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Your first paragraph really hit home and is related to some of what I have been commenting on (mostly) family posts that support Trump (I cannot fathom how some of the people I have known all of my life have done a 180 in their beliefs - but I digress....). I annotate oral histories for the National World War II Museum in New Orleans (I work full-time for the McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture, Univ. Tenn., Knoxville. Before this, I worked at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles). This side job doing annotations has made me realize that I knew a lot about the official history of WW2 and the Holocaust, but very little of the personal and social history of the world involved until now.

A line that is often repeated by all regarding the Depression is, "we did not know any better because everyone else was in the same boat."

Changing tack slightly, an "aside" related on MAGA, is that in not one of the interviews I have worked on over the past three years has any veteran called themselves Great or aligned themselves with the Greatest Generation. Some have pointedly talked about how they do not like the description, nor Brokaw's book. The quote that often comes to mind is, "he did not talk to the drafted grunts in the mud, shit, and blood."

Very few of the Holocaust survivors (or internment camp survivors - both Japanese-American and Americans in Japanese internment camps), say they did anything heroic to survive.

In both cases, this is not survivor's guilt but more of an ongoing spiritual reckoning with what they have done with their lives since then (due to their ages in these rather late in life interviews). In my opinion, to the majority, the world was as it was, they did what they did, and often, solely to survive. Most, did carry out many, many acts to help preserve the lives of others (some heroically so) as well, but shy away from being recognized for that.

Sadly, most are frightened by the world they see now and that goes back as far as 2005, which is the earliest dated interview I have worked on so far (most fall between 2003 - 2013; only one has referenced "our Islam [sic] President" ;) ).

Anyway, I digress. I was four years old when Medgar Evers and John Kennedy were killed; 6 for Malcom X; 9 for Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. At nine, I recall my mother and the mothers from my southern neighborhood in Safety Harbor, Florida all watching a train moving slowly on the television. They were all crying. I was told a good man was killed by a bad man. I believe 1968 was a record of some kind for assassinations worldwide? Anyway, all of this had a great impact on me and was the beginning of my realizing there was a world that I knew nothing about.

I have only recently discovered how much my parents did to further civil rights during that period of time. They did not march or protest, but lived life in a way to overcome prejudice. Only now do I realize what that meant for them personally (my mother's family goes back at least five generations in Florida). Like the people in the oral histories I work with, they do not think they did anything special or heroic. But they raised their children to try hard to overcome their leanings of their environment (our county, Pinellas County only desegregated under order from the Supreme Court - I believe in 1971).

I am a late in life father whose son is 10 and lives in New Orleans. He and his peers give me great hope. His mother and I both work very hard to make him as aware of current and past events as he can handle. Maybe that is what we do while we are focusing on our own survival day by day. My parents tried to shield us from the dirt. I really do wish I had known.

I wish I could have told my neighbor up the street how much I admired him for allowing his white sons to play basketball in their driveway with Black sons despite having a cross burned in their front yard (I was 11). He is dead now. I did get to tell his sons.

I wish I could have told one of my few Black teachers in junior high school I was sorry for the innocently told "joke" about him on parent/teacher night that in hindsight was racist although the intention was just the opposite. He is dead now. I did get to apologize to his children.

Okay, I did not intend to go all the way through here! It reminds me again of what a remarkable job you do putting all of this together for us. If only one good thing comes of all of the chaos caused by nearly half of our country, I was introduced to Heather Cox Richardson and have been able to introduce her to many, many people. Thanks!

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Thank you for sharing a bit of the work you do and your family stories. When I was studying to be a librarian I took an archives class and the instructor encouraged us to record oral histories because, she said, history is what ordinary people did in their everyday lives. I was lucky to have spent time with my grandmother when I was growing up and I think of her as the story keeper of her family. She told me stories of her family going back generations and of their migration west across the United States. I’ve written down what she told me and share it whenever I can with other family members.

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Thank you for the work you are doing and thank you for sharing your insights. I deeply regret not asking my parents more about growing up in the Great Depression. I regret not asking my dad about when he was a medic in WWII. (My brother tells me stories Dad shared when the boys would be hanging out "shooting the shit", as Pop would say.)

I am profoundly grateful for having found HCR and this community of like-minded souls. It gives me hope.

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Yes, this is a most stellar and productive use of social media. I truly appreciate this forum every morning.

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Wholeheartedly agreed!

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My dad also was a medic in World War II. One day I told him he really needed to watch the movie saving Private Ryan. He said he cried through the whole thing and I remember thinking maybe I shouldn’t of told him. I can’t even imagine what they went through.

One of the depression stories that sticks in my mind was that he would have to wear elastics around his shoes when he was a little boy because the soul was so separated from the rest of the shoe. Elastics were a mainstay.

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My dad took lard sandwiches to school.

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Thank you for sharing some of the insights you have found from this most important work you are doing, Tom, as well as from your personal history. You say, “ Sadly, most are frightened by the world they see now” - could you elaborate a bit more on this? I would appreciate hearing some of the general perspectives and concerns of the people you are interviewing as I have a great deal of respect for this generation overall. Thank you for the work you do.

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Hi Karen. Thanks. A lot of the veterans are concerned about what they see as the lack of participation by the entire country in our current wars (very many are opposed to these wars altogether - a lot of them go all the back to the Korean War when they state that none of the conflicts we have since been engaged in were valid actions). They are also opposed to the repeated tours of duty, etc. Very, very many call for mandatory service of some sort to the country (not just the military) as a possible antidote - besides instilling discipline, they view it as a way to expose our younger generations to the larger world, diverse cultures, etc., as well as how having a more informed and experienced voting population might affect how we operate in the world differently. I have to say that on first glance, this is somewhat remarkable to me seeing that they mostly came from a segregated world into a segregated service. My only military experience supports that view (although I still find myself cringing a bit at a "forced" conscription - but since I came into adolescence during Vietnam, it could just be that still). I was in the first post-Vietnam, volunteer military. US Air Force (1978-1984 - we do not get VA benefits by the way - those did not come back until Reagan around 1984-86-ish - we are officially called "Nonprotected Veterans"). My military basic training included US history, military history, race relations, effective writing, and more. Not just exercising and marching! So I tend to agree that somehow getting younger generations to look outside is a good thing. (I am the second high school graduate and the first college graduate in my extended family).

