, “none”, “never”, “always” to name a few. The reason for the guaranteed loss is that if you based your argument on absolutes, if someone found one exception, your argument crumbles.
I am happy to announce that even if there are no others, I am a Liberal who not only explained, but emphasized self-reliance to the equivalent of two generations of American public school students, and that by virtue of this I can proudly point out that Rush is wrong. And, if he is wrong in this absolute statement, he is, most likely, wrong in many more.