First Impressions

“You get only one chance to make a good first impression.” That statement is especially true when it comes to submitting your writing to a book or magazine editor.

You can do much, however, to shape that first impression, thereby increasing your chances of getting your work accepted and published. My experiences as both an author and an editor have taught me that making that good impression requires looking at your work on two different levels: a macro view and a micro view.

The Macro View

Looking at your work from the macro view means looking at it to get the “big picture.” Imagine it as using a telescope to view your writing. It involves asking yourself the following questions about your writing.

  • Does your manuscript deliver what your proposal or query promised?
  • Is it logically organized?
  • Does it adhere to the publication’s/publisher’s stated guidelines and style?
  • Does its message meet a clear need?
  • Does it have a clear focus?
  • Has it had the benefit of a second (or even a third or fourth) “set of eyes”? (Have you had others read and comment on it and suggest any changes?)

 

The Micro View

The micro view of your writing involves examining it for the details. Imagine it as using a microscope to view your writing to detect such characteristics as those listed here.

  • Spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, etc. (Don’t rely on the spell-check feature of your software. It can be a big help, but it is not infallible!)
  • Style (Does it reflect the industry standard and the publication’s/publisher’s guidelines?)
  • Usage and vocabulary (Is it age appropriate for the intended audience? Is it precise?)
  • Reference citations, if any are necessary (Are they accurate and formatted correctly?)
  • Active versus passive voice (Does the subject of each sentence do the acting, or is it acted upon? Eliminate as many passive constructions as possible.)
  • Strong verbs and nouns (Are they precise? Ensure that you aren’t overly reliant on adjectives and adverbs to “carry the weight” of your message.)
  • Concise and precise vocabulary rather than needlessly verbose (Make every word count. When in doubt, take it out!)

Looking at your writing from these two levels and asking the appropriate questions will help you identify any weaknesses that would tend to give an editor a bad impression of your work. Correcting those weaknesses before submitting your work will take you several steps closer to your goal of acceptance and publication. The less work the editor must do on your submission, the greater your chances of acceptance.

So do your homework, ensuring that you make that good first impression and making it easier for the editor to say “Yes!” You will reap the benefits of not only acceptance of your work but also possibly a long-term relationship with that editor and publication!

 

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The Man I Knew

He was born on this date in 1928, about 11 months before the big crash. Most of his formative, pre-adolescent years were within that life-changing economic period, and much of his later life reflected it. His adolescent years were under the shadow of World War II. Until his last years of high school, the only president he and his classmates knew was Franklin Roosevelt.

Ralph was the fourth child of Blaine and Omega, the first to live beyond infancy. He later was joined in the family by a sister, but they were many years apart in age.

Ralph attended a nearby two-room school for eight years before attending his high school years at a larger school about 2 1/2 miles away. He struggled with reading and only did tolerably well in school. Even when he was in high school, he had to have his mother read his assignments to him. He was an auditory learner. And he could envision things that he wanted to build and then do it without written instructions or a diagram. He was a tactile learner.

No one ever accused him of being a scholar, but he was well liked and had character. He was the president of his graduating class. A girl who was a straight-A student was vice president, and she later became his wife. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Despite his academic struggles, Ralph aspired to go to college and did, attending Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. His declared major was pre-med. But he didn’t last long enough even to get his first grades. He seldom talked about his college days, except to say that the French and chemistry were hard. The possible reasons for his dropping out are numerous: academic difficulties, being needed to help run the farm, homesickness (he had never been away from home), and love (he was married shortly after he returned from LMU).

Ralph Henry learned to work, and work hard, at an early age. Being the only son on a farm during the Depression made sure of that. He hoed fields. He plowed fields with Morgan horses and occasionally mules. He learned to fix practically everything. He built things from wood, bricks, and stone. He did plumbing and wiring. He gardened. He designed and built numerous labor- and time-saving contraptions. He early learned to “make do” with what he had; what he didn’t have or couldn’t build he did without. He learned to improvise in numerous ways. He collected bent nails, rusty nuts and bolts, and bits and pieces of wood because he “might need them some day.”

Ralph took all the things he was learning and put them to practice building his own house. He felled timber from his property and cut boards to make the framing. He built cabinets. He installed floors and linoleum and tiles. He built a chimney of brick. He ran the plumbing and the wiring. He essentially did everything in constructing his house, except to dig the well. He hired his brother-in-law to do that and paid him $10 a month until the debt was paid in full. That was the only debt he incurred. In later years, he never borrowed money to buy any of the cars or trucks he owned. He never had a mortgage payment.

