Civics: (n) the study of the rights and duties of citizenship.

I was a freshman. At least, I think I was.

The class was called “Civics.” I’m pretty convinced that it doesn’t exist today, or it’s absorbed into some other aspect of social studies.

It was a combination of history, government and propaganda.

History in the sense that it took the time to explain why the founding individuals decided on the choices they pursued.

Government in the sense that it broke down what was referred to as “the balance of power” among the executive, legislative and the judicial.

And propaganda because it strenuously attempted to convince us that this form of representation was the best in the world, and that the balance of power was actually balanced.

But for balance of power to work, requires balanced people. Sometimes we forget that government is just an idea until folks of integrity and single-mindedness honor it.

So referring back to my civics:

  • The legislative branch is supposed to make the laws.
  • The executive branch enforces them.
  • And the judicial branch interprets them.

Well, you might immediately see that the whole system is out of whack.

Perhaps it would be a better idea to interpret the laws before we pass them and enforce them. Otherwise we put ourselves through the agonizing strain of legalizing activities which later have to be found unconstitutional.

By the time I got out of Civics class and looked at the history of the United States–too many wars, too much indecision, too little compassion for all its citizenry–I realized that every system put together by committee is rarely suitable for the individual.

And since we are a country of individuals, trying to work in union, the greatest civics that we can institute is a pair of ears with a mind to cooperation.


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dictionary with letter A

Anonymous: (adj) a person not identified by name; unknown name.

Sometimes I stumble across an adage or poem that is particularly clever, insightful or even artistic, and at the bottom is the word “anonymous.”

Obviously, it’s not.

  • Somebody wrote it.
  • Somebody thought it.
  • Somebody did it.

Yet over the years, a strange transition has occurred.

Here’s my opinion on that process: some person without an agent or an ego came up with an idea which he or she shared freely among friends.

One of those people realizes how obscure their companion is and feels compelled, on a journey to a far-away city, to share the inspiration. They are surprised at how responsive everyone is to the piece, and initially give credit to the friend who spoke it.

But then they think to themselves that since this buddy is never going to actually be in this far-away city, what would be the harm in taking bows for the composition?

Likewise, someone else in the room, who travels even further, decides to repeat the same process, stealing the thunder from the thief.

After a while, at a huge party somewhere far away, three or four people hear these words, and attribute it to several different individuals, generating an atmosphere of confusion.

Since no one is certain any longer who actually came up with the idea, it is determined to call it a draw and attribute it to Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous.

It also occurs in our everyday life in America. We have a nation of laws, regulations and general compliance within the citizenry, and believe that this temperate climate is achieved by human effort, never giving any credit to the spiritual training and the moral grounding that has been infused over generations.

We choose instead to attribute to religion or politics, and everything good is a by-product of our thinking or the latest craze.

In case you didn’t know, loving your neighbor as yourself is not anonymous.

If you weren’t aware, telling the truth did not spring from nothing.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to trace back great notions to their source, and therefore sit at the feet of wisdom instead of crinkling your brow … and pretending that the power that makes life work springs from magical four-leaf clovers.

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Thank you for enjoying Words from Dic(tionary) —  J.R. Practix


Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A


Africa: the second-largest continent, a southward projection of the Old World land mass divided roughly in half by the equator and surrounded by sea except where the Isthmus of Suez joins it to Asia.

I am shocked.

I sat down to write a clever essay on today’s word, Africa. when I dug into my Middle-America, middle-class, middle-intelligent and middle-conscience mind,  all I was able to conjure were images which I must be honest and tell you, seem quite racist.

Because when I think of Africa, I think of missionaries, cannibals, lions, monkeys, tribal rituals, Apartheid, jungles, Serengeti, antelopes being chased and killed, and people with black skin talking with extremely articulate British accents.

I thought about trying to come up with something different, pretending that I am cultured and aware of modern Africa and the progress the people have made. Or tip my hat to the notion that Africa is the “mother land of the whole human race,” but I realized it would be phony, and I would just be another American trying to appear that I am free of prejudice, when the truth is that, contrary to that fact, the continent reminds me of Tarzan and Jane.

I do not think we become better people by hiding our iniquity.

I do not think that I can fool you into believing I am a cosmopolitan world traveler who is free of my Central Ohio upbringing, and still walk away with a pure soul.

Here’s what I WILL say about Africa: most of what I learned as a child about this magnificent continent had something to do with either the zoo or the Zulu.

No one took the time to teach me anything else.

So even though I am grown and people insist that I’m set in my ways, I am unsettled enough to accept this meager representation of a great history and people. So I apologize for my lacking by trying to increase. Now that I have been alerted to my limitation, I will attempt to expand my borders.

We will never know what Africa could truly be today because it was invaded, attacked and robbed of its citizenry by white people who thought they were better.

I am an ancestor of such folk. For this I apologize.

But the best way I can express my contrition is by continuing to learn instead of assume.