Being Too Principled….



“You can indulge your righteous rage, but the things it comes out of are pretty cheap. The trick is to make yourself an instrument of your own policy. Whether you like it or not, that’s the highest effectiveness man has achieved.” — Norman Mailer, The Naked and the Dead

Principles invite us to do something about the morass of contradictions in which we function morally. Principles invite us to clean up our act, to become intolerant of moral laxity and compromise and cowardice and the turning away from what is upsetting: that secret gnawing  of the heart that tells us that what we are doing is not right.

We must dissent from the fear, the hatred, and the mistrust. We must dissent from a nation that buried its head in the sand, waiting in vain for the needs of its poor, its elderly, and its sick to disappear and just blow away. We must dissent from a government that has left its young without jobs, education, or hope. We must dissent from the poverty of vision and the absence of moral leadership among Democrats and Republicans and self-serving third parties. We must dissent, because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.

To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top  of a world in a different direction.

I am an educator, and I am looking to cross paths with a principal or headmaster who has grand principles, a great capacity for dissent and gorgeous, intrepid hope. One such person could enable me to engage with youngsters and provide an alternative to what’s destroying morality in educational realms.

I have compassion and courage, and kindness is part of my nature. And I’d gladly serve as a volunteer anywhere on the planet… if principles were of the utmost importance to my colleagues. I have decades of experience in academic circles, and one thing I could absolutely promise is that none of the parents of my charges would hand their offspring over to the U.S. armed forces.

My students would be too principled.

Rachel Olivia O’Connor is a member of the Oxman Collective. For this article, she drew upon the work of Susan Sontag, Thurgood Marshall and Howard Zinn. She can be reached at [email protected].


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