Monday, March 26, 2012

Some Comments on Beautiful Souls, Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times by Eyal Press

This is a guest post by an author who wishes to go by the pen name of Molly McGuire:

There's Many of Us Out There
by Molly McGuire

Caught as I am in a compromised world, Eyal Press’ book encouraged me to keep fighting. There’s a lot of us out there. We’re public school teachers. We’re told by our bosses to do things that hurt children. We refuse. 

We’re the sort who read Diane Ravitch’s The Death and Life of the Great American School System, or Diana Senechal’s The Republic of Noise, or Dan Willingham’s Why Students Don’t Like School. I’d like to add Eyal Press’ book to this list. He’s telling the stories of ordinary people (when Steven Spielberg wanted an ordinary civilian job for his hero in Saving Private Ryan, he makes him a high school English teacher) who act in ways they believe to be right. These people go beyond the times and the political winds, violent as they may be, to the fundamental principles of their group or activity. 

There’s the Swiss police officer, believing in his nation’s tradition of a haven for refugees, forging documents so that Jews fleeing Austria in 1938 can stay. The Serb who stands up for the decency of his neighboring Croatians during the Yugoslavian war. An Israeli soldier asserts the humanity of the Arabs whose land he refuses to occupy. And the American financial services consultant, who questioned the safety of an investment that turned out to be a Ponzi scheme. Doing their jobs, as they see fit to do them. 

Most consoling is how much these people aren’t ever seen as heroes. They’re shunned, pushed aside by those too embarrassed to acknowledge how principled, how brave, how right these few were. The pleasure in taking such a stand, Eyal Press tells us, is that you get to live with a clean conscience. 

I teach part-time now, having been fired for being ineffective, and then offered a part time gig to stop the howling by students and parents. I do more gardening. I look at my grandchildren. I smile, knowing I’m with a band of brothers and sisters, over time, over continents. Read Eyal Press’ wonderful book. Join us. 

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