Late in 2019, a series of pithy proverbs — those bursts of truth in 20 words or so — was highlighted in a new feature on the blog entitled More to Consider.* Six months later, the collection from the first half of 2020 was back, this time labeled A plethora of pithy proverbs. And now here we are with a profusion!
My love for the short and to-the-point adage comes from my Grandmother Brown, who was known to say things such as, “Make do with what you’ve got.” This was the watchword during the depression when the family didn’t have much money. My father recalled that you repaired and just made do with what you had. Good advice as we navigate another economic downturn.
Let’s take a look at the More to Consider proverbs, quotes, adages, and sayings from the last six months, beginning with the one that is on the blog at this moment, by New York Times opinion writer Ezra Klein, from the day after a Trump-incited mob stormed the Capitol.
“The problem isn’t those who took Trump at his word from the start. It’s the many, many elected Republicans who took him neither seriously nor literally, but cynically. They have brought this upon themselves — and us.”Ezra Klein in the New York Times, January 7, 2021
Those events of January 6th only point more directly to the issue raised by former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg in his book on the need to rebuilt trust in our lives and in our country.
“Our country’s ability to meet this moment depends not only on the wisdom of our policies or the justice of our ideals, but on our ability to cooperate to achieve anything at all. And that will largely depend on our levels of trust.”Pete Buttigieg in “Trust: America’s Best Chance”
As we have watched the radical right’s efforts to subvert democracy both before and after the election, I posted a review of Nancy MacLean’s book Democracy in Chains. The following excerpt from that book highlights the goals of the libertarian oligarchs who have funded this movement to take America back to a time when those with money and power ran the country without much concern for what most of us would describe as freedom.
“The libertarian cause…was never really about freedom as most people would define it. It was about the promotion of crippling division among the people so as to end any interference with what those who held vast power over others believed should be their prerogatives….Calhoun-like liberty for the few – the liberty to concentrate vast wealth, so as to deny elementary fairness and freedom to the many.”Nancy MacLean, Democracy in Chains
The Wall Street Journal editorial page “provided an insightful little lesson on the mechanisms of Wingnut Outrage Theatre,” wrote the satirical blogger Shower Cap back in December. The Journal “dug up some crusty old chauvinist” to grouse about Dr. Jill Biden “having the audacity to use the title she earned through years of hard work. Following the entirely predictable (and deliberately provoked) avalanche of pushback, the editorial page gleefully published a non-apology so cynical they surely had it prepped in advance.” The last sentence of Shower Cap’s comment was so perfect, I pulled it out for a More to Consider…
“The tree of conservative victimhood must be refreshed from time to time with the crocodile tears of mediocre white dudes.”Shower Cap
As was often the case, Frederick Douglass was direct and on the mark in addressing our history of racism in this quote from late in his career. James Baldwin also spoke to the inequity in our country’s race relations in a way that reminds us of how we co-exist in this world.
“Men talk of the Negro problem. There is no Negro problem. The problem is whether the American people have honesty enough, loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough to live up to their Constitution.”Frederick Douglass
“We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of humanity and right to exist.James Baldwin
As the country began to be swamped by false claims of voter fraud by Donald Trump and his enablers, I turned to the prophet Hosea to consider the whirlwind that may result. When I wrote this, I did not anticipate January 6th, that day that will live in infamy, but perhaps I should have. I also brought forward an American patriot — Thomas Paine — to remind us that “what we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.”
“For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.”Hosea (8:7)
“These are the times that try men’s souls…Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value.”Thomas Paine in “The Crisis”
During the online National Preservation Conference this fall, Ford Foundation president Darren Walker spoke of the broader scope of the modern historic preservation movement.
“The work of preservation ought to be not just beautification and fixing things up, but ought to be about dignity…recognizing the fundamental humanity of so many others.”Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation
That was followed by three quotes — a famous one from the late Civil Rights advocate Fannie Lou Hamer which I posted to honor her birthday, a second anonymous quote about courage and the need to face fear, and a third about how cynicism is a choice…that we don’t have to make.
“Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”Fannie Lou Hamer
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the strength to do what is right in the face of it.”Anonymous
“Cynicism isn’t the only response to humanity’s inadequacies and limitations. Cynicism is a choice. It is just as much a choice as service to others or commitment to a worthy cause. As my old boss taught me, cynicism is just as much of a choice as hope.”Jon Favreau (speechwriter for President Barack Obama)
And we’ll end with two poets — William Stafford and Octavia Butler — because no one thinks more about each and every word than poets.
“Your job is to find what the world is trying to be.”William Stafford
“To be led by a coward is to be controlled by all that the coward fears. To be led by a fool is to be led by the opportunists who control the fool.”Octavia Butler
More to come…
Image of Proverbs from Pixabay
*As a reminder, to capture some of my favorite sayings without having to write an entire blog post about them, I created a feature on More to Come that I labeled “More to Consider.” Every other week or so I update these quick bursts of truth. This section of the website is easiest to see on a laptop, where it resides near the bottom of the home page or in the right hand column as you read individual posts. But most people read from their phones, where you have to scroll almost to the bottom before finding the saying for the week.