Over the weeks you will see appended on several of the essays here at the top a simple notice that it is a “Teaching”. I’ve even created a Category for it, as it’s an important notion, especially as to how things are passed from generation-to-generation in nature and also how cultures tend to diminish, and even sometimes disintegrate, when Nature’s simple laws are ignored.
I’m in my 70s, have all sorts of training in history and political science, have even taught those subjects in college, as well as used them in the court room in criminal cases. And I’ve been all over the world and seen a thing or two. I’m the sort who preferred visiting gypsy camp sites instead of listing the single malt scotch brands I’d tried to prove I was a connoisseur of humanity as a current employee of Glenn Beck once attempted to compare his worldly experience with mine. I’ve always referred to him as Captain Kneepants.
I’ve been luckier than most, having spent much time with soldiers, coal miners, farmers, even petty criminals, and generally found their stories more entertaining and instructive than any social mixer at law school or with corporate bigwigs. I plan to add stories to my “Famous Common People I Have Known” series, with others still in queue once this election season is over. (Publisher inquiries welcome.)
Military social get-togethers are different, or were, for senior officers came in all stripes with a wider array of backgrounds, at least in my day. For instance, General Eisenhower never entirely left Kansas, and America has been the beneficiary of that. My command 3-star, Welborn G Dolvin, is in the history books, was from an old southern family, and had been the Army’s most successful tank commander in the Korean War. He was Creighton Abrams’ chief of staff in Vietnam, so when Abrams came to Washington to become Army Chief of Staff, Maj General Dolvin got his third star and head of the Army’s principal major command in Asia. In 1974, at a IX Corps command exercise along the DMZ in Korea, I was substituted as the Corps’ JAG simply because my boss in Japan, an Army colonel, (Harvard man, go figure), didn’t like the idea of sleeping on Army cots in Korea, or standing in a chow line. During a lull one day, Gen Dolvin asked me to play chess with a him…on an overturned footlocker in the command underground bunker, with our loaded .45’s lying next to the chessboard. He told me that was a standard protocol this close to North Korea, especially since the Norks knew we were there. He ribbed me about being a lawyer, and asked me if I knew what “FEBA” meant (Forward edge of the battle area). Not knowing I had been originally sworn in as an infantry lieutenant, I played along by replying “Far Eastern Broadcasting Association”? We spoke often after that.
I have no degree in Education, but I do know how things work, or are supposed to work in nature. Everything people do is graded by Nature as positive, negative, or neutral on the natural law scale, the results often not showing up for years, the more critical subtle things, maybe taking generations.
Almost none of its rules and lessons are taught in schools, although as David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez proved at the Parkland school shooting (in 2018), lessons are nonetheless taught, even if very few pay attention to them. And prices have to be paid. The price, reward or punishment, may be immediate, take a day, week, or left to simmer on the stove for years to come. (Nature’s stove is never turned off.) And the more the broader group knows about it, and fails to reward it or punish it, the greater the prize or the pain.
About this Natural Law does not negotiate.
It is only for us to know that Nature is looking on and tallying up the results. Our job is to ask questions about how actions (and words) play in nature. We can do something about people who sit around our breakfast table, but if we do nothing, as we see more and more young people throwing fits and doing drugs, without fear of consequence, often in part due to not just one, but two parents with other priorities, then the solutions are often thrown out into the public area to be dealt with. Or worse, these days, to be surrogated by third parties, often schools or individual teachers.
There are natural laws of families, generations, communities, and nations that determine how long these aberrations are allowed to exist without some sort of intervention, often in the form of retribution. As the Catholic priest in the confessional (according to George Carlin) told the Irish kid in Bedford-Stuyvesant who asked him if it would be a sin to “feel up” Linda Lou; “There are four sins here, 1) wanting to feel up Linda Lou 2) planning to feel up Linda Lou 3) buying the bus ticket to go feel up Linda Lou, then 4) feeling up Linda Lou…count them, four sins in one feel.” (Punishment to be applied at a later date.)
So observe, and ask questions about the connections. In your own quiet time, make the pieces fit, past, current and future…and then, if you’re lucky enough, share with others who are similarly situated. Knowing is more important than the telling, and it always has to come first.
For instance- Public Education
When my dad came home from the war in 1945, he had a 3-year old daughter waiting to greet him that he’d never seen. Later in that same year, (nine months to the day he used to brag, when he had a few) I was born. Then a brother three years later, and still another three more years later. 1945 to 1951 was Mom and Dad’s years of “catching up”, for instead of going into the coal mines, like his dad, because of some skills he’d picked up in the Army, the coal company sent him to a 6-month engineering course in Chicago, so he could come back home to apprentice for the chief mine engineer. Five years later he was certified and 15 years later he replaced that Chief Mine Engineer. We even moved into his house.