On the political side, they talk quite a bit about how corporations have taken over our government. How we spend too much money on endless, senseless wars. Not much isolationist talk, but some. How children today (and I think they include people into their 40s LOL) do not know how to sacrifice, save money, delay gratification. A lot of it is certainly "old age" but for the most part I think their observations are accurate. They bemoan the loss of dinner time for a family but acknowledge that the working world does not allow for that. They bemoan the loss of open porches and windows and people walking, which is all bemoaning a loss of civic interaction. A lot of them do recognize that those times were very segregated and narrowly focused inward for the most part. Overall, many, many wonder why so many of their friends and families died to "save the world from evil" and that evil still exists. It is very sad (I have often had to take breaks for a few days - especially if I get more than three or four Holocaust or prison camp survivors in a row). A lot are sad to see the rise of (for me, it is the exposure of) white supremacy in our country. Mostly though, I would say, they focus on the next generations awareness of the sacrifices of the war being minimal to none and the tendency of our politics to not reflect the will of the people very well. This work is often very difficult but some of the most fulfilling I have ever done in my life. I lucked into it and feel very blessed to do it. I am glad I got to talk about it. Thanks!

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Tom, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts and experiences here, I also find them fascinating. I'm about your age, 2 when JFK was killed, and was talking with a friend this morning who is 9 years older. We were discussing a novel of historical fiction and commenting on how there never seems to be an end to the books based on true events of WWII and the Holocaust. So very many different ways ordinary people resisted and attempted to help others, usually at great risk to their own and their family's lives. Here we are in 2020, less than a century later, and hundreds of thousands of people are adamantly refusing simple public health measures designed to protect each other. I am absolutely certain those who risked and sacrificed all for their fellow humans during the atrocities of the Holocaust and WWII would find this incomprehensible. I am sure that the freedom to go unmasked in public and congregate at bars and restaurants is not why they were sacrificing.

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Many didn't understand what was happening in the Raffle du Veldive in France. They couldn't conceive of such intentional barbary and they just followed their family and neighbours hoping for the best. They didn't necessarily know that they were sacrificing themselves....some did and went nonetheless others headed for the hills.

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Many thanks, Tom.

I was extremely interested in your experience and would just underline two points. Firstly, being able to deferr gratification is an essential part of the maturing of our psyché to adulthood (just look at the writings of Jung, Freud, Lacan etc and all those following). Without passing this stage, we have difficulty recognizing our personal singularity or indeed recognizing the seperateness of the other. Instant gratification keeps you at the stage of the child feeding at mother's breast. The perverse personality most often starts with this. The results we can see in the current society in which the Human Being is reduced to the role and blind meanderings of a submissive Consumer.

Secondly, the military is no longer an organization dedicated to opposing massed human aggression with massed armies. It is as nasty but in different ways, no less stressful for the participants and requires greater degrees of training and different specialised skills a similarly solid state of mental "fortitude" and determination to survive. The same arguement about the social disciple and psychological impact of obligatory short-term conscription is heard in many parts of the world (and very clearly here in France) in the face of growing aggressive contestation on the one hand and aimless confusion on the other and I must same I would agree with it. However, doing it now would totally screw up the functional effectiveness of any "modern" army. The army can no longer be used either to replace parents and schools in the education of their children nor to soak up unemployment amongst the nation's poor. The training, self-discipline, self-respect and respect for the other and functional methods participation in a civil society previously organized by the military are now lacking. A new organization is needed to bring this benefit to the young and to all society.....because they have to get it from someone, somewhere and with both parents working and underfunding of schools it's currently coming from nowhere and is being replace very badly by social media.

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Passive voice. I so enjoyed Tom's use of active voice, which told of events lived by actual people.

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Badly. Sadly.

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Thanks Stuart. Very good thoughts on this and it helps with my cringing regarding a new "draft" essentially.

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Other countries (Israel comes to mind) require young adults to join their military force for a period of 2 (maybe 4) years. Something similar here might work well; I can see this type of service might force these young adults to broaden their worldview and develop further as adults. But for this to work, it would have to include _every_ young adult (say, age 17 or 18) including those who are differently abled, because to exclude some is still a form of segregation, no? (With some exceptions for those who mentally are not capable of it.)

I'm riffing on your thoughts here, so this might not be realistic, but if other countries do this, then I think we could figure it out, as well.

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I would not recommend requiring national service. But make it attractive and $rewarding - 1 year of (paid) service = 1 year paid college or trade school. My National Health Service Corps nursing scholarship was a phenomenal game changer for me. The 2 years of service was an important part of my education/training.

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In France 750,000 kids leave school every year and the Army has 263,000 active personnel! Difficult fit perhaps?

Not quite Isreal's problem and no on-going war on the border just some highly difficult and deadly anti-terrorist operations in different parts of the world.

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Wow, Tom. Just... wow. Thank you for such an articulate and comprehensive response to my inquiry. Like you, this makes me sad. I cannot imagine the cumulative toll that this must take on you. Thank you, again, for doing this critically important work and for sharing openly here. Do they offer any suggested solutions beyond what you have mentioned? It sounds like, and I agree, that the work must be done with the younger generations to instill these qualities that they see as lacking and to better educate them. What did I miss?

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Thanks Karen. Unfortunately in many ways, not many do offer suggestions. I so often wish these interviews had been recorded much earlier in their lives - so much is lost to the aging of the brain (as well as the often-forced suppression of events and memories). However, very many do live elsewhere from earlier periods and I try to find them, even if only to gather important information like forgotten dates and place names (the Museum, and I, feel it is very important for the research annotations to be as accurate as possible for their conversion to online. For instance, "kids" should be able to click on a name and see an actual town or river and not just a map of Germany.). I don't think you've missed anything. I am finding this morning that I needed this today, so thank all of you who are reading and of course, thanks again to Heather for providing this antidote to the chaos. :)

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Thank you for your reply, Tom. I’m glad that this forum has been helpful to you today. I share your gratitude for it and for Heather’s work. I suspected I had not really missed anything but thought I should ask I understand about cognitive decline from both a professional and a personal perspective. I am a medical provider and I have also sadly had to watch lived family members suffer from it. I am so glad to hear about the level of detail in the documentation of these histories. Outstanding work. These are important parts of our history that should never be forgotten.

