Steve Bannon: ‘we’re going to war in the South China Sea … no doubt’

For my ex-students, please remember our lessons on “us versus them”, the scale of nationalism (soft patriotism to excessive nationalism), and the application of logic and reason to external events.

For Steve Bannon or anyone of his ilk, putting world affairs in terms of “going to war” over Islam versus Christianity or a knee-jerk reaction to the South China Sea is unequivocally dangerous to our lives, society, and world peace.  World events do not circulate around Bannon’s or Trump’s assessment of Christianity versus Islam ad nauseam.  

The world is exceedingly more complex than their constructions.

The issue of jobs and crumbling infrastructure and education for developing skills in our time are the issues to confront, not the fantasies of Bannon’s extremism and Trump’s self-absorption.

Please, students, go back over our lessons.  Go back over the dangers of excessive nationalism and the always present need of reason and the middle way to live in our times.

Read the article linked below.  And, think.  Think hard.  Then, fight against their delusions.

Only months ago Donald Trump’s chief strategist predicted military involvement in east Asia and the Middle East in Breitbart radio shows

Source: Steve Bannon: ‘we’re going to war in the South China Sea … no doubt’


Addicted to Distraction – The New York Times

“The net is designed to be an interruption system, a machine geared to dividing attention,” Nicholas Carr explains in his book “The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.” “We willingly accept the loss of concentration and focus, the division of our attention and the fragmentation of our thoughts, in return for the wealth of compelling or at least diverting information we receive.”

How I lost, and found, my focus.

Source: Addicted to Distraction – The New York Times

How Trigger Warnings Are Hurting Mental Health on Campus – The Atlantic

Oh, for goodness sake!  Trigger warnings, microaggressions….etc.  Dwelling on that stuff stifles growth.

I adhere to the dictum, “There is no education without tears.”  –Ralph Waldo Emerson

In some ways, it’s comedy.  Students egging a professor’s door protesting microaggressive speech.  Egging?  Protesting speech of a professor by hurling an egg?  Who is being trespassed upon here?  The prof or student?  What’s going on here?  Students get their feelers hurt everyday in class.  Professors correct, critique, urge, and teach critical thinking.  There’s going to be hurt feelings when you correct.  But, does the student want to grow up, be literate, and not be taken advantage of?  You give students what they need, not what they want.

I wanted my students to know facts and be able to detect falsity and rise above the mystification of swamis, religionists, and charlatans on the street and the media.  You must go deep and dirty to find, or not find as the case might be, truth.

Read this article from The Atlantic, and attend.

College students are increasingly demanding protection from words and ideas they don’t like. Here’s why that’s disastrous for education.

Source: How Trigger Warnings Are Hurting Mental Health on Campus – The Atlantic

James Salter (1925-2015)

Salter pilot

From the interview of Salter in Paris Review, Summer, 1993:

“I’m not the first person who feels that it’s the writer’s true occupation to travel. In a certain sense, a writer is an exile, an outsider, always reporting on things, and it is part of his life to keep on the move. Travel is natural. Furthermore, many men of ancient times died on the road, and the image is a strong one. Kings of Arabia, when they are buried, are not given great tombs. They are buried on the side of the road beneath ordinary stones. One thing I saw in England long ago struck me and has always stayed with me. I was going to visit someone in a little village, walking from the railway station across the fields, and I saw an old man, perhaps in his seventies, with a pack on his back. He looked to be a vagabond, dignified, somewhat threadbare, marching along with his staff. A dog trotted at his heels. It was an image I thought should be the final one of a life. Traveling on.”

I came across Salter late in my life, two years ago. His descriptive powers, in part illustrated above, are deep and wide. The first chapter to A Sport and a Pastime is like no other introductory–speeding across France on the train–and his prose grasps you so you are there with him in the compartment.

Read Salter and travel. Yes, as someone has written in the Comment section, the world is lighter in weight with Salter’s death; the heavens, I think, be heavier with his passing for he is up there, amidst the clouds.

[Copied from my contribution to the Comments section, The New York Times, June 20, 2015, James Salter obituary.]

