From: J. J. [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, September 01, 2004 4:10 PM
Subject: just curious...
Hola Mr. Geib,
J. here just wanting to ask you a personal question:
Being as political as I am, I am always curious to
find where my teachers stand and the political spectrum. I never
think differently of a teacher with differing viewpoints than mine;
they are my educators
respect regardless of political affiliation.
The bottom line is: Where do you stand politically, who do
you support in
this election, and what values or issues do you like represented in your
If you believe this to be too personal, you can just disregard
it. No hard
If this is the case, then I have an alternate question: Do
you love your nation, and why?
Thanks a lot Mr. Geib, hope to receive a response (any kind
will do). I'm
nervous but certainly excited to be in the AmEx class of 04'-05'!
With utmost sincerity,
I usually make a firm policy of not discussing my personal political
beliefs with students, and I would definitely not do it in front of
class. The reason? Students who share your political views tend to
think too favorably of you as their teacher, and students who don't
unfavorably of you. They prejudge you. Passion gets in the way of intellect.
They suspect the fairness of the teacher's instruction. Will both sides
get equal time?
That is a fair question.
My role in teaching American history and literature is
not to talk about myself but to get students to talk and think about
place in the world and in their country; the focus I try to put
on students, not the teacher. I have personally had a few teachers who
went on and
on about what they thought and believed in front of a hostage
I thought it was an abuse of their power. About how we students
our hearts to God's word as given through His only son..." Or about
how we should "really get together and oppose this insane and unjust
policy of the current administration..." If a teacher wants
to proselytize, the classroom is not the place. The instructor's
podium is not the preacher's
That being said, I will answer your question.
In brief, I most likely will vote for George Bush in the next election.
He has disappointed me in many ways as a president, after I voted
for him in 2000; and he worries me in his absolutely tone-deaf
approach to politics:
he lacks the magic of a Clinton or a Reagan when it comes to
explaining himself and the policies he crafts for our country. George
a born again Christian, shows exemplary moral courage and will
do what he sees
necessary for our nation. That is good. But I worry about his
nuance and subtlety: he is all blunderbuss, no rapier. That is
bad: the latter
is as important as the former. Sometimes letting a problem rot
on the vine and die in its own good time is as smart as attacking (or
The Romans ran their Empire for a thousand years because they
were as wise as they were powerful, at least a good part of the time.
in war you kill people to effect a positive social good - insofar
does not happen, you are simply wasting lives and money. I have
doubts about Iraq, but only time will really tell. As usual,
present is cloudy
and ascertaining the truth is exceedingly difficult through the
clash and chaos of conflict.
On the other hand, I can hardly think of military action more appropriate
and justified than our country taking out the Taliban in Afghanistan,
after the September 11th terror attacks in New York and Washington
D.C. In retrospect,
we should have done it years earlier.
Yet I will not rest easy, I fear, until our military profile
in the Middle East is back to the relatively low level it
will come from that part of the world, I fear, and I would
love to keep the
Arab world and its violence at arm's distance. I fear that
will not happen for much time. Religion, fanaticism, tribalism,
authoritarianism. I sympathize for the good people of that
region, but I suspect there
are not enough of them willing to stand up and fight to bring
stability, and prosperity to their lands. There are too many
and too many angry young people praising suicide bombers
and hostage takers in the Arab world; and there are too few engineers,
few moderates, too few thinkers, too few cosmopolitans -
passion, and entirely
too much religion. There are too many willing to die for
their religion and cause, and not enough willing to live quietly
and build patiently
better tomorrow. We shall see what happens, but I am not
And so I fear how George Bush has made trying to build democracy
in the Middle East a goal worth shedding American blood
and spending American
treasure over. What is good in theory must be tempered
by what is practical in reality. The Arabs are divided and confused
and rage. Democracy will not rise from that phoenix. Arguments
to the contrary I suspect are wishful thinking.
Democracy will only come to the Arab countries when the
people are ready and worthy of it. Is the average Iraqi
now? Or is
it as Edmund
Burke once claimed: "Kings will be tyrants from policy, when subjects
are rebels from principle." Can any authority
in Iraq be less than a Saddam Hussein, an absolute
and cruel despot, without anarchy breaking
out? Where are the democrats? Are there any moderates
anymore on the streets of Arab capitals? At the grass
roots level? Or is it Gresham's Law in the
Arab body politic, where the bad gradually drives out
the good in a certain dynamic? Do moderates in Iraq
get ignored - or killed? Can a measured,
reasonable newspaper editorial in Iraq carry any weight?
