Friday, October 20, 2006

Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Überpresident

George Fourgis, my teacher for 8th grade American history, was the best history teacher I had during all of my secondary school years. His classes were lively, he told a lot of stories, and I learned a lot of history from him. But there are two particular points that Mr Fourgis made over and over that I have never forgotten.

On our very first day of class in September 1978, Mr Fourgis asked us who we thought were the United States of America’s two best friends. Hands went up – we were a bright group, after all. We named countries – the UK, Canada, France, whatever, and we were all wrong. No one got it. Mr Fourgis loved that because he could then deliver the information to us in his favourite dramatic style:

“The best friends the United States of America has ever had, the best friends we will ever have, are the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.”

Mr Fourgis knew he was giving us a completely new idea to churn around in our heads – he loved that too.

The second thing that Mr Fourgis emphasised throughout that 8th grade year was the importance of the separation of powers in our government and the system of checks and balances.

That is why I thought of Mr Fourgis last night when I was watching Keith Olbermann and listening to his guest, law professor Jonathan Turley, describing Bush as the first “über-president”. I thought of Mr Fourgis because we no longer have an effective system of checks and balances, and powers are no longer separated. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 has destroyed our Constitution.

I was lucky to have a teacher like Mr Fourgis, a teacher who was able to give a bunch of young kids some understanding of American history. And not only an understanding of what had happened 200 years before, but also an understanding of why and how it had happened, and why it was important then and why it is still important now.

It makes me wonder how so many of our senators and representatives can be ignorant of why our government was set up the way it was. And I know they are ignorant – there is no other explanation for how they could have voted to dismantle the system that was so carefully constructed to protect our rights and liberties.

The framers of the Constitution foresaw that we might one day have an unscrupulous president. As Jonathan Turley stated, “In fact, Madison said that he created a system essentially to be run by devils, where they could not do harm, because we didn’t rely on their good motivations.”

However it seems that the framers unfortunately did not foresee that we might have two houses of Congress that would be so collectively stupid that they would willingly choose to transform our system of government into a dictatorship.

Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government.
-- James Madison


Anonymous said...

He was my favorite teacher too. And always encouraged me to make these awesome speeches. Great great teacher, I qouted him the other night. Very cool, what year did you have him.


Anonymous said...

George Fourgis was my 8th grade history teacher, too, (in '66!) and he was one of my favorite teachers, I ever had. A truly inspiring and gifted man! He made learning history a fun and dynamic experience. I'm so glad to read this tribute you wrote about him in your essay.
I had just mentioned the lasting impression he made on me to some old high school cronies and decided to do a google search to see if I could find him. Your essay is what turned up. So glad to have read it. I love the comments of his you cited about the Atlantic and Pacific oceans being America's best friends and the importance of the separation of power. He made his students think outside the box and encouraged us all to make a difference in the world. I remember his great enthusiasm about the brilliance of Thomas Jefferson. Mr. Fourgis, was himself brilliant. I wonder what became of him and where he is now?

Anonymous said...

i also had george fourgis...who has apparently passed away according to google. he is the only teacher that ever put me out in the hallway for misbehaving. miss downey, my first grade teacher, walked past me in the hall and never thought i would see You out here.

if i remember correctly, he would dictate his notes...his lecture. and to get an A you could regurgitate the whole lecture verbatim. i could never do that now. but then i would apparently memorize the whole lecture verbatim and write it out for the exam answer. i don't actually think highly of that testing mode really. i am grateful i was comfortable kicking up my heels finally and being asked to go stand in the hall.

RIP george fourgis. i had him in in peace. he reminded me of fred flintstone really...he always jingled the stuff he had in his pockets. he was a trip. i loved hawthorne so much. miss albert was my favorite teacher in second grade.