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Thank you. A lot to think about and much with which I’m in agreement. Your story fills me with hope. Just the fact that you are employed to do this work is a good sign that all is not lost. Truth still matters and percolates out there across the country. Kudos and thank you for your writings today. ❤️🤍💙

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My dad participated in an oral history project before he died. It was one of many WWII veterans’ stories on the History Channel.

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This is such a gift for you to share these stories and insights with us. Thank you for being such a good listener and caring enough to hear the deep messages this disappearing generation shared. Thank you for sharing with us.

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Tom, I live in Knoxville and have been to the McClung. I’ve been once to the WWII museum and hope to go again sometime. I donated my grandmother’s letters to her only son who was with Patton’s army in WWII and other of my dad’s stuff to the WWII museum.

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Hi Marcy. Well, we're making a lot of changes with an eye to a new future post-pandemic. (We have a bit of our own history to contend with). I do hope you will be back and feel free to ask for me. Thanks for contributing to the WWII museum too! My son's mother is the Director of Curatorial Services there. They are having a tough time weathering the pandemic, but they are working hard on their educational and outreach aspects.

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The WWII museum in New Orleans is one of the most impressive ones I've been to. My father's bomb group has annual events (until this year) and about 10 years ago opened up managing to the Associate Members (the kids). One of our reunions was New Orleans.

What was cool about this Museum was starting out on the train & getting dog tags for "your" soldier & then using the dog tags at points through the museum that uupdated you on their status/history.

Dad was recalled for the Korean War & stayed in the Air Force for another 18 years. It was my parents way of getting out of a small farming town in northern Oregon. I think the world wars opened up the opportunities for many from small rural areas.

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I have a bunch of love letters that span two years of World War II when my dad was in the service, between he and my mom. I wondered if that is something I should do.

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I think they would be greatly interested in them. I can certainly ask.

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And I have 150 letters my father (South Pacific, Destroyer Escort) sent to his mother. They sat in the back of my closet for years (how interesting can a guy's letters to his mother be? I asked), until his 100th birthday approached and I read them all this summer. So regret not reading them when he was alive so I could tell him how fascinating they were. So, not trying to derail this excellent conversation, but thought I'd mention it. Thank you so much for your comments. They have inspired me.

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There must be a book in this!

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Thank You!

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Professor Richardson, like so many others who are proud to be a part of “Heather’s Herd of Hope”, I want—no, need—to express my thanks for your heroic contributions to the welfare of our great, imperiled nation. You have, over the last 14 months or so, provided a focused, historically founded perspective on our societal condition, and a glimpse of possible future outcomes given the current moral and political climate.

However, the immediate outlook remains grim. The wrecking ball that has been used on our governmental institutions and our social norms over the past four years has, as so many here have observed, been devastating.

The question now is: How do we recover? How can we reconstruct a shattered society?

That is the gauntlet that has been thrown down. That is the stark challenge we face. Do we have the intestinal fortitude needed to create the Reconstruction that our forbears failed to establish following the Civil War?

I think we do; we have no choice. It is our destiny to seize the moment, to link arms and march resolutely into the void and begin to rebuild.

The reality is that we Americans have, over the past 250 years and more, taken up our “tools” and built back whatever has been destroyed...better than before! That is what we are called on to do today. This is the opportunity to create the nation that lives up to its ideals, keeps its word, and is always at the ready to help anyone who needs a hand up.

Yes, it’s going to be a hard slog. Yes, there will be pitfalls and roadblocks at every turn. But we Americans have never been intimidated by seemingly impossible odds or opposition that appeared to be invulnerable. That’s when we’re at our best. That’s when we always show our mettle.

I expect nothing less now that our day has come.

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Take heart. We have the blueprints for what worked well in our democracy. And, we have been brought to humility by seeing all our dark shadows rise needed to be seen and this time to be dealt with as the patriarchy dies--racism, misogyny, white financial elites struggling to maintain the caste system of our forbears, problems in our democratic system that need to be tweaked, the cultification and deprogramming of Americans and foreigners, the dark uses of the internet, cyber warfare and lack of human decency in social media and its power. We have much more clarity on the importance of reforming our education to focus on emotional intelligence, critical thinking skills, The Golden Rule, limits of freedom of (responsibility), reforms in politics and government, business, economics, social media, news media, extinguish brainwashing tactics and conspiracy venues dangerous to the well-being of our society. The development of new ways of working will be revolutionary. I am sure I have left many things out, but this is a small overview of the work ahead. This coup on our country need not be in vain in it's learning. We need to prepare, as others have mentioned, for a future coup by more sophisticated autocrats and hostile foreign entities that are more intelligent and street smart than Fake 45 and his trumplicans, the former GOP.

We need to educate ourselves now. Important books like How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy, and the Racial Divide by Crystal Marie Fleming. Or Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults, and Beliefs

Hassan, Steven. We have to learn to communicate better, to be diplomatic and to find solutions instead of whining like that big, dangerous, baby in OUR Oval office. And we ALL have to stand up to abuse and stop it dead in it's tracks. No more quiet bystanders.

I see this moment as America's developmental phase from adolescence into adulthood.

And I still want to nominate Heather to be the Tzar of Education in America.

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One of the things....and their are many.....which makes me despair of French politics comes in part from the language. Their is a constant and massive tendency to use 2 words; the pronoun "On" and the verb "Falloir" as in "on va faire ça" (one is going to do that) and "il faudrait fair ça" (its is necessary to do that). Both words essentially exclude the person talking from any further responsibility for action; they have said it and somehow that equates action! The result is that nothing happens.

In reconstruction trust should be given to he or she who "says what they are going to do and why.... and goes ahead, lives it and does it". Credibility in the reconstruction has to come with trust and that has to be earned by whoever....especially after the blow that public trust in the governing institutions of the country has taken. Nobody should take anyone on faith anymore and held very strictly to account.