Or does one need a gun and an army to get anyone's
Is there anyone who knows how to lead in Iraq? Is there
any such person who wants a modern and democratic Iraq?
with the skill
and power to bring it about?
Where is the middle? One sees plenty of poor and desperate
young men in rebel Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's
shoes and a rifle willing to fight against modern
tanks and helicopters and probably get killed. One sees Baath
to bring back the good ol' days of tyranny, corruption,
and power. One
Islamic extremists wearing black hoods and slitting
unarmed hostage's throats
for the Al-jazeera TV cameras. But where are the
Iraqis who are willing to
fight for an Iraq that is a normal, modern country?
Where are the engineers? Where are the college graduates?
Where is the
middle? Is there a middle?
I see Baath Party loyalists, Shia extremists, Sunni
extremists, Shia moderates, Kurd nationalists,
of scared and confused common Iraqi folk. From
this brew will come something good? I don't see it, even
as I would
and Iraqi government soldiers who took the job
because they were desperate to make a living, not because
they serve a
government they believe
in. Can such a force bring order and stability?
Or will there finally emerge
a savior on a white horse, a strongman brutal enough
to crush the anarchy and impose order? Would that,
best for a
and a suffering Iraqi people? I don't know.
I remember reading once that Saddam Hussein supposedly
said that if he left power, there would be needed
nine other dictators
to keep similar
order in a country like Iraq. Is this true? Does
the man not know his nation? Or is he mistaken?
Yet now fate and George W. Bush, to an increasing
extent, have tied our fortunes to the fortunes
of the Arab
world. Bad idea,
in my opinion.
It is not a winning proposition. "Common sense," as I see it. "Limit
our exposure and lower our profile," I say. "Yet kill al-Qaeda
members when and where we find them," I
firmly believe. But you don't need the 1st
Armored Division to do that.
So what am I? I am a California Republican,
which means I am a social moderate, a fiscal
and a foreign
realist. I don't
care what two
homosexuals do in their bedroom on a Saturday
afternoon in San Francisco; I think I do
should be a
for a woman.
Prayer in the schools interests me not
at all as a public issue. I dislike multiculturalism
and dislike affirmative action; I would
government almost 100% color blind. My
blood pressure goes up
every time some form
asks me my
race, and more and more I refuse to answer
that question, thinking it is nobody's
me for who
I am as a person,
not for the accident
of my birth in terms of race. I think rap
music is execrable and
about as nefarious an influence as I can
think on young people - especially
in communities besieged by poverty and
violence. Thusly, I am a "conservative."
But I think government should tax and spend
more on certain key non-defense related
do a much better
job of upkeeping
the infrastructure (roads, sewers, Internet,
power grid, etc.) of this country, and
I think government
ensure a quality
state universities at high rates of subsidization.
I went to UCLA for $500 per
quarter, and now it is exponentially
more expensive; private schools can cost some
$35,00 per year.
it a shame
nowadays have to go into so much debt
just to get a college education! Society owes
better; we can afford
to pay for what we used to have in our
UC system, for
example. Raise taxes
do it, if necessary. It is fully worth
it. Thusly, I can be "liberal."
I am not ideologically against government
spending all the time. President Bush
(often on the
wealthy) with yawning
and a war to wage seems utterly unwise
to me. My conservative Republican father,
from these changes,
agrees completely with me on this.
But if I have my doubts about George
W. Bush, I don't think I would ever
Unhappily, I think I will be happier
to see the Ralph Nader liberals
go nuts when
Bush gets re-elected than I will to
see Bush get re-elected. I have lived long
in Los Angeles and
in the education
where I am almost the only Republican
for miles around, and I have learned
dislike liberals more than to like
conservatives. This troubles me. It is not my best foot
Of course, it is too easy to bandy
around these terms simplistic "liberal" and "conservative" labels.
I can agree and find common ground
with a moderate Democrat much easier
than I can with someone like Rush
Limbaugh. I voted for Bill Clinton
twice, with no apologies; I will
vote for a moderate Democrat in
a New York second,
if I like the candidate. I am not
terribly partisan. My Republican
friends harshly berate me for my
lack of loyalty to the Party, but
I like anyone
who speaks common sense in a well
thought out, nuanced, and sophisticated
argument; I detest ideologues and
bomb throwers who see the world
vs. them" terms. I cannot
stand Rush Limbaugh; I detest Michael
poem may say it all
recently; or, if you would like
to hear it more in depth:
although I have not touched that page for some five years...