(If this confuses you, they did that sort of thing in those days…in Engineering, Corporate Management, Accounting, even Law; Harvard, Yale and the like having very little to do with the important stuff of building a nation and economy. Since those actual core subjects were easy to learn then, it was the practical applications that had to be tested and proven; which took a few years. Good old-fashioned “show and tell”. Abe Lincoln didn’t go law school, either, and America still rues the day that we don’t have more apprenticed home town lawyers out there, preparing contracts and wills, doing ordinary court work, earning a decent living, and maybe even running for local political office.
(God help us, but every Democrat presidential and vice-presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter had been a lawyer while Gerald Ford has been the Republicans’ only one in the same near-50 year period. Think about that.)
Now, when I was 14, in 1960, my dad sat me down and gave me a “teaching” about education, namely “federal aid to education”, on account of, in 1960 there wasn’t any. I wrote about that in my “Earl Hodge” piece a few years ago, which was a “teaching” in its own right. But the civilized core of that piece was the fact that in 1960 “the local citizens” still steered their schools, in those days via the PTA, up to and including curriculum, which in Earl Hodge’s world, was their failure to teach his son, (and my pal), Garywayne, to quit saying “ain’t”…and here’s the crunch…so he could shake the dust off that coal camp and move to a “cleaner” place like Cincinnati or Indianapolis to get a job without having to cough coal dust from his lungs the rest of his life, or lose a friend to a roof falling in. (Just note, at that time, coal mining was the highest paying job in Kentucky.)
Dad warned me that through this “bribe-price” the federal government would exact on the states, and the states to the local school districts, the fed would eventually control both within a few years simply by owning the purse strings. And LBJ, who succeeded JFK in 1963, proved just that.
Now that’s a “teaching”, for it tells us that while there’s a right and wrong way to do a thing, sometimes you have to look 2-3 generations into the future to see the potential for an ugly ending those “good intentions” often can sometimes inflict on a society.
Historically this “evaluation” process was handed down parent-to-child, from the dinner table to shared responsibilities around the home. Common sense was not taught in school. And the husband-wife team were a kind of corporation, and the state, unlike Europe and the rest of the world, had no say in it. Each parent carried out necessary tasks to move that corporation forward, what I’ve always called “their House”. It had always stood the American design, which was already unique in human history for over 200 years, in good stead. Depending on when an American’s family first came to these shores, as many still do…and most being at the lower end of the economic spectrum… laborers and farmers, with no special skills (except maybe common sense and a willingness to work in order to get ahead)…this formula defined the vast majority of Americans since the 1860s. It would take each arrival two-to-three generations to become fully American, (ser Americano in Spanish) and in that 70 year period, they would learn patience as they climbed the social and economic ladders, while taking notes of the family names that appeared to be slipping back down the slope. This was the great sport that American afforded people that no country in Europe has ever offered. What should be most noted was that most of the success stories they were hoping to achieve was in the free market (which America sort of invented) while the third generation success stories would begin sending their children to the Ivy’s and more prestigious law schools, and (of late) marketing and management firms where title often outranked skill; i.e., a type of royal class.
(Note: we don’t have a state-designed formula for Americanizing educated professionals who come here without that generational “to be American” process. But we sorely need one, since that class is now being recruited to emasculate the original Americans, not unlike the banking families who came here in the Wilson era, and who, 125 years later, still have no interest in knowing what it truly means “to be American”. I give you the Schiff family.)
My dad’s Greatest Generation, (born 1901-1927) were perhaps the first to be a part of universal “state-provided” public education taken from taxes, so that every kid had an equal shot it…never knowing what just three generations could portend.
But his generation, because of that awful war, carried such an itch to make up for the loss of four very, very long years, were more than agreeable to passing over a larger portion of child-raising to public schools and school teachers. And in a drip-drip-drip fashion, from 1950 to roughly the 1980s, when my GenX children were going through public school, looking forward to college, the original American social contract, especially about marriage, families and careers, and how our kids are collectively going to learn key elements of moving our culture forward with a lesser role of religion and morality (plus all other the survival issues that come into play, better known now by their absence), and less and less knowledge about the shoulders they stand on…
When family is defined by class more than a common culture, you can see we have a two-pronged problem that has to be attended to at the same time…one bottom-up, the other top-down.
Apportioning our time (“tithing” may be a better term) requires collaborations within families, by generations, and discussing how to best to reorient the priorities of not only our children, but their children.
“Teachings” involve logic, aka common sense, or as Billy ed Wheeler once said, “Telling a horse from a mule”…and no one is born knowing the difference. It is taught, but more often as not, around the dinner table first, amongst family, before schools, even Sunday schools, can get their first shot at our children.
Since this is not an election issue for 2022, but well may be by 2024, I’ll hasten to relabel many of the essays as “Teachings” by the end of the year. Just search “Teachings” -VassarBushmills.com around New Year.