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  • Who We Are

    Posted by Ginny on April 3rd, 2009 (All posts by )

    We aren’t always – perhaps seldom – the best we can be. Fortunately, we have our moments. And, well, generally, we aren’t racists, bigots, sexists; we aren’t roaring masses lynching, beheading, stoning. We feel jealousy but aren’t driven by ravenous coveting; we can be irrational but save such excesses for football.

    Obama has demonstrated in the last couple of weeks who he thinks we are. But he doesn’t know us.

    “But President Barack Obama wasn’t in a mood to hear them out. He stopped the conversation and offered a blunt reminder of the public’s reaction to such explanations. “Be careful how you make those statements, gentlemen. The public isn’t buying that.”
    “My administration,” the president added, “is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.” (Politico)

    Never mind, of course, that it was he as much as anyone (more than anyone except his coherts in Congress) who encouraged pitchforks. He misunderstands our anger. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have needed to resort to multiplying his petition-signers by three. He doesn’t understand (or perhaps know about) the tea parties – not violent, done with apparent good cheer & quiet resolution, anger perhaps but not greed, not putting out a hand. And these demonstrations are directed, it seems, not at wealthy businessmen but rather at Congress. (Their feckless choices are likely to devalue our houses, our retirement – we figure we might have been personally duped if we put our money into Madoff’s hands, but we didn’t have much choice in terms of Freddie and Fannie.) Nor is the anger irrational, the demonstraters will reasonably and ruefully admit they elected these idiots.

    Obama seems to think we are a banana republic, an African tribe, European serfs – he may see history but not our history. We aren’t easily brought to mob rule. He is counting on the power of what we know to be a common human passion, covetousness, but which Americans have long restrained because an economic and political system like ours trains its power in a more productive and less aggressive form. We aren’t without this vice – we are, of course, human and subject to sin. But we have pity for those driven by a passion we see as temptation – one arising from our own flawed nature, leading to our own unhappiness. We are not likely to see in it righteous anger. (And, of course, we are right.)

    He seems to have defined us by Face in the Crowd, All the King’s Men. We see these, feel, ruefully, that there is a truth in them. But, still he sees them as more true, apparently, than the letters between Adams and Jefferson, the voice of Lincoln. He assumes our history is as he sees it, as, say, Chomsky would see it; he goes to Europe and apologizes for us. And has a president before demonstrated such a remarkable lack of proportionality (let alone history)? I assume he believes that we would be liked better by those who share religious beliefs with the Bosnians, the Kuwaitis, the Iraqis, the Afghans if we had not taken the steps we did or by the Germans and French if we hadn’t underwritten NATO. Perhaps. But while rewriting history to make a politician look better is a given and rewriting present history to place the blame on one’s predecessor may be somewhat common in a politicized atmosphere, I’m not at all sure rewriting history to make one’s own country look bad is useful. And I’m pretty sure it is not a leadership that stimulates the best in us.

    Last weekend I heard Adam Gopnik speaking of the brilliance of Obama’s speech on religion. I printed it out, thinking I’d perhaps listened to it with a prejudiced, conservative ear. Well, I suspect I had. Nonetheless, a speech that speaks of his grandmother, then ailing, and her racism is not a speech that speaks of the best in us. That Gopnik sees it in terms of the grandeur of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural is baffling to me. But it also demonstrates what people like Gopnik think of their fellow Americans.

    It showed us how Obama looks at history, looks at his people, looks at their potential. I’ve often remarked here about the usefulness of heroes – they show us the best that we can be. Villains, well, they are cautionary tales as well. But how do we react when it is our leader who demonstrates contempt for us, who believes he is all that stands between the bankers and our pitchforks?

    Sometimes, in certain people’s fantasies, we see what they think we are. I have been wanting to put up a long post on narrative, and here is a rough draft of one of its core anecdotes:

    Lately, I was talking to one of my husband’s friends – speaking of the narratives that the post-traumatic stress victims made as psychiatrists drew from them the moments that overwhelmed and then helped the victims piece together their memories of what came before and what came after. The human desire for narrative is one of the oldest of all our desires, the desire to make sense of our experiences. And the sense that such people make of their most terrrifying memories is true – the fragments that overwhelm them have served to obliterate for those horrible moments that they relive them the narrative of how and why – what came before and what came after. But my husband’s colleague shouted at me, deeply disturbed, how dare you, he said, how dare you make television narratives of these people’s ragged and fragmented lives. It is you who are at fault, you who force upon these people meanings when there is none.