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Thank you, Stuart, I highly respect your comments and look forward to reading them. Holding someone "strictly to account" is what appears to be the crux of our problems in recent history. Accountability. Checks and balances. There is the rub and how do we protect the fragility of democracy when our collective Trust, Truth, Justice, Facts and Science are declared non-existent? I know it seems blatantly obvious that an educated and active citizenry appears to be essential for a democracy to truly function, no? And to hold our officials accountable.

But we have to reconcile what to do with big money and runaway propaganda machines that are sent into every home and electronic device these days.

It is a New World, and it is upon us to collectively catch up with it because our trust in our systems in this country has nearly failed us. Many have died and are dying today due to that failure. I think we still have time. I hope we do.

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Yes, the passive voice avoids accountability. I found this to be the case here in the States, in the social work community, and I'm sure it exists everywhere, including in our own community of Heather's letters readers. So, I will, for myself at least, eschew indirect speech and the passive voice.

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As a college-level writing teacher, I observed that most people don't know what passive voice is or how to shift it into active voice. Passive voice is the voice of bureaucracy.

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And Catholic bishops. 🤨

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I used to teach a expository writing class and the passive voice was one of my banes. I had a very physical way of showing them the difference by hitting the desk and using the active and then the passive voice to describe that. And yes, it is an excellent way to avoid being responsible for something as well as being awkward in many cases.

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Fascinating linguistic insight! One needs to recognize this.

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Very interesting to read. In my current French language study (entry level) the American English translation is always “we” or “I” for the French “one”. This confused me at first. Direct versus indirect. Anyway, thanks for your perspective! ❤️🤍❤️

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Far more money needs to be invested in education in this country. it’s one of the reasons we have racism among other things. At least some of the time in school needs to be devoted to self-esteem, how to create it, deductive reasoning skills, how to think,How to process. Not just memorizing in order to pass SAT’s. These skills are the difference between a great country and a country that is dissolving before our very eyes. Education is key!

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That means doing something about the standardized testing that we have. I know many teachers and they loathe it. It is about test taking and is the antithesis of allowing students to learn to evaluate and think.

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Yes, learning, not testing!

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Yet people decry money resolving educational deficiencies. "Some schools with low budgets do well" vs. "Some schools with massive budgets do poorly."

Is there a way to address the edification of ignorance without tying it to money? (I may have just made a huge leap by my word choice.)

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America's History Tzar - lest we repeat it.

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I second the nomination!

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Ah, yes, the Golden Rule....

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Bill and Penelope, thanks to both of you for your reasonable, positive can-do approach to our current crisis. Our response will be difficult and we will make mistakes, but history (with the help of dear, dear Heather) will be the teacher, and hopefully we'll go forward resolving to understand that education and reason are essential, racism is evil, everyone needs a helping hand sometimes, and we must all make whatever contribution we're capable of to work together to recover. Together, we're stronger than the circumstances that brought us to this place

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Might be a place for you in Biden's Cabinet with that spirit Bill Willis!

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Well said, Sir! Bravo!

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Hi Bill! Checking in a bit down the road since Dec 3, 2020 to thank you as the namer of "Heather's Herd." Were you the originator? Reply back for an update on its evolution. :)

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Ellie. I’m glad you feel ”Herd” is worth perpetuating. In the interest of transparency, I have always been a wee bit ambivalent about it given the connotation often attached to the word relating to dumb animals following one another instinctively. I’ve tried “Horde” but that too is often viewed negatively.

FYI: Rev Judith was the first, and perhaps only, member of this group to want to really identify with it, and I consider her the charter member—at least beside me. I’m truly curious to hear the latest developments concerning the term. BTW, I claim no ownership and need no attribution. It belongs to our “community”.

One last thing. Revisiting my comment above, I recognize it from my “Overwrought Phase”, which unfortunately is a recurring condition. There may be no cure.

My best to you and yours.

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“So for those who cannot see it: we are in one of the most profound crises of American history.”. Unlike some others whose postings I have read thus far today (and, as time allows I really do try to read them all), I find this statement by Heather to be quite concerning. Like yesterday’s post, it is an alarm bell for me. It sounds like the far off toll of a single, very deep sounding, very large bell ringing in the distance. Yes, some of what she says inspires hope and confidence, as it should and truly must, for without these we are surely lost and we have to keep our spirits up. However, Heather has never been anything close to an alarmist. In fact, just the opposite. She uses the perspective of history to remind us that we have been here before (or somewhere very much like it), have survived, and moved on. The comment quoted above and her comments yesterday are different, something I have not seen previously, which is why I find them concerning. I have had to take a giant step back from news and social media for self preservation as my mental health was beginning to be impacted by the toxic negativity and hatred that is so prevalent there. I am good at “big picture” thinking. I don’t mean to boast and am not one to do so - its just that I have been recognized for this both in the scholastic and professional portions of my life so I take it as a truth that others observe about me. I have a years long habit of reading multiple news outlets daily that has served me well, so to be without that “big picture” perspective I have derived from my own reading is not a position I am really comfortable with, but I have come to trust Heather to distill the day’s news because I usually arrive at similar conclusions on my own (minus the historical relevance and insights that she so brilliantly provides). So, all that being said, her comment quoted above has made me really sit up and take notice.

It feels like a good portion of the country who voted for Biden/Harris are singing and dancing to “Happy Days Are Here Again”, another portion are more cautiously optimistic, and very few see the significant dangers that remain ahead. Maybe I’m just naturally a pessimist but I still don’t have a good feeling about the future. Throughout djt’s tenure I have remained ‘friends’ with people on social media that I used to consider close personal friends who, in 2015-2016, revealed that they supported this regime. To say I was shocked by their support of him would be a monumental understatement. These are people I was very close to and thought I knew well. It was a period of personal crisis for me as I questioned how I could have so misunderstood and misjudged these friendships. But, I listened, and I still do. I read their opinions and the things they post and try to have dialogue, mostly unsuccessfully. My point in telling this is to say that if we here think things will change with the inauguration (assuming it happens) we are woefully misguided. There is a deep, ugly wound in America that will not go away with the inauguration, if ever. I hear another deeply tolling bell in the distance whenever I hear or see more from these people I formerly considered close friends. There are many more just like them. We ignore or discount them at our peril. They believe the messages they are receiving from the current regime as deeply as we believe Biden. More deeply, even. They believe that they, too, are fighting for the very soul of America and her survival. And they love her and are willing to fight and die for her. We cannot and should not disrespect, mock, or ignore them. We must somehow build bridges and reconcile. The danger now, as I see it, is that they are beginning to “go underground”. Many have shifted to Parler, which I refuse to join. We cannot deal with nor address a threat we cannot see and/or are not aware of. This is, indeed, a “crisis in American history”, for many reasons. We must act accordingly.