And, yes, of course, I love my country - and, indeed,
I see my teaching this course as a productive civic action, among many
If one of my students was inspired by my class to become the next
flaming liberal Democratic candidate for president, I would be pleased;
year one student e-mailed me after our final class session about
my obviously "liberal" personal
beliefs, and I was happy to have been mistaken thusly. I want my
class to show the entire spectrum of American beliefs, and if I think
is missing I will do my best to be a ventriloquist for it. I can
do a wicked accurate populist impression, preaching fire and brimstone
favor of disenfranchised and the downtrodden against the unearned
wealth of Wall Street and tyrannical multinational businesses that hire
to clean offices for $8 per hour and no benefits. I can do this although
I don't believe this myself.
J., I too have spent time abroad, although not
to the extent you have. Especially in Latin America, I have occasionally
inveterate anti-American type and I don't put up with any BS. I can
discuss literature with them in their own language; I am just about
as almost any American-hater I might run across; and, if pushed, I
will explain just why and where I think the United States is the country
the world responsible for the general security and lack of war today.
The world is less than ideal, by a long shot; but compare today with
and one gets the idea that we live in a happy era when wars are limited
and most live in peace. This is because of the United States, from
the WWII through the Cold War to now.
Terrorism is a curse and a global disease, but we are
far less at risk from terrorists than we were from Soviet Russia, Imperial
and Nazi Germany in the "locus years" of the 1930s. The
world is, by and large, a stable place.
Or you will find the America hater who rants against McDonald's,
blue jeans, "consumer
culture," the vulgar bourgeoisie, blockbuster films, "cultural
imperialism," genetically modified foods, etc, etc. ad nauseaum.
This is never what America has been about to me, and I hope to
be able to communicate
some of this to you in our class together. Perhaps this goes
closer to the heart of the question I think you want me to answer:
America is about the Puritans and their bizarre idealism and desire
never to be satisfied with the same old musty cheese they inherited,
thinker who refuses to go with the conventional herd-think of
the group; the America of Washington, Hamilton, and Jefferson - and
is about Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman and originality, Transcendentalism,
and the idea that the average man can be both poetic and inspiring
every day. It is about Theodore Roosevelt and his nephew Franklin
adapting democracy to changing times and conditions: you get
fair hearing and a fair shake. (In how many places around the
you get that?)
It is about intelligence, rationality, and reaching consensus,
if possible, rather than using a bomb to get one's point across.
is about the
middle class and middle America and having good common sense
combined with a
strong formal education, neither one overpowering the other.
It is about showing
up to jury duty when called, and testifying in court when you
witness a crime. You pay your taxes, you pull your weight, and you
It is hard to explain this to a foreigner who thinks they know
something about the United States because they have seen many
and listened to American popular music since their earliest
days. If many
foreigners criticize Americans for their lack of languages
or lack of experience or
knowledge of other countries, perhaps that is better than foreigners
who think they know something about America from what they
see on the movie
screen and hear over the radio.
My grandfather served during WWI, my father fought
in Vietnam; and my family has always had the tradition of honor, duty,
much of why
I became a teacher. For if a country's education is horrible,
like that in Mexico, so too the country will go horribly.
As John Kennedy
ideally politics filled the Greek definition of happiness
- 'a full use of your powers along lines of excellence in
a life-affording scope.'" Teaching
is thus to me, and rarely a day goes by when I do not see the hand
of God in my job.
So I hope to help my country remain strong through my
teaching, but in helping students to find their own path in the American
- be it
liberal or conservative, or whatever. Many are the teachers,
in American public
schools, who see their job as a liberal mission to "change the world" towards
the liberal view. For example, they want to work through their teaching
towards "social justice" of the liberal flavor; the entire curriculum
is presented in such a way as to ensure a liberal conclusion. Many of these
intellectuals honestly can't understand how someone who thoroughly studied
the issues could still be a conservative: to be intelligent and sensitive
is to naturally become a liberal, or so they think. "Be the change
you want to see in the world," hangs the quote in their room from
Mahatma Gandhi - but of course the change is a liberal one, and is always
good. "Never doubt a small group of thoughtful, committed people could
change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has," quotes
Margaret Meade, hanging over the teacher's desk, failing to acknowledge
that many changes brought about my small groups of the "committed" in
recent history have been uniformly bad - such as Lenin and the Bolsheviks,
Hitler and his Nazi Party, Castro and Che Guevara, Osama bin Laden and
al-Qaeda, etc. Mohammad Atta, for example, flying a hijacked American Airlines
Boeing 737 airliner into one of the Twin Towers, was a member of a very
small group of "thoughtful, committed people" devoted to changing
the world - and he did. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge were an ideologically-driven
group committed to change (and they had their teachers, too - French left-bank
intellectuals and Marxists). In America, those committed to such extreme
change often seek to effect radical social change through the schools.