Yet, frugal as he was, he was consumer wise. He knew cars, and he was particular about what he bought. He began with Chevrolets. (The only trucks he owned were Chevys.) He aspired to someday own a Cadillac, still a GM car, but he only arrived at an Olds 88. He knew men’s fashions, often finding Hart, Schafner, & Marx suits for a song. (He undoubtedly was the best-dressed brick mason around on Sundays or at weddings or funerals!)

Work was his life. Only one photo (the one here) exists showing him at play as a child. When his father retired, the farming operation ceased, and Ralph took a job as a carpenter. At that time, he and his employers, the Cox brothers, did nearly everything involved in home construction, from laying out footers and building foundations to masonry and finished carpentry work. Ralph decided he liked the masonry aspects best, so he went out on his own as a masonry contractor. He quickly gained and maintained a reputation for not only hard work and honesty but also high-quality work. He retired when he reached 65 but was able to enjoy only a short period of retirement before passing at the age of 67 years, 3 months.

In the midst of all his learning and working, Ralph married and reared a family. He and his wife had two sons and a daughter. He was active in church and ensured that his family was there, too. He made his sons tow the line, and he taught them honesty. As soon as they were big enough to get into trouble, he required them to go to work with him, and he taught them to work. On the few occasions he left them home, it was to do work in the garden or to pick blackberries or do whatever else their mother needed them to do.

Ralph was a man of great principle. He might not have been able to read and explain the arguments of great theologians; discuss deep, theoretical concepts or ideas; or articulate his thoughts well in either speaking or writing, but he knew what he believed and why. He knew how to discern right from wrong. And he knew when to take a stand when it counted, even if that meant standing alone or being ostracized. He was a quiet, soft-spoken man who never tried to push his views on anyone, but people knew where he stood, and he held to his convictions firmly and consistently. And he loved his wife.

Most people called him Ralph. Some older family members referred to him as Ralph Henry. His wife called him Honey. But to me, Ralph Henry Peterson was simply Daddy. He would have been 90 years old today. He’s celebrating in Heaven.

Thank You, Military Veterans!

As we approach the Veterans Day weekend (and the actual date on Sunday, November 11), we owe a great debt of gratitude to everyone who is a military veteran for helping us maintain our freedoms. Perhaps no one said it better than one of those veterans, Charles M. Province. (Please note that when he uses the term soldier, we should also add the words sailor, airman, Marine, and Coast Guardsman because every veteran of every branch of our military played his or her part.)

It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who has given us the freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier, who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag.”

Veterans, we offer our humble but sincere thanks for all you have afforded the rest of us.

Where Does It Fit in History?

Whew! It’s finally over.

We’ve survived yet another election cycle with all the now-all-too-familiar and ubiquitous yard signs, robo calls, radio and TV ads, pollaganda, and even the post-election gloating, bloating, and spinning. But this post is not about the election, at least not this election per se. Rather, it’s about other elections and how this one compares historically.

Perhaps the biggest news from the election was the Republicans’ loss of control of the U.S. House of Representatives to the Democrats. Being attuned to most things historical, I naturally wondered about the significance of that turnover. Where does it fit into all previous shifts in power in the House? Here’s what my subsequent research revealed.

Since 1914, during 21 midterm elections, the party that held the White House typically lost seats in the House and the Senate. That has been the norm, and it’s happened to both parties. It’s what’s become expected. So when it does happen, it should result in no surprise by observers. Those losses in the House ranged from as little as 4 in 1962 (when John Kennedy was president) to as much as 77 in 1922 (when the corruption-plagued Warren Harding administration was in the White House). Losses in the Senate ranged from a low of 1 in 1990 (when George H.W. Bush was president) to a high of 12 in 1958 (when Dwight Eisenhower was president).

Only twice in all those years did the party controlling the White House gain seats in the House. In 1934 (when Franklin Roosevelt was president), the Democrats gained 9 seats in the House. In 2002 (with George W. Bush in the White House), the Republicans gained 8 seats in the House. In both of those instances, the party int he White House also added seats in the Senate. In 1934, the Democrats picked up 9, and in 2002, the Republicans picked up 1.