    Of course, my use of televised narratives in all sorts of discussions often disturbs those with more high art definitions of meaning. This tendency opens me to such condescension. But I do it purposely (as well as compulsively.) Television is but another form in which that great long tradition finds expression – that tradition that began long before the written word. Narrative is entertainment, it is a way to communicate indirectly much more richly than rules or laws can do, it is a way to make sense of our experience. Of course, even in my life wasted watching television, I would not think first of television narratives, but I wouldn’t disown them either – they express our natural tendency. And in that moment, I felt hit at gut level – this rather sweet man with his courtly manner, hid a certain condescension, if well and politley. He thought our lives – those of others – “ragged” – their stories fragmented. Like most of us, I suspect he lives with a certain cognitive dissonance. He speaks of Camus & Sisyphus; he may well think he believes it. But I have my doubts he really thinks his own life lies in such pieces. In gentle and entertaining ways he develops profuse and interesting narratives that justify his own actions or wisdom or even virtue. He isn’t self-righteous, I might hasten to admit, but certainly the subtext of each narrative is an argument for his actions or his perspective – no more and I suspect no less than mine are about my own “rightness.”

    The nineteenth century romantics often returned to the vision of ourselves in our beloved’s eyes – the better self, whole in that eye, better than we were. The heroine’s eye measured the hero and straightened him, gave him the backbone he needed. In others’ remarks we see how we look in their eyes. We come to what the media thought in the long, long campaign that led Obama to office – and what he thinks, as well. How often did we hear of the danger to Obama – that he was likely to be assassinated because he was African-American? While we must face an ugly history that included lynchings, most countries have histories of internal murders. We were irritated when an AP reporter filed a story that threats to Obama were heard at a Palin rally, but no other person was found who had heard it. Those people (the “other,” those who liked Palin, those who weren’t Democrats, those who weren’t, well, reporters) were hicks, vicious, violent, hateful. Of course, the long eight years of Bush derangement might have suggested there was a lot of projection out there. I suspect that is part of the protectiveness, the anger some of us feel when Palin is criticized. She isn’t perfect, but we see in their pretentiousness, in their vulgarity, in their dishonesty how they see us. Those in flyover territory, those “breeders,” those women – whatever our similarity may be, we find we don’t like those comments all that much. But that doesn’t mean we’ll be storming the cities with pitchforks. We just want to switch the channel, to turn out the jerks at the next election


    45 Responses to “Who We Are”

    1. fred lapides Says:

      I found this article seriously overwrought. Just look at the “libertarians” who go to or plan to attend tea parties to protest…taxes, bailouts. What then do they offer instead to do something about a failing economy? No they do not carry pitchforks (go to the economic summit in England for that) but they mutter a seemingly passive No No No. And that is their solution. As for TV narratives…I see little or nothing on tv worth following or noting. And then the vague generalizations–19th century romantics (who, which ones, where?)…all leading to…Sarah Palin, a vacuous a person as has run for national office as I can think of, a candidate bereft of ideas or any semblance of knowledge. Sarah may have more “appeal” to some voters but give me Newt for ideas, substance every time.

    2. Susan Lee Says:

      Interesting post. I could agree with most of it.. we used to have the Christian narrative to participate in… no more. It has been systematically dismantled over the last 50 years.

      However, I think Obama knows very well the anger in the country today is directed at him and at Congress. He’s trying to redirect the energy to his chosen “bad guys”, and give the MSM something to emote about. He hopes his comment will become a self-fufilling prophecy.

      Obama is also trying to make the TeaParty people stand down and shut up by comparing them to “Villagers with Torches”… The papers & networks are ready and willing to recast any event that occurs into whatever narrative Obama wishes to be “Truth”.