I will step off the soap box now. For those of you who made it this far, thank you for listening. I am grateful to be a member of this community.

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I too have thought about those who voted for Trump in 2016 vs. those who voted this year. To be charitable, although I was appalled at people I knew who voted for him, I did recognize this was an act for many of disgust with Congress, who passes no laws and only plays politics; antipathy for anything Clinton (I didn’t share that feeling but I understand people did); and the belief that an outsider and “businessman” could do SOMETHING to move the country off its behind. Most did not recognize his malignant narcissism, which I did because I worked for a narcissist, and didn’t realize what a fabulist he is. Having said all that though, they did know in 2020. If they voted for him this election it’s on them and I can only assume the worst. I do agree with you that we need to have some sort of truth and reconciliation commission to reunite civil society or at least understand what led to the cult of trump.

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Unfortunately, in my opinion, we had Hillary who is owned by corporations and Fake 45 is is nothing but a heartless corporation until himself. There was certainly one who might have been the lesser of two evils, however, the one who did not win the popular vote but became the so-called "president." Perhaps his installation allowed us to see how shadows and will accelerate our necessary changes much more quickly. Maybe we can all agree that we need change, but there are some out there that prefer the wild west and not participating at the moment as a "WE." That is unfortunate. Can we co-exist?

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Karen, I’m with you in this. HCR posts set off loud alarm bells. Although, honestly, I didn’t need them to know how wildly dangerous this time is in my lifetime. You express my experiences with family and friends - both Trump and Biden supporters. It’s why I remain scared and am working for the GA Senate runoff and Stacey Abrams from my perch in NY.

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"We cannot and should not mock, disrespect or ignore them." I fully agree. But I had to "unfriend" them. I need instructions on how to rebuild these bridges. This feels like when I lived in West Virginia 115 years after the Civil War, and the county was still split between Rebels and Yankees. In many cases, right down the middle of families. We have so much healing to do.

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Your 2nd to last paragraph resonates deeply with me. My entire family, extended included, voted for and still believe Trump will be president the next 4 years. From their perspective, as you said, they are fighting for the soul of America. This election was rigged and with that thought process they are doing whats best for their country by continuing to support the lies they don't realize theyre believing. It is terrifying and even if Trump isn't president for the next 4 years which they seem to believe is the reality I fear for 4 years from now. Ive recently been listening to Rob Bells podcast. 3 episodes. Me, We, Everybody. Its is hugely inspiring and puts everything into perspective and helps me understand where all sides are coming from. Gives me hope that we are on the edge of tremendous breakthrough on our country which is a hard thing to fathom right now.

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With all due respect could you give me some evidence of this being a rigged election? I’m not asking for peoples opinions. I’m looking for actual hard-core evidence and please also send the reference or link for said evidence. Thank you

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Her family believes the election was rigged, not the poster herself.

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Thank you Patti.

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I realized I was making it sound like I thought the election was rigged. I too would love to see the evidence of this accusation. So far it seems the judges can find none and even the lawyers bringing the charges are saying they don't even believe it to be true. I find so many people saying lately that they have no idea what to believe anymore cause you can't believe anything you hear. It is a scary place when we get to that point in society. I liked a previous post that mentioned critical thinking classes being taught again that will help people recognized the difference between fact and fiction.

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And in a social media world, we may have to certify certain sites that are factual vs alternative reality propaganda. There may need to be a Snopes type fact-checker so people are assured it is factual or take it with a grain of salt. As someone mentioned here today-- Question everything.

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Thank you, Karen, for so eloquently putting into words the jumbled and terrified thoughts in my head.

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Karen, I'm so glad you took the time to write this, well said. I am totally on board with you. I haven't had your experiences with Trump supporters being close friends. Just a dear brother and years ago we pretty much agreed we couldn't discuss politics or religion and stay family so we dance around pretty much everything. I did not want Biden to be the next President but I'm tremendously relieve it's him and not Trump. I do feel some relief at that, but agree with you 100% that dangerous times are ahead.

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Headline story in Politico this morning about conservatives in Georgia consuming each other over who can have the craziest conspiracy theory/boycott the Senate runoff election and somewhat more rational Republicans, (like Newt Gingrich?!) terrified the Frankenstein monster they helped create will cost Republicans the Senate. What pandemic?

Wisely, Georgia Democrats are staying out of it and quietly going about the business of getting out the vote and fund-raising.

Never interfere with your opponent while he's setting his hair on fire. Or something like that.

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/12/03/maga-georgia-civil-war-trump-senate-republicans-442776

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When Newt Gingrich is a “reasonable” voice, we are all in trouble!

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I've seldom witnessed Republicans publicly squabbling among themselves. Usually, the left is guilty of eating their young - for the world to see. It's lovely - especially the QAnon adherents' rally, where they were admonishing the audience to boycott the runoff and the crowd was cheering! Oh, if only Newt Gingrich has the opportunity to witness the reaping of what he sowed.

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The problem I see in today’s USA is that we have allowed our organs of society’s greater good, our public schools, our tv networks, our newspapers, our colleges and universities, to fail to communicate that shared reality. That’s why we have liberals who don’t understand why people in red states hate government interference and why Trump supporters can be choking to death and still not believe that the coronavirus is a threat. It’s why so many are susceptible to the latest conspiracy theory: it’s all too easy to accept Quanon or the deep state or the Protocol of the Elders of Zion if you’ve never had a concrete demonstration or a contradictory fact pushed in your face. There are many things we could do: reinstitute the fairness doctrine for tv broadcast on our publicly-owned wavelengths, strengthen or re-institute civics classes which give some insight into the good things good government can do at the local, state, and federal level, and the bad things it can do when run corruptly and/or incompetently. Just a thought, Professor Richardson.

