Joe Biden inaugurated his presidency with a bold intention: restore the soul of America.
If the spirit is ailing nationally, it’s code blue in the bellweather Badger State.
Citing Harvard’s Electoral Integrity Project that measures the health of democracies around the world, Wisconsin’s democracy on a scale of 1 to 100 scored a 3—“the lowest in the world”—said author David Daley in a recent public radio interview.
“Wisconsin’s state government is less responsive to its citizens than authoritarian states like Venezuela, which scored a 14.” Wisconsin’s extreme gerrymandered “lines have provided a firewall against politics, against the public will,” said Daley.
Ideally, spiritual renewal happens in hearts and minds—with ideas, pens, and ballot boxes. Wisconsin’s next renewal opportunity comes on April 6 when we choose our new State Superintendent of Schools.
That position hardly seems important—unless seen in strategic context.
Make no mistake: the spirit of America is not just sick, it’s been poisoned.
Fascist Conservatives are out of the closet and openly walking the Halls of Congress, calling for and participating in attempted political assassinations. They’re using the same toxic playbook as genocidal mass murderer Adolph Hitler, with neo-Nazis, and other hate groups.
Attacking education is an old-time strategic move.
According to historians, political scientists, and communication scholars in The Disinformation Age(Social Science Research Council, Cambridge University Press, 2021) this is part of “decades-long efforts by political and business interests to undermine authoritative institutions, including parties, elections, public agencies, science, independent journalism, and civil society.”
Fascist Conservatives goal: re-write the Constitution
“While the nation has been transfixed by the daily tweets of President Trump, the Koch network has quietly lined up authorizations from state legislatures to convene the first national constitutional convention since the Constitution was drafted,” wrote Nancy MacLean, William H. Chafe Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University. “Common Cause has called the effort ‘the most serious threat to our democracy flying completely under the radar.’”
The poisoning of Wisconsin’s body politic began decades ago with nasty rhetoric, demonizing teachers. Then our former governor, Scott Walker, whose campaign slogan was “Spread the Pain”—a clearly fascist goal—decimated teachers unions, claiming school choice to be a superior educational system.
Suppose School Choice is much better, which some studies suggest. Where’s Conservatives’ plan to duplicate what’s working, and improve education for all Wisconsin children? Where’s the plan to fix our ailing infrastructure, health care system—any improvement for all the people?
As Gary Hart once said, “Where’s the beef?”
There is no beef—no Conservative plan to improve anything.
The goal of Fascist Conservatives is to tear down, to destroy, and to decimate public institutions — especially education.
Because they can’t let people know that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” as Nelson Mandela said.
Education is key to freedom, growth, and progress — and that is a direct threat to Fascist Conservatives whose playbook is control and enslavement through fear and hatred. It’s the same old reason authoritarian “slave legislatures” 200+ years ago barred slaves from learning to read.
“To read and write tends to excite dissatisfaction in their minds and to produce insurrection and rebellion,” wrote William Jay to Congress in 1835 about laws banning education of Black slaves. “Slave legislatures…enslave the minds of their victims; and we have surely no reason to hope that their souls are regarded with more compassion.”
Questions to start the process
Questioning authority is a time-honored American tradition. Questioning and then listening for the inner answer is also the path to spiritual restoration.
Mr. Biden posed a restorative question: “What are the common objects we, as Americans, love?….Opportunity, Security. Liberty. Dignity. Respect. Honor. And yes, the Truth.”
As an Orthodox Christian, truth is absolutely the path to freedom. As my priest, retired Rev. Fr. Bill Olnhausen reminds us God is a spirit of Truth, while “Satan is “‘the father of lies’, the Destroyer, and all lies are destructive.”
Like Abraham Lincoln, Mr. Biden also quoted scripture to identify unity as our core essence — that a house divided cannot stand.
Remembering the United States of America
To restore the spirit, review, meditate, and journal on each word’s meaning and symbolism in the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag:
- Republic: our form of government in which power is vested in the people and their trusted representatives. (How are relationships of trust created? How can trust be restored?)
