Suppose you’re a teacher, and you give your class a test, and they don’t do as well as you had hoped. Of course, you have to mark which answers are right and which answers are wrong. But grading is not teaching. If you take your craft seriously, you have to pay attention to your students, look beyond the raw count of right and wrong answers, and ask: “How do my students perceive the world? What part of their perception is leading them to answer the questions this way? What can I do to help them think differently?” It’s a lot easier to ask these questions if you respect your students, and treat them as people who can also be your teachers.
George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and all their apparatchiks have worked very, very hard to earn our disdain, and I don’t want to deprive them of this property. But if you pour out your resentment on the people who voted for them, as a class, you’re hurting yourself and your country.
We know that the vast majority of voters do not use an internally consistent political ideology to decide who to vote for. (That majority is large enough to include Democrats and Republicans, so don’t gloat.) That means, ladies and gentlemen, that 59,249,702 American adults did not walk into the voting booth and think “I’m going to vote for Bush because I want to run our deficit into the stratosphere; give tax cuts to the incredibly wealthy; send our soldiers to die, kill, and torture to prop up a puppet regime in a country whose previous ruler posed no threat to the United States; and seize on every available excuse to gut every part of the Bill of Rights except for the Second Amendment.” Yes, that’s what they’re getting, and some fraction of them probably do want what they’re getting, but not the whole 59 million.
Americans were given a multiple-choice test, and 51% of them checked off the wrong box. If we want future elections to go the other way, we need to treat those 59 million Americans as our students and teachers, and figure out where we have fallen short of our mission to teach them.
Let me quote from the man who recently became a Senator from Illinois:
Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America—there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America—there’s the United States of America.
The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.
We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.