In Dreams Begin Responsibilities

by W.D. Ehrhart I had a particularly weird dream last night in which I was giving the commencement address at a school where I’d taught for many years. For reasons known only in dreams, I ended up talking about post-traumatic stress disorder and how PTSD is the inevitable result of subjecting a healthy human brain to traumatic stress. The consequences are unavoidable. If you are subjected to traumatic stress and it doesn’t screw you up, you were screwed up before you encountered the traumatic stress. You will not make the scarring go away with counselling or group solidarity (in the case of soldiers) or anything …

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What’s the Point of History?

by W.D. Ehrhart The writer and philosopher George Santayana is credited with saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Mark Twain gets credit for saying, “History never repeats itself, but it often does rhyme.” Pearl Buck said, “If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday.” Howard Zinn wrote, “If you don’t know history, it’s as if you were born yesterday. If you were born yesterday, then any leader can tell you anything.” I found myself thinking about that quote of Zinn’s soon after September 11th, 2001, when President George W. Bush explained that terrible day by declaring, …

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When A Thing of Beauty May Not Be a Joy

by W.D. Ehrhart I’ve been writing poetry since I was 15 years old. I’ve written hundreds of poems over more than a half century. That’s a lot of poems and a long time. But no poem of mine has ever troubled me more or caused me more difficulty than this one: Old Men Eating Lunch for Paige Once a month my pals and I eat lunch at the Amish Market in Mullica Hill. We chose that place because the food is cheap. And good. But we keep coming back to see the waitress. She’s always there, month after month, and such a lovely girl, always …

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A Shortage of Teachers

by W.D. Ehrhart In China, Malaysia, and Taiwan, teachers are held in the same high regard as doctors. Teaching in Finland is so prestigious and sought-after a profession that only one in five applicants is admitted to primary teacher education programs in Finnish universities. When I visited a high school in Japan a few years ago, the students all stood up when their teacher walked into the classroom. Was the profession of teaching ever even remotely so respected in this country? Certainly not in my lifetime, and over the course of my forty-five years of contact with teaching, I have watched the esteem commanded by …

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Why I Like to Watch Bike Racing

by W.D. Ehrhart For the past week and a half, I’ve been watching La Vuelta a Espana, the Tour of Spain bicycle race. I’ve watched Le Tour de France every July for the past twenty-five years, and since the coronavirus showed up, I’ve taken to watching la Vuelta as well. I enjoy watching sports in general because you never know how it’s going to end until it ends. And I especially like watching bike racing because it is so international with riders from all over Europe, the Americas, New Zealand, and even the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa. And though there are teams sponsored …

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Trumpster Nation

by W.D. Ehrhart Recently, I had occasion to drive the length of the Pennsylvania Turnpike all the way to the Ohio border. Western Pennsylvania is beautiful and mountainous. It is also, for the most part, solid Trump Country. Indeed, aside from Philadelphia and its suburban counties, and less dependably Pittsburgh, the entire state is as red as a male cardinal. I did not see a single billboard supporting Democrat John Fetterman’s bid to win a U.S. Senate seat. And the only billboard mentioning current Democratic state attorney general Josh Shapiro’s run for the governorship was sponsored by his Republican opponent and Trump-endorsed Doug Mastriano, that …

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