Does any country have the right to overthrow the government of another? Under what circumstances? Would it ever be acceptable for another country to try to overthrow the US government? Explain.
Research how many governments the US has overthrown or helped over throw since the end of World War II. How often did our efforts bring democracy to a dictatorship? How often did our efforts change a dictatorship into a democracy? How often did we replace one dictatorship with another? See William Blum's book, Killing Hope, for some recent examples, and William Appleman Williams books The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, or A William Appleman Williams Reader, for an examination of our deep-rooted tendencies to intervene in other nations destinies.
Dorfman describes how Pinochet disciplined the factory worker Juan and his companeros for "an act of the imagination." Does this mean people should not dream of justice or act for justice because this might bring retribution? Explain.
Dorfman would like to tell "the young man he used to be" some of the lessons he learned. List some lessons he would tell "that young man" differently. What is the one thing he says he will not tell him?
In many ways this essay is a discussion of crushed hopes and justice unredeemed. It describes a world where, as Dorfman writes, Salvador Allende is dead and the dictator Augusto Pinochet is alive and free. Yet it is also a piece about the persistence of hope. Dorfman seems to still find strength from memories of those first days when it seemed like everything could change. Do the hopes he felt seem impossible to you? How does our hope differ if we've never lived through such moments? How can we even begin imagining far-reaching changes if we're told that we have no right to even open up these questions?
The Chilean woman who was tortured found comfort in the words of Neruda and Machado, although she does not cite specific poems. Look back at the poems "Childhood and Poetry" by Neruda and "Last Night As I Was Sleeping" by Machado. How might these particular poems have brought comfort in the middle of a living Hell?
Dorfman concludes the essay by defending both the woman's "right to struggle and our obligation to remember." What does he mean that struggle is "a right"? Why is it our obligation as citizens to remember those who struggled before us? How can we learn this history if we've not been taught it before?
"Behemoth in a Bathrobe" by Carla Seaquist
The voice of conscience describes Americans as having a "can-do" spirit, then gives man on the moon as an example. Provide additional examples of American can-do spirit.
Do you agree/disagree that reality tv shows "exalt humiliation, violence, sex--a tawdry reality to convey to our kids." Support with specific examples. How would it change our society if people paid as much attention to critical public issues as they do to Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, and the Kardashians?
Loeb speaks of The Impossible modeling “a process by which citizens can at times agree to disagree, even regarding highly consequential concerns, while joining in trying to heal our communities, our nation, and our planet.” In this context, many readers have found it fruitful to place the different stories and voices in dialogue with each other. So if you disagree with a particular stand in a particular essay, research it further, but also think about how one of the other authors might respond. You might even want to write out a response from their perspective. You may find this book most useful framed as a conversation between the different authors, and between the authors and your own life.
"The Cure at Troy," by Seamus Heaney
What does Heaney say about the capacity of art to reconcile human suffering? Can you imagine a moment "when hope and history rhyme?" Why or why not?
"A Slender Thread," by Diane Ackerman
How are personal and political despair similar, from your experience? How do they differ?
Do you feel you have options for political change? Could we see the process of working for change as "putting windows and doors" in a tunnel of political possibilities that we're told allows no exit?
What's the relationship between what keeps Ackerman volunteering at the suicide hotline and the strength she tries to give to Louise? How is the card Louise sends an example of how rarely we know our real impact?
In her essay, Ackerman emphasizes the importance of human choices, explaining, "Choice is a signature of our species." Describe the consequences of a critical choice you have made. How does society influence our personal choices? How often do you define your choices in terms of the impact on a larger common future?
"Ordinary Resurrections," by Jonathan Kozol
Do you know kids like those in the South Bronx neighborhood Kozol visits? Have you ever lived in a neighborhood where needless death is routine? Are you surprised by the fierceness of a love where children can leave Rice Crispies for dead friends or explain "this was his chair" in attempt to honor their missing friends?
What would it take to open more possibilities in the lives of the children Kozol describes? Why are people like Kozol and Mother Martha still hopeful, after all they've seen over the years? Is their hope justified?
What are "ordinary dyings"? Why does our society mourn some deaths but not others?
Why do you think Kozol entitled the excerpt (and book by the same name) "Ordinary Resurrections." Who or what is "resurrected" in this essay?
Kozol states that he returns to Mott Haven "when I know I need to." Why might he need to return to this seemingly blighted neighborhood? Have you ever found value in returning to difficult places or situations? Explain.
