Civics… without the simpering patriotism

After the resistance is, eventually, successful*, Americans of good will have to be ready to work hard — probably for many years — to rebuild our civic structures. I’m trying to imagine what a strong civic life would be like, stripped of the old adoring nationalism & of many of our old illusions… (like any hint of American immunity to dictatorships) …and I like what I see.

For one, I think that at the local level, it’s important to get everyday people involved in politics much more often. Seeing for yourself how hard it is to do the work of organizing & governing, while also learning where things can go sideways, would be incredibly valuable. I suspect that many people who end up corrupted by graft & favoritism don’t realize anything is happening at first, don’t think that they’re compromising their principles. Then your ability to frame whatever you’re doing as “not that bad” kicks in and… boom you’ve been corrupted. When you see it up close, you might then be more aware of — and wary of — the evidence of this happening at the state & federal levels.

Mandatory classes in civics might help. Make it part of the fabric of what kids learn. Science, technology, engineering, math, reading, critical thinking, writing/exposition/speaking, geography, history, philosophy; and how they all build on each other. A true liberal arts education, 1st grade through college.

If this sounds overly optimistic, I’ll only suggest that we don’t really have any choice. If we don’t do something different, we’ll not only never fully recover from Trumpism, we’ll have more Trumps forever.


A note about the phrases “simpering patriotism” and “adoring nationalism.” I always associated enthusiastic civics education of children with the supposed civics classes that groups like the VFW held in my hometown. I shuddered at those, without examining why. Now I realize that whatever actual civics instruction happened there, was almost certainly swamped by the heavy-handed America First agenda. You know…  “America first, right or wrong.” It’s like what I said to an old high school buddy after I discovered that he supported the use of torture in the War on Terror that the US has been prosecuting for the last 16 years: If we’re acting just like the bad people, how are we good people? If we can’t see where the problems are in our systems, how can we fix those problems?



*yes, I know I’m being insanely optimistic here.