During the same period (1914-2014), the party occupying the White House twice added seats in the Senate despite losing them int he House. In 1914, under Woodrow Wilson, the Democrats picked up 3 Senate seats but lost 61 in the House. In 1962, under JFK, they gained 4 in the Senate but lost 4 in the House. In 1970, with a pre-Watergate Richard Nixon as president, Republicans gained 2 Senate seats while losing 12 in the House.

So, looking at the most recent results in the light of the historical record, what do they mean? With Republican Trump in the White House, the Democrats retook the House, gaining __27___ seats (preliminary result, awaiting conclusive outcomes in a handful of races), while the Republicans added __3__ to their Senate majority. These results are not remarkable in light of history. It was about the average gain made by the opposing party in the last 21 midterm elections. (What would be unusual would be if they had lost seats or gained fewer.) And that is significant because it has happened only 3 times before.

And what does all this mean for the future?

If both parties continue as they have been behaving, it will mean more gridlock: frustration, anger, resistance, and driving of more good, qualified, principled people from public service. Nothing good will be achieved and much evil may result, even if unintended. (After all, to do nothing actually is doing something, and ideas and actions, or inaction, all have consequences.)

If the politicians will start thinking about what is best for the country and its future (what a novel idea!), instead of only themselves, their party, and their cronies and how they can gain (or retain power)–well, only time will tell. I’m not holding my breath.

Memorable Lines from Simms

Recently, I’ve been reading a little [DRUM ROLL, PLEASE!] fiction, and old fiction at that. Few people today recall the author or his book, but it’s proving to be quite a read for me.

The author is William Gilmore Simms, who (after Poe) was “the most important Southern literary figure of the 19th century.” In fact, Poe himself called Simms one of the best writers of the time whose name, had he had “the self-promotion machinery of the New England literati, . . . would be a household word.”

Simms was born and died in Charleston, S.C. (a monument to him is located there) and spent most of his life in that state. He did, however, travel to the North every year and developed close friendships with several prominent writers of the time–until the War Between the States.

Simms delved into various genres, from poetry to fiction to biography. Yet, in all of his writing, he was an instructor in history. He is perhaps most famous for his biography of the “Swamp Fox,” The Life of Francis Marion. That work is on my “to-read” list, but I’ve been indulging in one of his works of fiction, Charlemont, a novel set in the frontier of western Kentucky.

Here, without commentary, are a few brief selections from the book that attracted my attention. I thought you might enjoy them, too. If so, perhaps you would be interested in looking into this and other works by Simms.

  • “The height of self-control is the only habit which makes mental power truly effective. The man who cannot compel himself to do or to forbear, can never be much of a student.”
  • “[T]here is no heart so accessible to the tempter as the proud and willful heart.”
  • “Learning, like love, like money, derives its true value from its circulation.”
  • “Too much stable makes a saucy nag.”
  • “. . . head work–the noblest kind of work.”
  • “I would not have you presumptuous, but there is a courage, short of presumption, which is only a just confidence in one’s energies and moral determination.”
  • “A man knowing his own weakness, and working to be strong, can not fail. He must achieve something more than he strives for.”
  • “Ask not what your fame requires . . . ask only what is due to the task which you have assumed, and labor to do that.”
  • “Scandal travels down the highways, seen by all but the victim.”

Terminology, Time Change, and Common Sense

The first week of November is a busy time! It starts off with National Authors’ Day, which affects only a relative handful of people, but the highlight of the week, the end of Daylight Saving Time, affects everyone. It pays to use common sense amid all this mind-boggling activity!

November 1, National Authors’ Day, has stirred a semantic debate over the difference (if any exists) between the meanings of the words writer and author. In my own mind, this is not an issue. Authors are also writers. Period.

But some people insist on creating a difference. They are adamant in their insistence that an author is someone who is more special than and superior to any lowly writer because, they argue, an author is someone who has been published. On the other hand, anyone can write. A writer simply scribbles twaddle and cannot get it published because it’s just not “up to standard.” And by “published” such argumentative types mean traditionally published, not independently or self-published. And that creates two very different classes. It makes the author part of a small, elite group of superiors.

The people who make this argument are usually people who have, indeed, been traditionally published. They have “arrived,” so to speak, and are therefore somehow superior to those who have not. I once worked where this issue was pressed to the point that the group who had once been called “authors” were demoted to the lowly realm of being mere “writers” because a few of the more sensitive type were jealous that some of their coworkers who had been contributing to the books they turned out had not had their own books traditionally published.