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Well said and I agree. We also need to return to teaching formal critical thinking at the high school level. For anyone who has not had a class in Critical Thinking, it is not about what is commonly referred to as ‘common sense’. It is a method for discerning truth based on formal principles of logic. It’s not easy to learn but, I believe, a crucial piece of a better educated populace that will help us move forward to a better future.

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The only way in which I disagree on this, as I was just discussing with a teacher friend who was reporting that the kindergarten teacher in her school is still teaching the same old myth of Thanksgiving to her students as she has been for 35 years, is that we should not wait for the high school years to start teaching this. Very young kids are question-aholics! It's a perfect opportunity to not always feed them an answer, but get them thinking on their own.

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Agreed!

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Absolutely agree. Give even little kids are more realistic, nuanced view of the first Thanksgiving and why it wasn’t celebrated nationally until after the Civil War.

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It might be good to do that even earlier. And maybe include Restorative Justice in all American schools.

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We do need to teach our people that being involved democracy is critical, is an honor and a right many fought and died for. Too many get complacent and/or despondent and I know this has awakened many of us in some of the more intricate part of our governing system that we never knew. Just as this forum is informing us of historical perspectives we may have missed.

In 2016, friend of mine on the island of Kaui asked the 19 year-old girl bagging her groceries if she was going to vote in the presidential election. The young woman told her that presidents are appointed by something like the senate or congress. To that, my friend asked her if she had ever had a civics class in high school. She asked what that was. My friend explained that it was a class on how our democracy and government work. To that, the girl responded "Nope. Never had that!"

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Participation in a democracy brings rights and obligations; right to vote and obligation to take part in decision-making in order to maintain freedom.

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Alas! Surely we can do better for these kids?

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And not just syllogistic examples but hard facts that challenge specious generalizations! ‘Democrats are preaching socialism’. ‘Republicans don’t care about kids in cages’.

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I just posted a comment speaking to this. I think this is the key to everything in this country

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The absolute best class I took in high school was not a class but was the Debate Team. Our proposition for the year was Resolved: the United Nations Should Be Significantly Strengthened. We learned by doing, by spending every afternoon down at the main branch of the public library researching and compiling facts to buttress our arguments and counter-proposals. The debates were conducted by formal rules of debating. I strongly suggest that debating be added to the curricula of middle schools and junior and senior high schools everywhere.

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And let’s stop calling what Presidential candidates do a debate.

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Exactly!

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Absolutely. Debate team was excellent in learning not just the topics, but all the associated skills as well.

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I've been thinking about this for some time. The left persists in our collective insistence that we must educate/re-educate the populace. The unspoken thing, I believe, is the intention/hope of targeting the right with truth and facts that could shape/re-shape their thinking. For example, require addition and/or revisiting of civics coursework, some say. Present American history that includes the bipartisan dark sides accurately, particularly as that applies to racism and political histories. Etc., etc. Good ideas, all.

But here's the additional thing I've been wondering about.

Is there currently anything that resembles continuing education for legislators who are entrusted with protecting and defending the whole nation vs cherry-picking the their own "chosen ones?" Besides mouthing their oaths of office, are legislators ever required to re-visit those words and what they actually mean? What if legislators were required to attend "get smart" sessions when they first are elected and periodically thereafter? What if education/re-education was bi-partisan, in content and attendance? What if it were clear it's not a national brainwashing program (as trumpists and others might charge)? Is that even possible?

When I was in high school in Minneapolis, every year, students were tested on Minimum Essentials in English. Comprehensive. Grammar, punctuation, understanding what was to be read as part of the test, writing, etc. I suspect, but am not sure, that test might have come from the Board of Education. What if there were Minimum Essentials on citizenship? What if legislators and their constituents all knew as much as immigrants do when they become citizens? What if...?

Work with me a bit on this, please. Clearly I don't know exactly where I'm going, but of this I am certain: Education, yes. Continuing education, yes. Segregation during that process by any definition (race, age, political party, physical ability), no. And if people balk at being "educated," trot out a hot new label for it. I'll leave that to the marketers. But NOT the same ones who dreamed up "Ridin' with Biden!"

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I became a volunteer literacy tutor 12 something years ago thinking I would be helping low socioeconomic Americans. Wrong. With one exception over the years, all students have been non English speakers and/or readers and/or writers. A notable lady had left Venezuela with the equivalent of a PhD and was a university professor. She was verbally fluent but having difficulty with the reading and writing required to pass the ESOL exam for university admission here. She was obviously far more educated than I, but I was able to help her nonetheless. I encouraged her to write an essay for submission to the state literacy organization's annual contest. She won and her essay was published, which fortified her university applications. But I digress. My main point that speaks to education is that I find myself frequently helping people to pass a GED exam, for instance, and sometimes the exam required for US citizenship. I highly doubt that the majority of baccalaureate graduates in this country could pass that exam without extensive educational prep beforehand. And virtually no high school graduates could get past the first 3 questions. If we require immigrants to know these things in order to become citizens, why do we allow birthright citizens to vote without knowing the bare minimum? I realize voters would howl and scream to the heavens at this, but what harm would it do to require a basic civics and constitution test before registering to vote? It would force our high schools to get back to actively teaching these subjects for the benefit of their students. Just my thoughts....

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There are large and important questions here. From my years of being a high school teacher and researching educational methods and outcomes, I would add two thoughts.

First, I share the good-old Enlightenment view that education, broadly understood, is a critical foundation for a just and prosperous society. But education as formal schooling is a bit like Churchill's quip on democracy: the worst system devised excepting all the others. Many studies have concluded that people's fund of general knowledge, abilities to analyze and reflect, and core values are far more shaped by their experiences with others in their families and the wider world than by any form of classroom instruction. This emphatically doesn't mean that we shouldn't continue to try to improve our educational methods and interactions with students. It does, I think, mean that we should not have utopian expectations for the results.