      This Misdirection Theory has worked already in some instances – Look at the sacrificial AIG bonuses. Congress squalled so loudly over them and the media covered their squalling so thoroughly, the truth of the financial collapse being to some degree the fault of Congress and particularly Frank & Dodd has been completely obliterated in the popular mind.

      Think 1984…

      Susan Lee

    3. renminbi Says:

      Why are today’s “intellectuals” in the west so overwhelmingly useless? The only good thing I can say is that they aren’t reproducing.

    4. david foster Says:

      Neptunus Lex:

      “The innate character flaw of the political right, with its thrumming appeals to the logic of blood and soil, is its lamentable tendency to go in search of enemies abroad. The left, on the other hand, with its own appeals to the politics of envy and class warfare, is content to find mortal enemies closer to hand.”

      I don’t think the “pitchfork” comment, and other similar behavior, is merely a tactical gesture to deflect anger away from Obama and his allies; rather, such things are an inherent part of the “progressive” worldview, with its focus on a neo-Hobbesian war of group against group.

      It should be pretty clear that Obama sees American society as divided between *enemies* and *sheep*, with the exception of a small class of “progressive” activists and credentialed elites–whose task it is to defeat the enemies and direct the sheep.

    5. Sgt. Mom Says:

      Well, actually some of the Tea Party people are, rather jokingly, carrying pitchforks, or representations of pitchforks. I am helping to organize the San Antonio Tea Party, and we are actually being rather strict about our signs – no threats, no vulgarities, no personal attacks. We are working very hard to keep the protest…well, civil.

      Besides, as we are pointing out to attendees at the rally – no one really would enjoy being portrayed as a drooling, violent racist hick on national television… although bless their hearts, the major media will certainly do their best.

    6. sol vason Says:

      Obama did not study the same American history we did nor did he grow up in the same country we did.

      He sees the world through whip-colored glasses. He believes that white have ruthlessly exploited the world and that it is the Black Man’s Burden to end White Oppression.

      He is a product of our school system and never unlearned the nonsense he was taught.

      Obama has never been in touch with reality. He lives in the Liberal universe where Central Planning works.

      OMG, you made me realize that Obama thinks I’m one of those people with the torches and pitchforks! I suppose this makes him Louis XVI and that Congress will outlaw pitchforks and matches.

      Socialist governments have proved over and over again that Cetral Planning and good intentions produce only misery, starvation, pestilence, poverty, and intolerance.

      So, yes, we teabaggers say No to Obama, No to bailouts, No to haircuts, No to government running businesses, No to Central Planning. But if people really want these things, we will find a way to make money out of it. As the War on Drugs has demonstrated, where there’s a market, there’s a way.

      I do not own a pitchfork and I will never carry one. The pitchfork thing is for unhappy Liberals. Liberals When pitchfork and torch time comes, I will be selling pitchforks and matches.

      BTW. I object to the term Libertarian. I have nothing in common with the Earl of Rochester.

    7. Phil Fraering Says:

      Fred, you’re right. We need A SOLUTION

    8. Phil Fraering Says:

      oops, hit post early.

      We need A SOLUTION to this goddamn hole we’re in.

      I think we need to follow Obama’s advice, power up the backhoes, and START DIGGING!


      Screw the obstructionist idiot noncommunists, we’re not going to get out of the hole by doing nothing, so


    9. Phil Fraering Says:

      More seriously, the whole “Oh, what’s your solution?” is, IMHO, the argument of retarded idiots who desperately want to avoid facing the fact that all of their ‘solutions’ just make the problem worse.

      The problem came about because of very profound and deep problems with regulatory capture by people like Chris Dodd and large numbers of the party currently in power. It’s not going to be fixed by giving them even more power and consolidating even more economic decision-making in the hands of the government.

      Government can not be a fair or good regulatory agency when it owns and runs everything.

    10. Tyouth Says:

      “Obama has demonstrated in the last couple of weeks who he thinks we are. But he doesn’t know us. ”

      We may be beginning to know him though: I couldn’t help but think that his ipod gift to the Q of E was condescending if not really insulting to Great Britan. Unless we assume he and his staff are just really clods (one can’t be to sure it was purposeful, after all) the act was cold in the extreme and said, essentially, “your country is antiquated, irrelevant, and we’ll show you what is what”.