Salter Paris

My last lecture


Five minutes before I lecture, I place a candle on the desk and light it.  The lectern stands apart from from the desk.  Some students have already arrived, others come in; some are puzzled at the candle, others not.  At 11:10 a.m., May 5, 2015, I stand and deliver my last lecture in history before college students.  I begin…

Good morning.  I have lite a candle, as you can see, and hopefully none of you are allergic to the scent.  This is my last lecture of my career in teaching and I want you to share this time with me.  I light the candle because I want some physical remembrance of this class, of this time, of my career, of you.  I turned in my letter of resignation to retire yesterday.

This is my last lecture.

We have material to cover, but at the end of the lecture, I will make a few personal remarks.  But, first, let’s begin with the First Persian Gulf War under Bush the First’s administration.  Of course, we didn’t know that there would be a Second Persian Gulf War, so it was merely called, the Persian Gulf War…

[I proceed to lecture for about an hour, finishing with the presidential election of 2012, the Obama victory coming from the gradual, but not complete, recovery from the Great Recession, the ongoing withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and Mitt Romney’s ill-chosen remarks about the 49% of the American people being “takers.”  The economy nearly always has affect upon the party in power.  I ask for questions. I close my notes, pause, and then proceed...]

Since 1960, I have either sat in desks like you are today or I have taught college and university courses in history, government, anthropology.  I have taught a total of forty-seven years, twenty-four at Amarillo College, seventeen here at Cisco, and several years at Texas Christian, the University of Texas at Arlington, and Texas Wesleyan in Fort Worth.

I am seventy-two years old and I want to do some other things while I am in good health such as hiking, mountaineering in northern New Mexico, travel to Europe again, write.  I may teach again, perhaps.  Texas Wesleyan students want me to teach a course in Native American history and I would like to teach a course in the philosophy of history.  But, we’ll see about all that.

In my teaching I have striven to be unbiased, giving as many sides to interpreting an event as I can.  If I have taken one side strongly or the other, I have done it with disclosure to you, playing and arguing a position: liberal, conservative, socialist, communist, fascist.  I have not played that role or presented that method to you.  I’ve done that technique in the past, but not recently in our class. Nonetheless, the constants in my lectures have been science, naturalism, reasoning, rationality, evidence, corroboration.  Those are methods that must remain constant.  They must.

I have given you the definition, early on, that history is philosophy with examples.  I have not explicitly spelled out the philosophies of history, but you may find the philosophies if you parse my lectures and review the constants of science, naturalism, and the reasoned approach to life.  I wish I had done more to explain examples, the historical events, with contrasting philosophies, but I have not. I want to tell you some quotes or axioms that have guided me and my teaching over the years.  Some of these I have already given to you, but here they are again.

Say what you mean.  Deliver what you promise.  Fight for the right [1].

Now, fighting for the right doesn’t necessarily mean take up arms or drop bombs, but it might.  Here it means to take a stand, argue reasonably, talk to power.

History is not dead; it isn’t even past [2].

That is a Faulkner quote, and I believe it fervently.  I add my own dimension to his words:  You may not want to live in the past, but the past lives in you.  What that means is nothing spooky, but your genotype, phenotype, the narratives you carry within from your mother and father, me, your friends, the books you read, even the way you walk, are related to the past that you carry now, within you.

If you are not for yourself, then who is for you?  But, if you are for yourself alone, what are you?  If not now, when?  [3]

I am neither religious nor Jewish, but this quote from the Talmud expresses much, both taking care of yourself and entering into a civil life with others, unselfishly–now. Then, finally, you have heard this quote from me in class, but it is quite significant.  It comes from Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, 2,400 years ago.

Happiness depends upon freedom and freedom depends upon courage. And, courage is the knowledge of what is sweet and what is terrible, and yet notwithstanding, going out into the day to meet it [4].

There has not been a a class I have taught that I have not had anxiety until I am fifteen or so minutes into the class.  Lecturing, presenting before you is both sweet and terrible.  All of my career, it always has been both.  Thank you for being with me today.

I paused and looked over the class through the years.  I then walked over to the lighted candle on the desk and blew the flame out


[1]  Codes of fealty, Middle Ages, Europe, various sources.  This was the mission statement of American Airlines after World War II.

[2]  William Faulkner, various sources, perhaps the Nobel Prize speech he gave in literature.

[3]  Tractate Avoth, Chapter 1, Mishna 14 (New York: Judaica Press, 1965).

[4]  Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War (New York: Penguin Classics, 1972).  This comes from Pericles’ funeral oration.