Hogwash, I say. There are writers and there are published writers. There are good writers and there are lousy writers. There are also a whole lot of “authors,” traditionally published, who are lousy writers! If you doubt that fact, just peruse the books in your local library or bookstore. The shelves are filled with them. Admittedly, there also are a lot of lousy self-published, or independent, writers. But there are some great ones, too. Many of the literary greats of the past self-published. So don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

I consider myself a writer, but I’m also an author by the foregoing argument. I’ve had scores of articles published and several books. (My books, both traditionally and independently published examples, can be found on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Dennis-L-Peterson/e/B01FATP3ZC.) But that doesn’t make me somehow better at the craft than anyone else who is a writer but has not yet been traditionally, or even independently, published.

We need to use common sense and look at ourselves as we really are. We are all writers struggling to do our best to get our message out to our potential readers in a manner that helps them understand and respond appropriately to that message. We must quit measuring ourselves by ourselves or against others and just do the job we’ve been called to do. As Will Rogers said, “We’re all ignorant, just on different subjects.” Similarly, no one is a perfect writer; we can all learn and benefit from each other. So stop quibbling over semantics. Just do your duty to the best of your God-given ability, and let God determine where we rank according to His standard. After all, only His judgment really counts.

That said, don’t forget that November 4 is the end of Daylight Saving Time, so set your clocks back one hour Saturday night (or, if you’re a purist about it, at 2:00 a.m. Sunday). Remember the adage “Spring, up; fall, back.” You’ll be able to “fall back” into bed and get an extra hour of sleep. Or, if you’re too wired, you can stay up later than normal Saturday night to catch up on all the work you keep saying you never have time to complete.

And that same day, November 4, is “Use Your Common Sense Day.” That’s puzzling to me. Shouldn’t we be using our common sense every day? Obviously, many (most?) people don’t, so I guess that helps explain why we’re in the mess we’re in today. After all, as the saying goes, “Common sense isn’t very common today!” Maybe that also explains why some people (“authors”) make such a big deal of creating an artificial distinction between “authors” and “writers!”

Little but Important Things

It’s usually the little things in life that make the difference. Perhaps we can’t see the significance, potential, or danger of such things at the moment, but time tells, and they are proven to be very important.

Take, for instance, some of the following “little” things that occurred on this day in history and that proved, in the end, to be greatly significant.

In 1873, P.T. Barnum introduced to New York City what he promoted as “The Greatest Show on Earth.” That was the beginning of what became the great Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, which has provided entertainment for millions of “ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages” (as the ringmaster dutifully announced at every performance). Perhaps you have been one of those millions who enjoyed Barnum’s show. This reminds us that big things often start out small, so don’t despise the small beginnings.

In 1888, J.J. Laud patented the ballpoint pen. Think of how many fountain-pen ink blots and ruined shirt pockets his invention prevented. Think of how many ballpoint pens you’ve used over the years, how many checks you’ve written (and endorsed) with such pens, and, writers, how many words those pens have written. This reminds us that it often takes little tools to accomplish great results.

In 1938, a young Orson Welles wrote and aired a fictional radio play titled “The War of the Worlds,” and he scared nearly to death a large portion of the American population  with his real-sounding “news” reports that seemingly interrupted regular broadcasting. Think of the power of words over our imaginations, causing us to believe what only sounds real. This reminds us that even well-intentioned actions sometimes have unforeseen consequences.

In 1945, a prescient old businessman signed a contract with a young, talented black baseball player named Jackie Robinson to play with the Montreal Royals. Look where he went with that! He opened the door to hundreds of talented but theretofore marginalized players to compete and excel in the big leagues. This reminds us not to overlook the obvious right under our noses.

In 1952, Clarence Birdseye packaged and sold the first frozen peas, revolutionizing the way Americans processed, preserved, and served that (and later other) humble vegetable. Think of how much time and money he saved the average American consumer and how much food he enabled the public to use with his new way of preservation. This reminds us that a little idea can soon be used for a great number of applications.