    11. mishu Says:

      There was a time that the solution *was* to do nothing. Now, the solution is to roll back the damage done by Obama and the congress. Not all the money pledged has been spent. I realize that pigs will fly before that happens. The FASB did finally see the light and got rid of MTM but the relief from that will only lead to a dead cat bounce unfortunately.

    12. Andrew_M_Garland Says:

      Here are two interesting windows into Obama’s character.

      Richard Epstein discusses Barack Obama

      Richard Epstein is the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago, where he has taught since 1972. He was a colleague of Barack Obama when Obama taught as an instructor. Epstein had mutual friends with Obama, and talked to Obama about some issues. His main description is that Obama is under complete self-control.

      Obama and God
      When God talks to you through your inner voice, it is even better than prayer. Obama experiences this every day, in his own words, revealed in a March 2004 interview with a reporter on religious issues.

    13. Shannon Love Says:

      Elitism is the core of leftism. The emotional appeal of leftism is that it lets people imagine themselves as members of a version of Jefferson’s Natural Aristocracy. Even though they often create nothing of value, even though they may never accomplish anything of note, they can always console themselves that at least they belong to that group of people who not only have all the answers but the morality needed to choose the correct ones. The think of themselves as a secular elect, brahmins or enlightened monks. Some class of people better than all the rest.

      Save in matters touching upon sex, which affects the leftist as individuals, all leftists ideas boil down to taking away the ordinary individuals ability to decide for themselves. In their belief of their own innate superiority, they conceive of themselves as having an inescapable obligation to manage the lives of others for the benefit of others.

      They believe their fellow citizens to be bigoted, violent, impulsive, gluttonous etc. We they say “we need to not do ‘X’ ” they really mean that “you people need to not do ‘X’ “. This is Obama’s viewpoint. He looks at us and sees stupid and impulsive people in desperate need to be saved by the wisdom of the elect.

      All humans have this impulse to see ourselves as a superior person to whom all others must bow. In the past, all religions and cultures recognized this destructive urge and sought to suppress it. Today, to many secularist believe they need no external guidance or governance. They have convinced themselves that they and they alone have escaped the evils that arise in the hearts of all others.

      It is this lack of self-awareness that makes them so dangerous.

    14. Tatyana Says:

      Shannon, you conflate things again.
      You start with characterizing “leftists”, and finish with slipping in “secularists”. As if it’s an equally interchangeable thing.
      You talk about Obama being one and forget that he is a Christian. He’s not a secularist. He’s an authoritarian – like all religious people. And from there is but a short walk to statism.

      I understand – you said so yourself – your slavish deterrence to religious right; just don’t spit in the well. Being an agnostic (an opportunist, from my p-o-v, and that’s not a thing to be proud of) – aren’t you one of us, secularists ?

    15. fred lapides Says:

      “pitchforks” merely a meaningless leftist notion? here is what the anti-Obama crowd has preached in public, telling Americans what they need to do…alas, no Ft Sumter to fire upon:

    16. K.J. Webb Says:

      Not everyone on the Left is unreligious, and not everyone unreligious is on the Left. But most of the Left long ago gave up religious belief. Do you seriously dispute that proposition, Tatyana?

      Secularness is the natural tendency of Leftists, but there are anomalies. Barack Obama may be truly inspired by his religion, and it may govern his actions. He may be the anomaly that proves the general proposition. Then again, he may be an opportunist for whom religion has its uses. Or he may be muddled about it all. Only God knows.

      I’m agnostic about Barack’s belief and about what God knows about Barack’s belief. But I know a bit about the beliefs of my mostly Leftist friends. The Environment, the Welfare State and Pacifism have pretty well displaced Father, Son and Holy Ghost. You can applaud that or you can decry it, but I don’t see how you can deny it.

    17. Tatyana Says:

      Mr. Webb,
      What I aid has nothing to do with your propositions or denials (or not denials) of of the theory you just formulated.
      I took pains to be clear; and there are still efforts to distort my words.