Second, another look at the current contexts of politics and education: the new USCIS exam for naturalizing citizens, which officially took effect 12/1. There has been commentary about the obvious anti-immigrant motives behind the changes and the rushed roll-out (I'm shocked!). I have read through the question bank from which 20 are selected for any given exam. Source:

https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/document/crc/M_1778.pdf

I used questions from the previous exam (2008) in American History courses, first giving the students the exam as a pre-test--you can guess the results--and then expanding from specific questions to what they were based on and why they were thought important. (Civics classes were long gone at my school.) Then students were grouped to analyze and critique the test and formulate questions they thought should be on it. There was, productively, lots of disagreement. I did this early in the term, and then could refer back to it as we went on through other topics. If I were at it today, it would be instructive to add "compare and contrast" between the old and new test questions and purposes.

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Although on reflection, I should have added that doing this in the past required occasional administrative support through flak-catching from some parents who objected to the idea, thinking that I was somehow subverting the republic by using such methods. I imagine today that there would be some level of howls of "Socialism!!!"

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Loved your perspective. I’m betting members of the White House who pushed for these tough questions would themselves be flummoxed by them. Like the literacy tests from the counter-reconstruction, these were designed to keep people out, not expand their knowledge of how America is supposed to work. Still, as a stretch goal, it will be important to give high school students a good course in how democracy is supposed to work. Maybe follow up with an automatic voter registration when they turn 18.

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Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it. You are unquestionably right about the reactionary ideology behind the redesign. I would add that one major difference between the older test I used (there have been numerous versions over the years) and the new one is not just that the questions are hard, it's that the default answers are wrong. I am working my way through the whole bank, but for a noted example: Questions for who does your Representative/Senator represent? require the answer "all citizens" in their district/state. The correct answer is "all people," as was required on the 2008 version. The anti-immigrant bias is hardly a subtext.

On a (somewhat) more hopeful note, you don't have to have a civics class to engage questions about political power, democracy, authoritarianism, or economic inequality. They are implicit not only in any history class, but also lots of literature classes and even with substantial relevance in science classes as to how research gets funded and to what uses its findings are put.

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Well even if not in order to vote at least to run for any office!

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I’m sure most of us would flunk😂! We take our citizenship status for granted, sad to say.

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I wouldn't require passing tge test to vote (voter suppression), but it might be very wise to pass it to graduate high school in America.

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It should be a right of passage step to finish middle school. You just have to, is all.

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Teachers are required to update their knowledge to keep their licenses, as are many physicians. Why not elected officials? Make the lessons bipartisan and factual and give quizzes at the end. Great idea Barbara! Make their grades public knowledge! It’s hard to deny reality when someone who knows his/her subject tells you the truth about it!

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Problem is, we have a whole political party committed to smoke and mirrors leadership, and the last thing they want to do is protect and defend the whole nation, only their elite contributors. There are "classes" for new legislators, though, and maybe your excellent idea could start by enhancing those - from County Commissions all the way up.

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I like the idea of continuing education requirements for people in office. But to simply require that, to which a person can log onto an online course and click answers while watching television wouldn't cut it.

Constitutional discussion? Yearly assemblies of discourse?

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I believe we initially must understand your point, about our greater or common good. This is the core of a republic. Conservatives want to limit government, in order to amplify the individual and family, and ’to hell with everyone else.’

How can a country with so much wealth have such poverty? Well, its the conservative mantra of private wealth and limited to no government.

As i’ve written before, liberals do NOT advocate for the role of government. So, we are a country that has come to believe that government is evil (the conservative frame or narrative)

But practically EVERY stance of liberals and progressives is to advocate for a government based solution. We advocate for the protection and safety of all citizens and the Earth, all the responsibility of various levels of government.

The left could simply argue for a safe and sound democracy, which is effective government and all of its functions: education, safety, research and development funding, transportation, etc.

To advocate, we must also contrast. We must denounce the consevatve mantra that upholds private interests; the quest for profit leads to greed, graft and grief. And this is easily exhibited, beginning with Trump Inc.

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Maybe we need a new word for "government" to foster a new attitude? NOT "social" anything, though.

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I feel “government” could be explained as the source of so many things, beginning with the sidewalk and street in front of everyone’s home.

Biden believes in government, and he will show what good government looks like.

“Democracy” and “government” could be interchangeable in many instances.

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Yes, "reinstitute the fairness doctrine for tv broadcast on our publicly-owned wavelengths." Truth in advertising. Corporations are not people! Yes, you may talk with your wallet, but without a person behind the handing over that dollar, there is no "speech." (Somehow this ties into guns don't kill people.)

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You have spurred so many thoughts in my mind, Heather. I will go back to my parents who were both victims of the Holocaust, another horrendous time in our history. They had to have sponsorship to enter America. They each had a relative already living here when they arrived in the 30’s. Here, they thrived because they were allowed to live and prosper under the freedom they so desired. They moved from NY to a small rural town in NC where they became merchants. They both worked to make ends meet. My sister and I were the only Jews in school and it wasn’t until 1963, that schools were integrated. That was so long ago but we have lived through assassinations (also to Democrats and people of color), placing a man, and now women, on the moon, continuing technology, etc.. The one thing we haven’t successfully tackled is systemic racism. I would like to say we are getting there but that would be a lie and we have had enough of those for these past 4 years.

You call him president. I simply won’t award him that title so I have been saying Fake 45. He is faltering in his last days, trying to pull all of the stops out. Republicans are getting their just rewards as they get skewered for not following their leader. Personally, don’t you think Stephen Miller is behind all of the insanity? Look at Barr Nun. He won’t even do Fake 45’s bidding now! Then Ivanka was deposed re: money spent for the inauguration. Somehow, the chips are falling right into place and we now have a front row seat.

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I think you might have meant "Barr None!" ;-)

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Barr Nun works too

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My parents lived through the Great Depression. They would tell stories of how difficult those times were, of making due. We were taught to appreciate what we had. My father would tell about how, when he was a boy, eating sweet potatoes for dinner was as much of a treat as dessert. My mother’s family made “Depression Soup” of a variety of dried beans, peas, and when they could get them, vegetables and a soup bone. These have become part of our family legacy and are comfort foods for my sisters and me ❣️

Considering all of the music, literature, and art that was created during the time of the Great Depression, I believe that folks living during that time knew how bad things were and that it was important to document those experiences for the generations to come.