And just this week another “little” thing happened that, although it has little significance to other people, was a big deal for me and my wife. My brother and his wife stopped by for a visit during their wedding anniversary trip. Now you must understand that in past years, my brother has seldom had the time to stop for a visit; he merely blew in, said hello, and blew out. He was just too busy. Too many places to go for speaking engagements, etc. But this trip was different. He brought his wife with him and actually spent two nights. Unheard of–until now. This reminds us to value people, especially those closest to us in relationship if not in geographic proximity, while we may.

So count the blessings of the small things in life. Look for them. Enjoy them. Thank the Lord for them. Learn from them. How different life might be without such “little” things.

Memory Triggers

It’s interesting how something small and seemingly insignificant to others can trigger in one a vivid memory. This phenomenon can be, for a writer, a valuable catalyst for writing ideas and descriptive phrases. A simple sound or smell, unnoticed by others, can open the floodgates of creativity for an observant writer. It can elicit nostalgic feelings in nonwriters.

Take smells, for instance.

The other day, I caught the faint, fleeting, but unmistakable smell of a ripe peach, and that distinctive aroma transported me immediately to a place in my childhood memories that I had not recalled for many years. Though in body I was in South Carolina, in memory I was suddenly in an old tobacco warehouse in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Frequently, late on a summer Saturday afternoon, as the sun began to trek toward the horizon, my parents would load us kids into Daddy’s coral-and-white 1957 Chevy and go into town in search of fresh peaches. As soon as we drove through the large door of the tobacco warehouse of the Western Avenue Market, my body was assaulted with a host of sensory stimulants.

There was a cacophony of sounds. Truck engines, honking horns, shouts from the vendors as they sought to attract customers to their wares.

There was also a potpourri of smells. Automotive fumes; tobacco smoke; sweaty bodies; fresh, overripe, and rotten produce. But it is the smell of the peaches that I remember most vividly.

Mother was always on the prowl for the best deal. Her reasoning was that the vendors would sell their near-overripe fruit more cheaply than the near-ripe or fresh; otherwise, it would be a total loss for them. She also calculated that, it being late on Saturday, that the vendors, especially those from South Carolina and Georgia, would be eager to sell out of their produce and make their long journey home for Sunday. As usual, she was right.

Invariably, we returned home in the dark, the spacious trunk of the Chevy loaded with several bushel baskets of peaches that demanded our immediate attention. Mother then set about separating her treasures into two groups: peaches that could wait until Monday morning and those that we would have to do right then and there, lest they rot before Monday. (A strict sabbatarian, she refused to do any such work on Sundays.)

Into the wee hours of the night, often past midnight, we all peeled and sliced the sweet, juicy, odoriferous near-overripe peaches and put them into freezer boxes and carried them out to the utility room, where we stashed them in the big chest-type Kelvinator freezer.

Early on Monday morning, we were up and attacking the rest of the mother lode. Mother blanched them in a large, deep pot on the stove to remove the peels. Then we sliced them in half and stuffed them into large quart Kerr or Mason jars, which Mother then put into a pressure cooker. (I can to this day in my mind’s memory bank hear the rattle and hiss of that pressure regulator!)

Mother also made from those peaches myriad pint jars of jelly, mam, and butter. All of these products, whether frozen or canned or jellied, provided numerous delicious repasts throughout the coming year. There was no better-tasting treat than those peaches (in whatever form of preservation) on a cold winter morning or night!

I’m sure that you, even if you aren’t a writer, have your own memory triggers. What are they? Consider sharing a few with our readers in the comments form below.

The Test of Commitment

It never fails. Soon after one makes a commitment to do something, that commitment will be tested. How long one is able to remain committed to the desired task depends on the power of the commitment.

One of my commitments has been to walk every day. My typical course begins hard, with a tough walk up a steep hill from my driveway to the top of my subdivision. The course becomes easy at that point, leveling off to a straight, flat stretch that allows me to catch my breath and restore confidence in my ability to finish the lap. It gets even easier later as I go down a hill into a cul-de-sac. But that dead end means that I then have to return up the hill, an even steeper climb. Sometimes, often on a Monday morning, I can muster strength to finish only one lap. Most days, however, I can achieve at least two and sometimes as many as four laps.