    18. david foster Says:

      Saw an interesting quote from Lenin the other day: this was fairly soon after the Revolution…he commented that since 10,000 aristocrats had run Russia under the tsars, it should be possible for 10,000 Communists to run Russia under the new system.

    19. Phil Fraering Says:

      Fred’s another one of those AI’s, talking past everyone, just like the guy on the junk science thread a while back. He never actually responds to points, does he?

      (Thinking of responding to his latest, if I thought he’d respond with anything other than another “tu quoque” non-sequitur pulled out of his butt.)

    20. Anonymous Says:


      Do you really believe that Obama is a christian?
      His political background makes me assume he is an athiest. Where would he get his christian faith from? From his muslim father or his communist father? Maybe his communist education? Like most leftists he believes it is okay to lie if it is for the cause.

      Being a leftist doesn’t mean you are also an athiest, but they share this world view. When you don’t believe in a universal and external moral code it usually ends up with “It’s moral because I feel it’s moral.”

    21. Robert Schwartz Says:

      “a vacuous a person as has run for national office as I can think of, a candidate bereft of ideas or any semblance of knowledge”

      Good description of BO.

    22. Tatyana Says:

      Anon: you assume a lot of cheap simplified stereotypes.
      -I’m an atheist and I don’t share leftist worldview. And I’m not a particularly tiny minority.
      -A lot of communists are religious. Look at the South American countries: heavily Catholic, and almost as heavily leftist. Look at Poland at the time it was part of socialist Block: heavily Catholic, still socialist country. I’m sure, some of these people are conflicted – still, statistically speaking, the group that was both leftist AND Christian is not insignificant.
      -I don’t have to believe Obama is a Christian: he declares it himself, and he belonged to a Black Christian church for 20 years. I’m not going to debate, if that church is a “true” Christian church or not – it’s besides the point. America is filled with multitude of loosely Christian confessions, and each considers themselves The One And Only True. For me, all religions are cults – the difference is in a degree of belonging to the establishment. Don’t think he’s a Muslim, although that is another argument in explaining his authoritarian leanings.
      -Religious people are not more moral than atheists. In fact, they are less moral. When a person behaves decently because “the Good Book said so”, or the rabbi said so, or the nuns beat it in him with their rulers – his convictions aren’t his, they are not very deep. California is filled with murderous gangs whose members are devout Catholics. Another example: Italian mafia.

      -There are religious people who believe it’s OK to lie for a cause, too. See church officials who were covering up crimes committed by priests-pederasts.

    23. Isdor Says:


      I didn’t make any assumptions about Atheists or only about Obama and his type. I am not saying that most leftists are atheists. But I do think most leftist intellectuals are atheists even if they pretend to be religious. I don’t believe Obama is religious because he is a person who shows that he will do and say anything to gain power. So what he says doesn’t make a difference. The reason a middle class half white obama spent 20 years in a radical black church is the same reason he moved from Hawaii got Chicago ghetto. IT was the quickest way to power. Where he can do the most good in his mind.

      This was my point about the leftist intellectual and atheist world view. They are their own God and good and evil is defined by what they believe is good or evil at the point in time they make their decisions.

      We will have to agree to disagree on your other point dealing atheists being more moral because they do good things for the right reason.

      I always thought being moral is about acting morally. Like not murdering. Something that atheists (statistically speaking) have a hard time with.


    24. Tatyana Says:

      Isdor: please provide statistics proving that more atheists act immorally than believers. Like atheists committing more murders than believers.

      I didn’t say “atheists do good things for the right reason”. I said atheist are moral out of conviction vs religious people are moral because they memorized the rules and follow them.
      I don’t believe Obama is religious because he is a person who shows that he will do and say anything to gain power And religious people don’t? For a counterexample, just look at the history of Roman Popes, especially during Renaissance. People’s character, their vices and their virtues didn’t change that much and they don’t depend on such surface circumstances as belonging to religious institution. And I believe I don’t have to go to whole world history of crimes committed BECAUSE of the religions, because of religious beliefs and requirements – only the blind doctrinare wouldn’t see them.

