This morning I got back my first English essay, which was turned in on Monday. It was a five paragraph illustration essay on a topic of our choice. English is the last class for which I haven’t gotten something akin to a formal grade letting me know how I’m doing. I did alright, making a few punctuation errors. I have a nasty habit of placing punctuation outside a closing quote mark. I know that’s wrong, I learned it in grade school, but somewhere along the line my brain just decided that’s not the way it’s supposed to go.
There were a couple other places where I inserted or failed to insert a comma where I should not or should have, and I didn’t capitalize “Founding Fathers.” I know exactly what that issue is about. It’s an overreaction to the habit I picked up in German class (back in 1984/85) of capitalizing all nouns. I really have to pay attention to commas and capitalization.
I used the faux-words “Endarkenment” (contrasting with the Enlightenment) and “ignorati” in the essay, and I was a little nervous about whether they would fly. Although Endarkenment survived without comment, Mr. Beverage (his name used with his prior consent) commented next to ignorati: “Nice! I like the contrast to Illuminati!” I breathed a sigh of relief when I read that.
His comment and grade at the end of the paper, as depicted in the image, really made me feel vindicated about my choice of topics and my writing style. His going out of his way to speak to me after class to reiterate his appreciation for my writing reinforced my confidence exponentially.
I’m doing well, and damn it, I belong there.
The essay is below the fold in its uncorrected form.
English 111 Section 6
September 8, 2008
My Country Bleeds for Thee
Sometime about the middle of the eighteenth century, a movement of great thinkers swept the western world. Great minds came together across Europe in an epic stride forward for philosophy, science, and political theory. The seventeenth century seeds of the Enlightenment planted by Thomas Hobbes, Robert Hooke, and John Locke were nurtured in the eighteenth century gardens of Immanuel Kant, David Hume, and Thomas Paine. Reason overcame superstition in science and philosophy. In 1776 the Enlightenment finally began to bud its own government with Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, and in 1789 it bloomed in full with the ratification of James Madison’s Constitution and Bill of Rights by the New Hampshire Colony. For the first time in history, a sovereign government was formed from the ground up based solely on principles of reason, rather than on the divine whim of an invisible deity as pronounced by a self-proclaimed priest. The idea that “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” had at last been realized. Today, that crowning achievement of political philosophy stands harried and harassed by those who would roll back the Enlightenment and return to mindless subservience to the autocratic rule of the village shaman. When ignorance trumps reason in half of the adult population of these United States the de facto establishment of a particular religion follows naturally, and the death of the Republic is not far behind.
Although this resistance to reason began as soon as the Enlightenment was born, it wasn’t until after the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection that the shrill cries of the willingly benighted had a grand may-pole around which to rally. The understanding that humanity evolved from previous forms of life and shared a common ancestry with all living things was a direct challenge to the resurgent dogma of the literal Biblical tale of creation. From that point on, the anti-intellectual movement began to grow into a force of millions of self-righteous and proudly ignorant bulls, stomping wantonly through the meticulously cultivated gardens of knowledge. What began with opposition to a specific observation of reality by an insightful naturalist, soon became a stampede desperately longing for a return to the Dark Ages. Even today, opposition to the Theory of Evolution remains the central tenet of the Endarkenment movement of religious fundamentalism, though all science suffers beneath those hooves. By tearing down the progress of science and understanding of the natural world, fundamentalism leaves the garden of enlightenment a desolate waste of cracked and hard-packed clay.
With a general atmosphere of antagonism to science and inquiry established among a good portion of the populace, the movement began to use its newfound ranks of ignorati to make inroads into the political arena. By virtue of widespread support, followers of Cyrus Scofield and Bob Jones Sr. began cultivating a power base and seating their own in the halls of government. William Jennings Bryan championed the cause and usurped the mantle of patriotism, cloaking himself in Old Glory and defying secularists to dissent. Throughout the course of the twentieth century, theocrats have been sowing weeds and tares of disenlightenment in the increasingly spoiled ground of the once thriving garden and called it fertilization
This Enlightenment-pollinated Republic is dependent on the populace being informed and on keeping a stout garden fence of church-state separation for the protection of enumerated inalienable rights. When an unthinking public cedes its responsibility to the unquestionable authority of pronounced revelation from on high, those inalienable rights begin to disappear. Writing to Charles Yancey in 1816 regarding the need for educating the American youth against the fanaticism of the day, Jefferson succinctly described the danger of an uninformed electorate. “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” Because we failed to heed the warnings of the founding fathers, today we stand witness to the stampede of ignorance through the garden of enlightenment in its riotous charge over the cliff of theocracy.
Over the course of the last half century, we have seen the erosion of our basic civil liberties facilitated by the scorning of reason in favor of superstition and ignorance. Attacks on free speech are justified by vague and meaningless buzz words and catch phrases such as “Community Standards”, “Family Values”, and “National Security Threats”. Under the thundering hooves of the stampede fell the right of habeas corpus with the 2006 passage of the Military Commissions Act. Establishment of religion drips like foam from the rabid herd in the form of Faith-based Initiatives, and the Defense of Marriage Act. Ignorance is disingenuously foisted upon future generations of Americans through such manufactured controversies as Intelligent Design Creationism, Abstinence-Only Sex Education, Academic Freedom Bills and Academic Bills of Rights, and an invented “Christian Nation” historical revisionism . Just last week, St. Paul, Minnesota was witness to the trampling of our right to peaceably assemble as law enforcement searched the homes of private citizens without reasonable cause and arrested people with no better pretext than that they were going to speak against the anointed successor to the throne. All the while, a nation of besotted cattle lows in sycophantic satisfaction at the destruction of the garden. With a complete rejection of reason and a rollback of the Enlightenment, this Republic will not long stand against a theocracy popularly elected by a willingly ignorant public.