In places like Peru or Pakistan, such a person heads for the hills with
a rifle in hand. In America, they go into teacher education colleges and
become "radical educators." Their instruction
is a form of brainwashing, in my opinion.
I see the job of teacher differently. I see my job as to
present key ideas and dialectics, both liberal and conservative,
then to let
make up their own minds. A discussion, not shouting past
one another. Clearly reasoned argumentation, not shouting
at a street protest.
(Did you notice how on the day when I read to the class
your essay in favor of George W. Bush I preceded it with
That is what I love about America, and sadly see less
and less. There is too much shouting and too much noise, not
enough thought. Why must there be piped in music in every
public place? Why
there TV screens in restaurants and in the back seats
of SUVs? Can anyone hear the music of their own thoughts in
such a din?
for ambivalence and nuance when politics is polarized
and warlike? Is everyone
so sure they are right?
Perhaps you yourself will already have observed much
ambivalence and ambiguity in my aforementioned views,
belying any strict
claim to pretending
a "liberal" or a "conservative," or even "right" or "wrong." That
would be revealing.
But now I am ranting, and you have an entire three
day weekend to enjoy. I will stop.
I look forward to learning from you, J., as well
as getting to hear more about what you have experienced
in your life
and what you
Ms. Eulau, your teacher last year, put a small
to your name on my
class roster, explaining about you: "Rich,
you will really enjoy this one!"
I do not doubt she is completely correct.
I will see you Tuesday morning.
Very Truly Yours,
J. J. [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Saturday, September 11, 2004 2:17 AM
Subject: Thank you Mr. Geib...
Dear Mr. Geib,
I read your response with great care. First, I would like to say
that you have greatly honored me by even responding. You
wrote with great passion and conviction, and I admire your
courage for even opening your personal beliefs to a student seemingly unworthy of such a response.
You spoke (or wrote) with an elegance I have never before witnessed.
I read your post, my jaw hung motionless, not necessarily in shock,
but in awe of you. I began to ask myself, "why does
this man bother with a seemingly doomed generation of ignorants
whose greatest contribution to society is that degenerative
'rap'?" I then read your post again,
then a third time and now I understand (or at least think
I do). I now saw a man whose love for his country and
his students was so great, that he is willing
to sacrifice his time to fulfill his passion for the education of
my generation. As you said, you see this as your, "civic
hope I got this one right.
I found myself welling up at
points in your posting, smiling at some (like your delightful
commentary of your fondness for "rap music" <--
which I believe to be an oxymoron). As a conservative,
I am happy that you will probably vote for Bush in the
next election, though very critical of the administration.
Was it a typo? I don't believe so. Though I cannot be disappointed
at your criticism. I have seen these faults as well (though we may
disagree on the war) but I believe Bush to be a stalwart and convicted leader,
unflinching in his sacred presidential duty. That is my worry of John
Kerry though. I see him as a timid Jimmy Carter, though that might
be unfair to Carter. I do not see the strength or conviction
in Kerry as I do Bush, yet legally, I have no voice in
this election, and must timorously watch from the bench.
I wholeheartedly agree about your views on this skewed, radical faith of
Muslims. Where are the moderates in the Middle East? I have found myself asking
such questions many times recently. I also think they have done a disservice
to their rich and ancient culture by bastardizing a seemingly peaceful
religion into degenerate faith for the suicidal. History has shown this
to be true for all of the major religions, but Islam is a more recent and
current example. As a Christian, I have gotten a bad rap from a very liberal
90's culture saying that I've been brainwashed and only wish to force
my beliefs on others. I've been labeled as backward, ignorant, intolerant,
foolish, immature, racist, and bigoted all for standing strong in
my faiths and beliefs. As you can see, there is great irony and hypocrisy in those labels.
