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Practically Idealistic blog
The title for this blog originated with use of the term “practical idealist” in this 1996 opinion piece, which asked: “To what kind of work should a practical idealist aspire?” A century and a half earlier, Emerson, in his 1841 essay Circles, wrote: “There are degrees in idealism.  We learn first to play with it academically. . . .  Then we see in the heyday of youth and poetry that it may be true, that it is true in gleams and fragments.  Then, its countenance waxes stern and grand, and we see that it must be true.  It now shows itself ethical and practical.”  John Dewey and Mahatma Gandhi embraced practical idealism in the 20th century, as did UN Secretary General U Thant.  Al Gore invoked it in a 1998 speech. In the context of this blog, the term is meant to convey idealism tempered but not overwhelmed by realism: a search for the ideal on a path guided by common sense.
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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Charlottesville and Hatred: Historical Context from Annette Gordon-Reed

The reemergence of sometimes latent racial hatred — by groups including the KKK and neo-Nazis, in places including Charlottesville — has been disturbing.  Among the most thoughtful recent reactions is one by Harvard historian and Jefferson scholar Annette Gordon-Reed in the New York Review of Books.  She concludes:

“American ideals have always clashed with harsh American realities. We saw that clash on the grounds of UVA. But how do we continue in the face of depressing realities to allow ourselves to hold fast to the importance of having aspirations, and recognize that the pursuit of high ideals—even if carried out imperfectly—offers the only real chance of bringing forth good  in the world? In many ways, grappling with that question is what being a scholar of Jefferson is all about. Perhaps coming fully to grips with the paradoxes that Jefferson’s life presents is what being an American is about. Even if one rejects that formulation, there is no doubt that he remains one of the best ways we have of exploring and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the American experiment displayed so vividly … in Charlottesville.”

12:15 pm edt 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Indian Independence, and Partition, at 70

This month is the 70th anniversary of India’s independence from the U.K., and of the partition that created Pakistan.  The New York Times published thoughtful reflections by Pankaj Mishra and Gopalkrishna Gandhi.  

The latter, a grandson of Mohandas Gandhi, writes: “Democracy is about majority rule, not majoritarian tyranny. What is under attack in India is not just Hindu-Muslim concord, but the right of all minorities — ethnic, linguistic, regional, political, social and cultural — to be themselves, to be equal, to be free. Dissent, free speech and the freedom to choose with confidence and without fear are under strain.”

In the Times of India and Medium, I wrote about India’s Republic Day and the relationship between the U.S. and Indian governments.

3:39 pm edt 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Athletes and Activism: The Example of Ray Allen

Ray Allen, a retired NBA star known for his thoughtful humanity, is now a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council (via an appointment from President Obama in 2016) – an affiliation that attracted coverage from Tablet

Now Allen himself has written about his trip to Auschwitz

The NBA is the most progressive professional sports league, and it has no better representative than Ray Allen.  While he doesn’t yet quite rival Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (who publicly supported Muhammad Ali at the height of Ali’s resistance to the draft during the Vietnam War and has published several books) in the realm of activism, Allen is widely respected as a role model who uses his celebrity for good.

Ray Allen, who played and studied at UConn in the 1990s, was a subject of previous blog posts in January 2009 and June 2013 (June 22).

12:27 pm edt 

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