I read Timothy Snyder's latest book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (2017) last week. It's more of a novella with the 20 concise sections, but it is a timely political book. My copy is dog-eared and I wish that I was teaching first year Political Science this year, but alas, I am not. His book is timely given the current political culture in the United States, but the book is useful for most to read and reflect upon today or tomorrow.
There are many takeaways and provocative points in the book. I was really caught up on the section about language. I kept on going back to my lectures on Fascism and the way that language is used under totalitarian regimes in order to scare the citizenry into blindly following the leading party or regime. The book provides a timely warning. One can likely read this book in a sitting, but I chose to savor it over the weekend and think of current examples related to each section. Unfortunately, the book has so many examples pulled from the headlines that it's as if Snyder is the political Dick Wolf.
This next week we will see the Grand Old Party, Republican Party begin the Convention season in Cleveland, Ohio. The Republican National Convention (RNC) has descended on Cleveland, and it will be a rocking, raucous performance of patriotism and most important a celebration of the party’s political platform and presumptive nominee, Donald Trump. This last year’s presidential election and primary and caucus season was like no other. Sure, there was the usual suspects and at one time almost two dozen candidates; however, when Trump threw his name into the ring many wondered if this was real and others nodded in support of his campaign. We witnessed the political dynasties rise and fall. The so-called Republican establishment did not perform well. Recall, Jeb Bush at an event asking the attendees, “Please clap.” This was not a shining moment for the Bush dynasty.
Tea Party darlings did not make as much progress as some suspected. If anything, this election was about forecasting and humility. I know that I have said repeatedly that I need a hat made into chocolate so that I could eat it. I suspected that Bush, Rubio or Kasich would make it further, and they did not. It’s clear that this was the anti-political establishment election. And, couple this with the #summerofviolence, #blacklivesmatter, and countless other hashtags on social media channels. It is clear that there is lots of political and social unrest in the United States.
What will we see at the RNC? We will see lots of red, white, and blue. Multiple references and endorsements to the party’s platform, references to the sanctity of the nuclear family, endorsement of Trump, references to the Judeo-Christian God, and the repeated taking down of the Democrats and their presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton. The speakers will go out of their way to explain how they are different than the other party.
The RNC is a moment of promises, wishful thinking, and a look back at the way things used to be and how we can return to this time with a Republican president in the White House. Make no mistake, both conventions will be political performances rife with platitudes, and condemnations of the other party. Make sure that you look at the websites for each conventions, as it’s interesting to see how the conventions are laid out and the array of services for the attendees. Grab a bag of popcorn, a notepad and pencil or your smart phone. There will be lots of sound bites and media ready quotes from the array of speakers.
This post is both for students and non-students. More then five years ago, I resolved (without it being a New Year’s Resolution) to get more involved in my community more so. I am already engaged on campus and within some networks in Political Science and Higher Education. What I wanted to do was expand these networks and friendships off campus in the city where I reside. To this end, I started to attend more community events and actively networked more off campus.
It is too easy to get lazy and keep on going to the same old haunts and seeing the same people (some wonderful). At first I must admit, it was a little strange. Would I meet people? Would it be fun? Yes, to answer both questions. I have networked, relaxed, and socialized and in the process have met many people. Some of the connections have proved fruitful for former students—yes, I have helped students get internships or jobs. But, it has also been great for me. I feel like I was getting comfortable and not exploring the city and making Victoria my home.
Specific to students, getting involved on campus and networking is not only fun, but can also help you with your future career goals. And, you will meet your peers who are going through the same things that you are. You might even make some life-long friendships. As an undergraduate advisor, I want students to feel like they are part of the campus community. Why? Students are apt to be more successful and happier during their studies. Seriously. Check out the clubs and course unions. And, for community members–come onto campus and network with faculty, staff, and students.
I include a photo below of the wonderful Hudson Mack, who invited me to attend his class at Royal Roads. Thank you to Hudson and his great students! Hudson took the photo.
My normal routine is to read the local paper and then one of the national papers. I was on my third cup of coffee and came across the above letter to the editor. I had to smile. I was in a former student’s class earlier this week speaking to the upcoming American mid-term elections and social media in politics. My former student is finishing up his student teaching and had taken courses with me in Political Science. He is one of many former students who has chosen to go into secondary or post-secondary teaching. Many of my former students are also serving in public office or doing other non-partisan work for the government. The letter writer’s binary is a false one and I am sympathetic to her easy comparison; however we cannot assume that all politicians have a Political Science degree.
Over the course of 17 years of teaching my students have gone into virtually every sector of the economy. I am seeing more work in communications and the tech industry lately, but overall, they are everywhere and hold a Political Science degree. And, many of them are double majors or took a minor in another field in order to round out their education or pursue multiple areas of interest. During my next 17 years, I hope to see this continue. When students ask me, “What can I do with my degree?” I answer that they can do almost anything–it’s up to them. The classroom or office hour experience is only one part of their education. My hope is that they will get involved in campus and local opportunities.
Political Science is diverse field with many sub-fields and I am proud to call myself a Political Scientist. I am also proud of my Political Science students. Keep up the good work!