The Authoritarian Man

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If by now you’re still unsure whether the White House is moving forcefully towards vicious totalitarianism then you haven’t been paying attention.

Some have gotten the message, though, and interpret it as a license to punish, dehumanize, and demoralize. This is essential for The Authoritarian Man, who finds security in obedience.

Jewish cemeteries have been vandalized. Jewish centers in Albuquerque; Baltimore; Birmingham, Ala.; Milwaukee; and Wilmington, Del., have reported repeated threats; jarring graffiti of swastikas have been reported on some college campuses as well as the New York City subway. Two Indian engineers were shot in Kansas. According to the New York Times’s John Eligon, Alan Blinder, and Nida Najar, “It raised new alarms about a climate of hostility toward foreigners in the United States, where President Trump has made clamping down on immigration a central plank of his ‘America first’ agenda.”

A feces swastika was found in a gender-neutral bathroom at the Rhode Island School of Design.

The Southern Poverty Center reports that hate groups have increased for a second year following Trump’s election. The Center also reports that, “Comparing the language of Breitbart commenters to the language of the most aggressive far-right extremists online — e.g. language used by Twitter users who advocate for violence against minorities and are openly pro-Nazi — we can see a clear trend of increasing similarity over a three-year period, the bulk of it under Bannon.”

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The Search for Illumination: Education In the Penal Colony

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By HECTOR VILA

for my mother, on her 91st birthday, 12/19, who tells me she wishes she were 30 so that she could once again teach kids about this world today and take to the streets

“I don’t know. I don’t think I can go to study abroad in Paris,” she says and hesitates and grins.

When she sits across from me, her shoulders are barely higher than my desktop. Her hijab frames her face perfectly: wide, inquisitive, dark eyes that are alive, dancing, penetrating; high cheekbones; her lips are full and when she smiles she gets small creases at the sides of her mouth that resemble ripples edging from the shore of a serene lake.

I ask why not?, though I know the answer: She’s from Sierra Leone and a Muslim.

“Even when I flew to Kenya,” she continues, still smiling, “the police at the airport stopped me — it was very scary — because they thought I was Somali. No one is safe — no one that looks like me. An African Muslim.”

She giggles a bit, this time as if to call attention to the tragic irony of it all.

This young woman, but nineteen, left her family and traveled from Sierra Leone to Hong Kong to the United States to the state of Vermont andMiddlebury College for an education. She’s earned scholarships all the way. She’s brilliant and will undoubtedly do great things in the future.

But reality is harsh; the world she — and all of us, really — navigate is dark, foreboding, threatening, many parts forbidden.

How then do we justify this world to our students? What do we tell her? Where’s opportunity now?

What is the educator’s role in addressing the harsh reality that not everyone has the right and capacity to move about freely in what we still falsely call the free world?

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How We Got Into The Mess We’re In : The Moon Illusion & the Question of Thermonuclear War

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“What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance” (1839-1840)


We are more at home with illusion than we are with the reality before us. It seems quite natural for us to walk away from facts when they don’t support our illusions — and our emotional attachments to them. Our minds and our eyes always fool us. We even reject the notion that they do — a catch 22 if there ever was one.

Consider this: Why does the moon look so much bigger when it is near the horizon?

Most scientists agree that the reason the moon looks bigger is purely in our minds. Our mind interprets the things we see in interesting ways.

Like facts.

One theory about the moon illusion says that when the moon is near the horizon we perceive it to be farther away from us than when it is high in the sky. But since the moon is actually the same size, our minds make it look bigger when it is near the horizon to compensate for the increased distance.

Like danger.

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At Home in the Center of Tomorrow’s World

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Alhambra

Alhambra

Granda, Spain — The prodigal child has come home to roost. I am in the Albayzín section of Granada. This once autonomous,Andalusian Muslim community, which has retained the narrow streets of its Medieval Moorish past, I’d argue, is ground zero for tomorrow’s world.

It’s all here- the sights, sounds, smells; Syrians, Moroccan, Lebanese, Lybians; the restaurants, Halal food, leather stores up steep walkways; the incense; wild colorful ingredients, spices and herbs. Arabic pushing up against Spanish and other European languages. The mosque and the church, Jewish history. Young women offer henna, which comes from the Arabic, ḥinnāʾ, for 1 Euro; men smoking their cigarettes stand in front of their shops. There are tea and hookah lounges. There’s flamenco, too, where it originates (as well as in Extremadura and Murcia) — a doleful synthesis of Romani, Arabic, and Spanish cultures that eventually find their way to the New World and metamorphose into el tango.

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