    25. mishu Says:

      He’s an authoritarian – like all religious people.

      Tatyana, You’re accusing Isador of stereotyping yet you do the same. You may want to check your own eyes for motes while you point out others’ specs. If I may so authoritarian.

    26. Paul Says:

      fred lapides

      Fred, Jesus baby, how about liberty? How about freedom? How can libertarians have central authority, command blueprint using government force to implement anything?

      You remind me of the stories of American slaves( Or Soviets after the Soviet Union collapse)freed from plantation that then just started following the Union Army around, because their minds had been so conditioned to slavery, that they didn’t know what to do with them selves. Basically, you were asking for a new master. You just want to meet the new boss

    27. Isdor Says:


      Well the communist atheists killed 100 million.

      There is also the survey of the british prison system that shows that Atheists are over represented by %110.

      I also don’t buy that atheists are moral out of conviction or even believe the things they do out of reason, though you might be an exception.

      The impression I get that most atheist intellectuals were motivated by emotional problems and complexes at an early age.

      The rank and file atheists either inherited their beliefs or enjoy the feeling of intellectually superiority their beliefs give them.

      The way Atheists rub their beliefs in your face is worst than any christian fundamentalist I ever met.

      This is not something I hold against Atheists though. I think feeling superior, or going along with the crowd is what motivates the beliefs of most people, religious and atheists.

    28. Tatyana Says:

      Oh, the usual imbecile garbage.
      Never mind.
      Carry on.

      I’m sorry I wasted an hour of my precious life on a piece of sanctimonious bully trash.

    29. Birt Says:

      Tatyana – You seem to have odd ideas about what a religious person is, or maybe not that odd, since you have your own set of simple stereotypes regarding religion. I trust you are intelligent enough to discern those stereotypes in your earlier posts, and I’m sure you feel you are very intelligent, since you consider yourself a atheist, and know everything there is to know about the purpose of humanity.

      The point is, everything you find wrong with religion goes double for the alternative, a belief in nothing. At least the agnostics are honest with themselves, by saying they don’t know, atheists have the hubris to know they are right, or at least hope they are right, and everyone else has to be wrong, since what kind of person would believe in spirits?

      In a godless universe, there is no right or wrong, only what is or isn’t. Those are the true beliefs of the atheists/left. Christian morality has nothing to do with it.

    30. Tatyana Says:

      Birt, you think you are in the position to evaluate my intelligence? That you have a right to tell me I have stereotypes?

      You know why we can’t stand talking to you goddists? Because you are a broken record, repeating the same pieces of mindless propaganda, stupidest fantasies of what, in your primitive brain, OUR thinking might be, then fighting against that strawman with all the elegance and wit of a stinky ogre – and then telling US that “atheists are in my face”.

      No, Birt. Not “everything that’s wrong with religion goes double with belief in nothing”. That’s your fear speaking, a fear to be left without a cheat sheet, to be on your own. Don’t be afraid, you have it in yourself to live decently without your daily or weekly dose of sanctimony and constant search for scapegoats.

      I’m not “odd”. You are.

    31. renminbi Says:

      Why should an atheist be so upset that people believe in God? The only thing that would bother me is being told what I should believe and as far as I can see the people who want to run my life are as a practical matter, secularists like BO and especialy his abettors among the MSM.

    32. Laura(southernxyl) Says:

      “But my husband’s colleague shouted at me, deeply disturbed, how dare you, he said, how dare you make television narratives of these people’s ragged and fragmented lives. It is you who are at fault, you who force upon these people meanings when there is none.”

      Sometimes people want to tell their dang story. Sometimes they’re compelled to.

      It is an ancient Mariner,
      And he stoppeth one of three.
      `By thy long beard and glittering eye,
      Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?

      The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide,
      And I am next of kin;
      The guests are met, the feast is set:
      May’st hear the merry din.’

      He holds him with his skinny hand,
      `There was a ship,’ quoth he.


      I too was irritated at the pitchfork statement.

    33. sol vason Says:

      I agree completely with your note on elitism. A giant “DITTO”!

