Good judgment. Two simple words. Thomas Paine, at the birth of our great democracy, called it Common Sense. Known for his brilliant insights and intelligent quotes, Founding Father Paine wrote among his many observations that are often cited, “moderation in temper is always a virtue; moderation in principle is always a vice.” A great truism and something we all need to remember in our daily lives as in all things!
We need good judgment, “common sense” in our lives, in our understandings of religion, in our finances, in our actions, in our friendships, in our understanding of history and government, of law. We all know someone that does not seem to have good judgment, a friend who cannot manage her finances, the misogynist who is imprisoned for continuing spousal abuse, the teacher who gets involved with a student, the speeder who never slows down in a known speed trap (I live near one!), the poor money manager who cannot get ahead of credit card interest, the religious zealot whose home is site of child abuse, ad infinitum. Scary!
In speaking of common sense and good judgment, I have always been interested in the ancient Greeks because their observations of humankind even after all these centuries (more than 2700 years) are still so spot on. Examples: Pandora, whose curiosity, caused her to open Pandora’s Box and release the problems of the world, and Narcissus, whose ego caused her to be so self-enamored (word, narcissism) that she could not understand objective truth and saw the world only through her own eyes and own perceptions.
I was a teacher, a school administrator, and an adjunct university professor for a lot of years, and Socrates is still one of my Greek heroes. Although he was much maligned by Greek society at the time and was sentenced to death, he pushed his students to question. He would posit a definition or opinion and then question in search of truth. The Socratic Method is still one of challenging learners to question in order to learn, a strong tenet of The Rule of Law. I faithfully tried to implement the Socratic Method with my graduate students and even with my kindergartners.
Like Socrates, I pose a question to each of you. Insurrectionists who are currently in the process of being charged for their crimes during the January 6th riot and are contributing to their own defense are defending themselves by insisting they were called to action by the then President. (Examples: Chansley of Arizona, Williams of Pennsylvania, and others). Interestingly, in the former President’s defense, he is denying this and instead accusing these charged insurrectionists as simply being “criminals”. What is the conundrum implied by these two defense positions, rioters versus the former POTUS and vice versa?
I have been hypnotized this week by the impeachment trial of the 45th President of the United States in the U.S. Senate. I hope that you, too, as educated Americans, from whichever political party, are following the proceedings. In order to understand the issues, we should all be watching in actual time so we can hear direct sources and not wait for the media to interpret for us. As Mr. Paine said, “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it! Well said! Weighty problem!