- Indivisible: cannot be divided. (Are the costs and consequences of divorce worth it?)
- Liberty: freedom to do as you choose. (Are you free to choose your responses?)
- Justice: fair treatment. (What do you think is fair?)
- Thirteen (13) stripes of the flag for the courage of the founding colonies who declared independence and fought for freedom.
- Stars for each of the United States—all equal, originally 13, now 50.
- Blue field behind the stars representing vigilance, perseverance, and justice.
- White for the values of the purity and innocence—how all children are born into the world, needing love and protection.
- Red for valor, bravery, and strength to stand up for what is right and what is good for all. Also, as in red-blooded Americans —that which is common in all our diversity.
Another key aspect of the spirit of America worth meditating on is a powerful virtue Greeks call philotimo, which means to be a devoted, loyal friend and lover of honor and duty. Philotimo is central to our Judeo-Christian Fifth Commandment ethos to love and honor family — the foundation of all functional societies. Philotimo was most profoundedly demonstrated during World War II. Check out this excellent short video (14:36) with many famous people explaining the concept, which deserves to come into the English language.
To restore the spirit of America, we need to do two things:
1) Make choices that glorify, enhance, magnify, and expand upon these values — opportunity, security, liberty, dignity, respect, honor, truth, unity, equality, perseverance, justice, purity, innocence, valor, bravery, strength, what is right, what is good, commonality within diversity, and philotimo.
2) Reject that which diminishes them. Such as slavery and other forms of fascism.
Recognizing Fascist Conservatism
Fascist Conservatism opposes American values as it seeks to enslave. Stir up mistrust. Create confusion. Stoke fear. Provoke anger. Encite violence. Divide into warring factions. Manipulate people to break laws, commit acts of violence, destroy property, kill, and worse.
The end goal of Fascist Conservatives: abolition of representative democracy—which is hanging on by a thread in Wisconsin.
Fascist Conservatives promote the opposite of philotimo: disregard for truth, honor, love, integrity, and family pride.
Fascist Conservatives demonize teachers, public schools, and education. They claim that deregulated, profit-driven industries and free market forces are more trustworthy to deliver great quality at low prices, than government. They manipulate messages and point fingers, promoting destruction of representative government as superior service to taxpayers.
Friends down in Texas: how’s that working out?
Perhaps at no time in history is there a greater need for educated, intelligent citizenry, able to keep up with the blinding speed of advancements in science, expanding understanding of how the natural world works, appreciating advances in medical science. We need as many hands on deck as possible, educated, trusting in each other, to help us survive and thrive through these genuine crises we are facing. Not fake crises.
The final questions
My dear conservative friends about whom I care and know to be decent people who value education: Which side of this battle for the soul of America will you be on?
Will you choose leaders who value education, decency, philotimo, truth, freedom, hope, rolling up sleeves, burying hatchets, working together for the good of all, educating all, rising above the political fray, pulling together in the same direction?
Or will you choose to side with Fascist Conservative loyalists eager to break faith with our ancestors who fought fascism in WWII, tear down the Constitution, and replace it with a Fascist Conservative autocracy?
Your choice will most impact the youngest generations alive today — our children and grandchildren. They will inherit the mess the world is in right now.
Will our children see adults grow up and act like adults? Will they see us all calm down, cool off, shake hands? Will they see us grab the rope to pull together behind wise visionary leaders who care about them? Will they see examples of true servant leaders who speak kindly, value safety, and who love them?
Will the children see us choose effective strategists, analysts, visionaries, thinkers, creators, artists, writers, team builders, team leaders, and executives, who prioritize children and all people of all ages?
Endorsing candidate: Jill Underly
Jill Underly is the candidate I support for Wisconsin State Superintendent of Schools on April 6. Explore her qualifications, see her speak at https://underlyforwi.com/about/ and VOTE!
Let’s start getting our dismal score back up into at least the double digits.