Again, I share your views when it comes to political extremism. Though I
too am conservative, I don't respect Rush, and very obviously, despise that
Michael Moore. I would hate to disappoint you with my bomb throwing, Michael
Moore has done so much harm to this country. He just nearly cut this nation
in half with his half truths and whole lies. Sorry if I'm a bit on the
extreme here, but my young conservative fury needed to be unleashed, though from what I've read, I think you might agree with the statement
probably won't condone the extremism in which it was stated).
I too love this country, with a nationalist spirit. For as you know,
I was not raised in America yet was born within it's borders.
It has only been my 6th year in this country, and I like to believe that I see it
immigrant's view. I still hold dear the "American Dream".
I still hold dear the "Pledge of Allegiance".
I cry during the National Anthem and am filled with pride
when I look upon our currency and see, "E Pluribus Unum" and
even more so when I look upon those proud letters, "In
God We Trust." I
hold highly the traits of duty, honor, and loyalty and
still believe in my service to "God and Country." My
roots have been traced to this nation as far back to the
Revolutionary War, in which two of my ancestors signed the Declaration
of Independence and more so fighting in the Continental Marines. I
also have a family history of Marine Non-Comms in just about every
major US conflict including the first and second World
Wars, Korea, and Vietnam. Currently I have family over
in Iraq and fortunately they are safe. In the case Lebanese
ancestry (that's where the name "Jepeway" originates
FYI), my Great Grandfather Adid Muhammad can over during
the Christian Wars in Lebanon, seeking freedom and opportunity.
The rest of my european heritage came over for the same reasons.
Mr. Geib I love my country so. So much that I believe these special interest
groups, affirmative action, and the always fascist ACLU, are driving
this country down. I too have experienced outrage when asked my
ethnicity when it shouldn't even matter. People say skin tone shouldn't matter,
yet they seem to have the need to discern it whenever possible. Such hypocrisy.
Skin tone shouldn't define a person or give them any special perk(s).
What ever happened to judging a man based on merit?. I don't know who
said it, but it is a phrase that spoke to me. It reads, "Tolerance
is the virtue of a man without conviction."
As a Christian
conservative, I do not condone homosexuality, but believe
they have a right to do whatever with their life. Abortion I am against,
unless the birth of the child will kill the mother (when the egg grows in the fallopian tube), but we can agree to disagree on this
one :) .
I also knows what it feels like to be the only Republican for miles.
It feels like that here, but I am comforted knowing that
there are people like you in this state (although very very few). It seems as though we
dying breed. I do not think it is loyalty that you lack. I believe
you are more loyal to your country than a political party.
Though I already like your friends because they are conservative
(hehe) I do wish that they could dig their heals behind
their nation rather than their party. I like to believe that I hold my nation above my party.
There is so much more I would like to commentate on, but alas, it
is 1:50am on Friday (or I should say Saturday) and I need
to prepare for tomorrow.
Once again, you are a man of great conviction and passion. Something
I hold in high esteem as evidenced by my "I believe..." essay.
To go off on a tangent real briefly, you mentioned that
you read my essay, essentially praising Bush, after one
which did not. As soon as I read this, I had a fear that
that was the only reason you read mine. Not because I wrote with
a passion, but just for the sake of having a balanced
classroom. I soon felt like a fool for even thinking it. From what I've read, you would
go to such a shallow level and I apologize for even contemplating
such a skewed thought.
I actually printed out your post,
folded it, and stuck it in my Bible. Why? The way I see
it, it is two manuscripts for which to live your life in order
to serve, "God and Country." To practice my faith
with conviction, humiliation, forgiveness, charity,
fear and reverence would be serving my God, and a response
that so clearly gives all Americans an example to follow; serving my country.
I do not wish you to think my response mere flattery or as "sweet nothings".
I truly am being genuine with my compliments, and mean them with utmost
sincerity. Already you have honored me by pouring out your inner character,
and mentioning the note you say Mrs. Eulau gave you. I'll do my best
not to let you down this year Mr. Geib. I want to prove Mrs. Eulau's comment.
I am very fortunate to have an Educator the likes of you. I truly am privileged.
Thank you for everything thus far Mr. Geib, and don't worry, I'll
be sure to keep this discussion strictly between us. With
that said, I would like to know what you thought of my comments, but asking for another
response would be asking way too much. You have already given me
a lot within this last month, but still it doesn't hurt to ask. :)
With genuine sincerity,