Yesterday morning my commitment was sorely tested. Not only was it a Monday morning but also it was barely above freezing outside. For a Southern boy who has grown used to regular temps in the upper-80s to mid-90s, that’s quite a shock to the old system! Before I reached the top of that first hill, my ears were hurting. By the time I started the descent into the cul-de-sac, my forehead was numb. I had forgotten that I even had ears. Thankfully, my hands were warm, inserted into the pockets of my fleece-lined jacket. But that made me walk like a drunken sailor as I was unable to swing my arms in keeping with my fast pace and long stride. (I hope the neighbors, who already wonder about my sanity, didn’t see! Well, there was the policeman who was leaving for his shift in short sleeves, but he’s a transplanted Michigander whose broad-grinned greeting revealed that he obviously didn’t understand my bundled-up appearance. Yet even he had conceded something to the wintry assault on our region; he had foregone his usual shorts for long pants.)

One day soon, I’ll look back on this just-above-freezing temperature as a heat wave. Yes, even here in the sunny South we sometimes get below-freezing temps for days on end. But that will only further test my commitment to walking.

No matter what your commitment, it will be tested at some point. And your response to that testing will determine the power of your commitment.

Have you committed yourself to writing? What will it take to stop you, to deter you from that commitment? A snide, doubt-producing comment by a critical, non-writer friend? A publisher’s rejection of your submission? Remember how Theodor Geisel’s manuscript was rejected by 27 different publishers before it was finally published as And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street, vaulting him into fame as Dr. Seuss.

Have you committed yourself to living a holy, God-honoring life? What will it take to deter you from that noble goal? A temptation to indulge in forbidden things? A desire to spend your time reading spiritual junk food when you should be feeding on God’s Word? The myriad pleas or even taunts by unbelievers to join them in their worldly activities? The temptation to compromise biblical principles to avoid offending or so as not to bring attention to yourself? Remember, as Bob Jones Sr. said, “The test of your character [and your commitment] is what it takes to stop you.”

Making a noble commitment is great. Keeping that commitment is greater. Keep your commitments!

I’d be interested in hearing of the commitments you have made and how you’ve persevered in keeping them. Share them by commenting in the form below.

Could This Explain the Mess We’re In?

The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation recently released the results of a study it conducted concerning American voters’ knowledge of their history. What they reveal is downright scary as we approach the 2018 mid-term elections. But, be that as it may, they also help to explain why our nation is in its current situation of political polarization and the precipitous decline in the tone of politics in the last twenty-five to thirty years.

At the heart of the study is the U.S. citizenship test of basic facts about our nation’s history. Among the findings of the study are these:

Only 1 in 3 Americans can pass the citizenship test, which requires only a score of 60 percent. Most of those in the study didn’t score even that low grade.

72 percent couldn’t correctly identify the original 13 colonies.

Less than one-quarter knew why the colonists had fought the British in the first place.

Double-digit percent thought that Dwight Eisenhower fought in the Civil War. Some even thought he was a Vietnam-era general.

Only 19 percent of the people aged 45 and under passed the test.

(You can see a full report at https://fee.org/articles/americans-are-woefully-uneducated-about-basic-history/?utm_campaign=FEE%20Daily&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=66688242&_hsenc=p2ANqtz–4U_RPR4hYyXCurJUpBhzlwO4b8EksI9bD2wwH-4WqVi2L9HQWpt9jx4mL08sYbjJsyOExXbU7O-zm3I10dBiHdVt72Q&_hsmi=66688242.)

These results are not just embarrassing for a nation that has the greatest access to education and that spends substantially more on education than most of the other developed countries of the world. They’re critical to any effort by freedom-loving people to preserve what is left of our American freedoms. They represent an ominous omen for our national future.

This is why I’m not too thrilled with massive voter registration drives. Freedom requires INFORMED voters, not just large numbers of voters. Some politicians intentionally use such drives to flood the polls with uninformed and therefore gullible voters. They also appeal to the electorate’s emotions sparked by incidents without any regard for reason and logic about real foundational issues. Many such voters won’t even know who is running for which offices until they walk in the door of their polling place and glance at the sample ballot posted there. Furthermore, if they don’t know their history or their constitution, demagogues both journalistic and political can promise them the moon, and many of them will believe and vote for the imposters. Before such voters even realize that they have been enjoying freedom, they will lose it.

Sincere lovers of freedom do not call for blind patriotism or mindless ritualism. They want an informed patriotism and civil civic dialogue about real issues. Demagogues know, however, that they cannot win in a contest of logic with informed voters.  That’s why we’re seeing today the development of a mindless mob mentality.