      When the world behaves differently from the way an Elitist believes it should behave, an elitist will never wonder if he is wrong. Instead, he will set things right.

      The only way to fight elitists is to keep power out of their hands. The only way to keep power out of their hands is to have little or no government. It is better to suffer from the lack of government than to suffer from too much government. The first is merely inconvenient, the second can get you killed.

    34. Michael Kennedy Says:

      You know why we can’t stand talking to you goddists? Because you are a broken record, repeating the same pieces of mindless propaganda, stupidest fantasies of what, in your primitive brain,

      Amazing to see such a clear, yet unconscious, example of the elitist mind set. I’m sure Obama has thoughts like this, as well.

      I followed the thread because of the mention of “narrative” in human thought. We are almost certainly hard wired for such narrative. We could even call it the “religion gene,” I suppose. Taleb, in the Black Swan blames the need for narrative as a strong predisposing factor in our difficulties with randomness. We can be religious in the traditional sense, or a devotee of global warming, or even militant atheism in which we denigrate the intelligence of those who disagree. Somehow, everyone needs narrative.

    35. Tatyana Says:

      No surprise there, Mr. Kennedy. Every opportunity to kick somebody you don’t know and never met before – while adding your voice to the choir.

      Appeal to “popular opinion” against “elitists” had been the oldest trick in history. A lesson: he that screams louder than all about evil elitists is looking to become one when he gains power. See: Lenin and Co. Or Obama. Or Marat. Or any “populist” politician.

    36. Anonymous Says:


      I’m sorry you feel that way. I am actually not religious. I am just suspicious of people who think they have overcome human nature and are superior to the rest of us primitives.

    37. Anymouse Says:

      Well the communist atheists killed 100 million.
      There is also the survey of the british prison system that shows that Atheists are over represented by %110.

      I notice you didn’t reply to his evidence. You just went off on a tangent.

    38. Ginny Says:

      Michael Kennedy,
      Yes, there’s a lot of discussion among the “bio-critics” or “literary Darwinists” about the role of narrative. Lisa Zunshine’s Why We Read Fiction is interesting – I like her egalitarian approach that moves from Austen to Lolita to pop stuff to gossip). This new approach reclaims literature as a source of both our fascination with others’ stories & the expression of our own – moving literature from the strange and narrow shelf on which the post-modernists put it.

      A book highly anticipated but not yet out that discusses this is Brian Boyd’s On the Origin of Stories. His discussion moves from the great epics to Dr. Seuss. (His other field of expertise, by the way, is in Russian literature, in which he has published widely.) Our desire to make sense of our lives, to connect the dots, is surely one of our most driving needs.

      This is an absorbing idea. I have been intending a post prompted by one of my student’s descriptions of how EMDR worked – the book he recommended was EMDR – to help him overcome the trauma from his service in Iraq. It seemed to reinforce the arguments of the bio narrative critics. The concept is huge (the book itself seems to be pop psychology; I’d like to see someone weigh in on it with expertise).

      A subsidiary topic are the different responses to emdr (at least as I explain it – which isn’t professional and is heavily influenced by my point of view – that of a lit person). Not surprisingly, the one I found most upsetting was my husband’s friend’s response – that of the post-modernist I describe above. Many others, however, have responded with examples of how they or their families used narratives in ways that helped reconcile them, helped them see other’s points of view, etc. etc.

      By the way, pimping my own perspective – years ago I put up a post here, “Someday this Will Make a Great Anecdote”, that discussed the way we develop our own narratives of our own lives. Lex’s response was not unlike Susan Lee’s above – and I think both she and he, different as they are, are wise. But, of course, we also connect dots because it is a pragmatic way to understand cause & effect, what works, etc.

      Sometimes its hard to connect the dots, but there is an interesting thread of those interested in your point amidst much that isn’t in the comments above. I’m grateful to those observations. To demonstrate that I, too, have my obsessions with which I return to more often than perhaps I should, here is another link – to an earlier appreciation of Brian Boyd, though he’s mentioned at other points. At that link I note a certain approach: “(Those guys from Down Under don’t mince words; even lit critics sound Jacksonian, an earlier Boyd is entitled “Theory is Dead – Like a Zombie”.)