"Standing Up for Children" by Marian Wright Edelman
Why do politicians too often talk about their concern for families, then starve the most vulnerable? Why do we allow them to do this? Is part of the reason that lives of children like those Kozol and Edelman write about are invisible? If taking care of children is the “litmus test of our humanity,” how does Edelman rate our humanity?
Do we think of children as having the potential to change and heal the world as Edelman suggests? If we see a poor, dirty and neglected child, or a kid who looks headed to be part of a gang, do we think of them as a potential King or Gandhi? Or assume that their situation is their own fault, that in the words of a student I once interviewed, that "you make your own chances? What makes us decide that there's nothing we can do about these situations?
Is Benjamin Mays right that it demeans us not to dream, and dream of a better world? Why do we accept this? Why does our society encourage us to dream mostly about private possibilities, like financial success? What would it take for more of us to dream of justice and act on it?
What are today's mountains of ice that fuel indifference to injustice? What would it take for more of us to be on fire enough to melt them?
Importance Of Doctor In Our Society Essay
Section Seven Introduction:
Do you agree that hope, as Tony Kushner put it, is a moral obligation? What's the difference between naive hope and hope that's grounded in history?
Do secular and religious activists differ in their views of social commitment and the reasons for persistence? If so how? You could interview activists in both category, perhaps even those working on the same side of a particular issue like climate change. Or if you're active in an issue, talk with compatriots who differ in their theological worldview.
"Letter from Birmingham Jail" by Martin Luther King
What is the central thesis of the excerpt from "Letter from Birmingham Jail"? Had you read any of King's writings before, aside from his "I Have a Dream" speech?
Explain what King meant when he said: "Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will." Think of an example in your own life that supports King's point.
Explain what King means by the "myth of time" when he says he hoped that "the white moderate would reject the myth of time." Explain situation(s) in which this point is still applicable today. Take a current situation where people don't act because they believe a particular issue will simply be addressed in due time (or maybe is impossible to adequately address). Discuss possible courses of action on that partiular issue that can and should be taken today.
More than forty years ago, Martin Luther King wrote that "we will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people." Is this statement true for today's generation as well? Explain. Identify situations and issues of today that people should be discussing more, but where too many are remaining silent. List at least three examples.
The original audience for King's letter was white Christian ministers. What gives the letter it's broader and enduring appeal? Did the letter speak to you, and if so how?
"The Real Rosa Parks" by Paul Rogat Loeb
Explain in your own words why the retelling of the Rosa Parks story as most know it may actually make it harder for ordinary citizens to get involved in issues of social change? Did you know the real story before reading this book or Loeb's other work? How does knowing the real story shift your view of social change?
What is the empowering moral of the Rosa Parks story? What does that moral suggest to you about your own involvement and/or responsibility for social change?
Do you agree or disagree that Parks's first action in going to a NAACP meeting was just as pivotal as her stand on the bus? Would one have happened without the other?
Had you heard of Highlander Center/Highlander Folk School? If not, what does it say about our education that such an important institution is omitted from our history? Research what they're doing now, to continue their earlier legacy.
Who are some of the models of social commitment you have known in your life? If you can't think of anyone right now, look back at the essays in this anthology; and identify 2-3 people you would like to remember as models of social commitment.
Interview someone who is a model of social commitment (or read more about someone you've identified from this anthology) in order to find out additional information about the daily struggles that they faced and how they kept on going.
Research one of the following historical efforts at change: the American union movement; the movement that brought us Social Security; the women's suffrage movement; the origin of the 40 hour week; the environmental movement. Through your research, identify a person often associated with the movement who often has been overlooked, but serves as a model of social commitment.
"Prisoners of Hope" by Cornel West
In the opening paragraph, West asserts that the divide between the haves and have-nots of this nation is widening. Find at least three facts or statistics through additional research that support West's assertions.
Explain what is meant by the Biblical quote: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world but lose his own soul?" List any books, poems, songs, or movies that continue to explore this question today.
Summarize what Cornel West is saying about rage and its need to have some kind of constructive channel. Do you agree/disagree? Explain.
What does it mean to ask that our leaders "Make it real"? In this time of deep political division, how can we distinguish empty rhetoric from real vision?
West asserts that "a rich life consists fundamentally of serving others, trying to leave the world a little better than you found it." What are some ways you've already contributed toward making the world a better place by your words or actions? What are two of your long term goals for doing this? (Remember "the real Rosa Parks" story-actions for social change often have small beginnings.)