Heather, thank you for doing the same...with your chats and these Letters From an American ❤️🇺🇸

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"Waste Not, Want Not" my depression-era mother berates me in my head as I rinse and save a bread bag (to use for my homemade bread), or make that comforting bean soup. But she used to say that when she was a kid living on the Minnesota farm, they never noticed any difference during the depression. They grew most of their own food, Aunt Maggie raised the chickens, Aunt Delia sewed their clothes, and Uncle Jim rode them to school on the horse and buggy. And they always "made do."

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In Texas, Gov Abbott announced he has I think it was 3 billion that has to be spent before the end of the year or it is returned to federal funds. He’s just trying to decide how to spend it. That’s insane! Why was he ever been holding it?! Our food bank lines are infamous on the national news, and the homeless situation is mounting, people are desperate! And Abbott just can’t decide how to spend billions.

The TEA run by a realtor Mike Morath stated that if schools go virtual, they’ll only receive half day funding for everyday we’re virtual. The district I work in is an affluent area and we already give $53 billion to the state every year for a Robin Hood law. The district can’t pay its bills and we’re the lowest paid teachers in this area of North Texas. Half our funding would be ludicrous! As Covid numbers mount, we don’t dare switch to all virtual! But parents are pulling their children and making the switch to virtual. My school has had very few cases and the majority have been infected from other contacts away from the school. So we’re doing something right with all of our precautions! The best thing we could do, however, is close all buildings and go to all online. We just can’t!

I believe because of your letters, more people realize we are in unprecedentedly bad time of history. Thank you for your expertise! It always helps me put the day in perspective and not feel so alone.

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When you say the Congress, I'm assuming that Senate Republicans are also on-board for this Defense Authorization Act. I loved everything you listed that is in it. It feels like sanity is returning. We are very fortunate to have such a fine, strong and ethical military who take very seriously their oath to the Constitution and to protect democracy. It is good to see the Congress acting as a whole in support of them and institution like NATO and our allies like South Korea and Germany.

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The Republican Senate and House leadership have told Trump they have the votes to override his veto. It's as bipartisan as anything gets nowadays.

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This one will help me sleep.

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Me too! Thanks for some light on our situation.

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Morning, all!! Morning, Dr. R!! Yesterday's chat was very illuminating, as I heard how the U.S. government fared during the Civil War. I never knew! In some ways it has mirrored what is and has been going on these past 3+ years. While the squeaky wheel (45 and supporters/the confederacy) claims the narrative, the rest of the country is taking care of business.

I am 100% behind the Biden/Harris team as they continue to make COVID-19 their Number 1 focus for the country, ignoring the many distractions that are tossed in their path.

I would like to think history will be more than kind to the Biden administration...perhaps it will be written that they were the heroes of their time.

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In terms of the Great Depression, although much of the hardship was visible to those living through it, they had a sense of community with their neighbors who were all pretty much equally affected. Today, we’ve had TV in most homes for about 50 years and generations have been growing up with serious envy of what appears to be how it should be for them, too. Social media compounds the problem. If no one else in your town has a car, you don’t miss having a car. If the teen next door gets one, you’re jealous. If TV/social media seem to show everyone else has a car, you feel cheated and angry.

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Thank you Heather. I brace myself daily for what the next assault against the citizens of this Country will be from this Administration. It's positively exhausting. As much as I want to look away from this train wreck, I know I need to watch, albeit from the corner of my eye . Who would have ever imagined this would be the operative of this Nation? I think about what this Administration, not just Trump, will look like to generations long after us. I hope they won't think we were just rubes who were lead by the nose down this dark path, but that might be a fair observation. I find it almost the likes of Ray Bradbury that the leader of this nation has chosen to turn his back on the people as they die in droves as he plays golf and ignores this pandemic, all in plain sight.. Perhaps we have come to such a baseline that

this is acceptable. I thought we were better than this. Time will tell.

Be safe. Be well.

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We ARE better than this. Knowing that is the basis for continuing to do everything we can to save our democracy. It’s what makes fighting for it worthwhile.

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Plus, Heather is keeping track of what has been going on since the beginning of things going sideways, and I believe she'll be putting these letters into a book, and publishing it. I can easily see this book, Letters from an American, become required reading in a civics or history class, not only to see what happened, but the why & how of it, too.

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When reading about the "testimony" by "witnesses" in Michigan on "election fraud" I felt I was experiencing an extended SNL skit. Honestly, are people that desperate for their 15 minutes of fame? Obviously they are. Thank you, Dr. Richardson for your insights. You have given me hope that we can save democracy.

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And on a lighter note, all the late night talk show hosts played one out so well. The one they all chose to highlight was obviously nuts!

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Many thanks, Heather. As always, I appreciate your expertise, daily letters, and chats. It always gives me a perspective based in truth. You remind me today, that my grandmother would be asked by coal camp mothers if they could have some "creasy greens" from her property. The answer was always yes, and she always left their farm raised food extras on her porch railing for these families. It was a self-sustaining dairy farm in West Virginia and they managed fairly well in spite of the Depression yet its impact was handed down through my mother to me. I always pause and think about reusing aluminum foil, just like my Mom did. I walk by my great grandmother's Depression quilt, with each piece having come from one of my mother's dresses as well as those of her sisters. Some pieces are from flour sacks and grain sacks. It's my favorite quilt. I keep thinking about my ancestors and I gain hope that if they can do it we can do it. Move forward with grace. (In spite of president what-a-waste.)

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We will endure. have faith in our resilience. The early days of the Civil War were perilous. December 7 1941 shattered our complacency about wars across vast oceans. We have to hope that transitioning to sane and humble leadership will rally Americans to do the right things to contain the pandemic. Wearing a mask and staying home for a few months is a lot easier than the immense sacrifices of our ancestors who went to war, and some who perished in the YEARS of fighting. C’mon Americans. We can do this. Hunker down. Wear a mask. Avoid indoor gatherings. And remember we are all in this effort together.

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Gotta be a role in Biden's Cabinet for National Cheerleader. Thanks!

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Joe Biden an Kamela Harris bully pulpit

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