My Country Bleeds for Thee

My Grade on my First English 111 essay

My Grade on my First English 111 essay

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.

Louis Shackleton

English 111 Section 6

Mr. Beverage

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.

29 Responses to “My Country Bleeds for Thee”

  1. Emma Says:

    First…congratulations on the grade and the awesome essay.

    Second…I just have to tell you that I can never read or hear the name “Immanuel Kant” without singing this little Monty Python ditty to myself:

    Immanuel Kant was a real pissant who was very rarely stable,
    Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar who could think you under the table,
    David Hume could out-consume Schopenhauer and Hegel,
    And Wittgenstein was a beery swine who was just as schloshed as Schlegel.
    There’s nothing Nietzsche couldn’t teach ya ’bout the turning of the wrist,
    Socrates himself was permanently pissed…
    John Stuart Mill, of his own free will, with half a pint of shandy was
    particularly ill,
    Plato, they say, could stick it away, half a crate of whiskey every day,
    Aristotle, Aristotle was a beggar for the bottle,
    Hobbes was fond of his dram,
    And Rene Descartes was a drunken fart, “I drink therefore I am.”
    Yes, Socrates himself is particularly missed;
    A lovely little thinker but a bugger when he’s pissed.

  2. Lou FCD Says:

    Thank you Emma, for the compliments and the ditty!

  3. Amanda Says:

    Congratulations! But of course I’m not surprised in the slightest… I read everything you write on all of your blogs and know just how well you can write. 🙂

  4. Lou FCD Says:

    Now you’re making me blush, Amanda. If you were one of my kids, I’d ask what it was you wanted. 🙂

    Unfortunately for UDoJ and KCK, school is eating every spare moment I have, so things have been very slow there. The girls are OK with it, beings that it’s for a good cause, but I really need to make time for them. I’m trying to fit them into the schedule, but it’s not terribly easy.

  5. BWE Says:

    Lou, the verbs. You own them. Count the passive verbs on one hand.

    Writing. It’s not just for breakfast anymore.

  6. Lou FCD Says:

    The (not so) funny thing is, I have no idea what a passive verb is.

    Moving around a lot as a kid, and then putting myself through the ignorance grinder the last two years of high school, left gaping holes in my education in the strangest of places.

  7. Lou FCD Says:

    Ah, google is my friend.

    So passive verbs are good in Biology Lab, according to Doc. Are they good or not good in English essays?

    ETA: I’m taking it that they’re not good.

    So I’m guessing that (for instance),

    “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.”

    should be changed to something like,

    “The eighteenth century gardens of Immanuel Kant, David Hume, and Thomas Paine nurtured the seventeenth century seeds of the Enlightenment planted by Thomas Hobbes, Robert Hooke, and John Locke,”

    to put it in an active voice?

  8. Stephanie Z Says:

    Yes, but it destroys the linearity of the narrative by messing with your timeline. This would be why one doesn’t take any “rule” of writing as wisdom from on high, never to be flouted.

    Nice essay, but please don’t suggest to your teacher that you did “alright.” You’ll hurt him. 🙂

  9. Lou FCD Says:

    Oddly the one really glaring mistake that seems to have been passed over is this one:

    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

    which should have read

    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 calling it fertilization

  10. Stephanie Z Says:

    Well, if you want to avoid the passive voice, change the first verb instead.

  11. Lou FCD Says:

    Thanks Steph.

    I’m turning it over in my head, and it just doesn’t seem to flow right in the active voice to me. It seems awkward that way, but then I’m not expert in grammar and voice, so that’s worth just what you paid for it.

  12. Lou FCD Says:

    OK, now we’re commenting on top of each other and I’m getting lost.

    Is “Well, if you want to avoid the passive voice, change the first verb instead.” referring to the original example of passive voice, or to the “glaring mistake?” (note the punctuation inside the quotes, which looks dumb to me, since the question lies outside the quotes, and the phrase was a statement…)

  13. Stephanie Z Says:

    I meant “theocrats have sowed weeds and tares of disenlightenment in the increasingly spoiled ground of the once thriving garden and called it fertilization”.

    For the record, I’m a big fan of the British (i.e., rest of the English-speaking world) standard for punctuation around quotation marks. If the punctuation is part of the quote, it goes inside. Otherwise, outside.

  14. Lou FCD Says:

    See, that’s what I’m talking about re: punctuation.

    Ok, thanks for the clarification on the other thing. (But isn’t it “have sown”?)

  15. Stephanie Z Says:

    Well, yeah, but I’m working on something else, too. I’m a little distracted. 🙂

  16. Lou FCD Says:

    ‘sok, Steph.

    I’ve always wondered what the hell a past participle is, and now I know.


  17. BWE Says:

    Hey hey now. I meant, your writing voice entertains and holds the readers’ interest because you write naturally in an active voice.

    Nothing wrong with a passive verb, especially if it’s the second verb in a sentence.

  18. Lou FCD Says:

    Oh, see, I thought I were doin’ it wrong.

    Thanks, BWE!

  19. Lou FCD Says:

    P.S. I really really hate writing lab notebooks, specifically because the passive voice sounds so … dry and um… lab-like. 🙂

    Seriously, it’s very monotonous and repetitive reading.

  20. Lou FCD Says:

    Thinking about things I do unconsciously while I write, something else that really bothers me is repetitive rhythm.

    There is absolutely nothing that will irk me about a piece like repetitive rhythm without reason. Sometimes it can be used to real effect, but when I read something that goes, “bada bada bada bum, bada bada bada bum, bada bada bada bum…” I go insane.

    Seems like rhythm is as important as the content.

  21. Stephanie Z Says:

    Rhythm = very important. The standard advice is to vary your sentence length*, which cuts out some repetitive rhythms automatically, and to read the piece out loud to catch the rest. Reading out loud also helps you find words that you may use too often. They pop out more when you say them repeatedly.

    *Unless you’re Hemmingway or Faulkner, and no one is these days.

  22. Elspeth Says:

    I’m doing well, and damn it, I belong there.

    Yes, you are and yes, you do. {hug}

    You’re already a capable and excellent writer — from here it’s just a matter of refinement.

  23. Lou FCD Says:

    Agreed, Stephanie,

    I always read my serious stuff out loud because it does catch a ton of errors.

    Thank you Elspeth. 🙂

  24. Diana Says:

    I think you a wet dream to college teachers.

  25. Lou FCD Says:

    Thank you Diana.


    In the, what’s it been, eight years? I’ve known you, that very well may be the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me, which is saying a lot.

    Kiss the boys for me, and kiss yourself, too.

  26. Diana Says:

    Well you know how eloquent I am with words. That was the best way I could put it in my words, I ain’t to ‘smrt’ to jump in on this big words thread. : P

    I will, and I’ll add tongue for my self! ; )

  27. Lou FCD Says:

    u dun gud.

    Also, send me pictures. (Purely for scientific purposes, of course!)

  28. Rystefn Says:

    Is very good. I likes it.

    Two sentences with more technical errors than I feel like counting at just this moment,, but formal rules and the English language are contradictory concepts anyway. English is the bastard offspring of two gutter dialects that’s been following other tongues into dark alleys and rifling their pockets for loose vocabulary for nearly a thousand years now.

  29. Lou FCD Says:

    Thank you Rystefn.

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