    39. Birt Says:

      Tatyana – I thought I made it clear to you that I asked you to evaluate your intelligence, and yes, based on the consent of the website, I have the right to voice my opinion according to the 1st amendment of the Bill of Rights, Rights endowed by the Creator and guaranteed by my Government.

      And your response concerning my intelligence, confirms to me you are probably unable to conduct a reasonable argument without resorting to slandering my character, which does put me in the position, if I choose to, being a free man, to question your wit and credibility concerning religion discourse.

      The argument here is not so much your belief in atheism as much as your condescending belief that you are better then those who believe in a God. Who else do you have contempt for?

    40. sol vason Says:

      The problem is that some atheists have transformed their atheism into a religion complete with Messianic intolerance. The US is founded on the notion that every person may worship when, where and as they please as long as they don’t frighten the horses.

      The problem with atheists is their absolute intolerance and refusal to allow anyone to worship any god other than theirs. We left Europe, Asia and Africa to get away from these religious wars and here we are at the beginning of a new one.

      So I ask Atheists who worship Nobody and seek to prevent us from worshipping our gods. Don’t reignite the wars of religion. It’s one thing to worship Nobody. But are you ready to die for Nobody?

    41. mishu Says:


      Like Isdor, I’m also disappointed that you feel this towards religious people. While you protest that those of us who challenge your assertions don’t really know you, we can only know you by what you post. Now, I was sympathetic to the fact I may have twisted your words in another thread about suffering the fools of religion. It’s true that you didn’t say such a thing but you did express empathy towards that attitude. Now, you are indignant that some people have pointed out stereotypes you have expressed about religious people. Perhaps some people can be offended by your stereotypes like you can be offended by stereotypes about atheists. I really don’t care whether you believe in a higher power or not. Personally, I attend St. Mattress on Sunday mornings. However, acknowledging that some atheists are just as dogmatic (think of Rob Sherman) as some religious people. It’s one thing to say that religion is not for you, it’s quite another to say that *all* religious people are small minded authoritarians out to control your life.

    42. Mike K Says:

      Two thoughts on the narrative theme:

      1. The solution for bad memories (or good ones) may be coming although I don’t know if it will be a blessing or a curse (sorry Tatyana).

      Researchers in Brooklyn have recently accomplished comparable feats, with a single dose of an experimental drug delivered to areas of the brain critical for holding specific types of memory, like emotional associations, spatial knowledge or motor skills.

      The drug blocks the activity of a substance that the brain apparently needs to retain much of its learned information. And if enhanced, the substance could help ward off dementias and other memory problems.

      It would also be handy for the “memory hole.”

      2. Steven Pinker’s book The Blank Slate makes a strong argument that behavior is powerfully influenced by genetics. One would think this threatens religion but my atheist, leftist daughter (Anthropology) refuses even to read it. It pretty thoroughly refutes Stephen Jay Gould.

    43. kevin Says:

      I have been confused by the charge made that Sarah Palin is some how the most vacuous person to run for higher office. How can you square that statement with her obvious accomplishments in elective office. Of course Alaskan hicks elected her – how silly of me. Was she a “deep” political thinker with a large trove of scholarly writings on political theory. No, but neither is Barack as evidenced by the glaring lack of any Paper trail. Neither was John Kerry, or Al Gore (his book on global warming is at best a joke right) or any of the Bushes. Reagan was a deep political thinker, though I’m sure those on the left would disagree as he only went to Eureka college and was a middling student. Sarah Palin is an effective Politician who with actual accomplishments, governing from the center of Alaskan political life. Focusing on good government, responsible spending and economic growth. Her pick of Planned Parenthood person for State supreme court would seem to give lie to she is a backwoods christian nut. in my opinion, the vacuous politician title seems to be Barack. A man with no actual accomplishments, never seemed to have a job where results actually matter, zero paper trail, zero record of opposing any one in his own party. But he sure does speak pretty words. Meaningless words, but pretty. As long as he has his teleprompter

    44. Ginny Says:

      Kevin, Of course, I agree with you in general. In particular, however, it is generally a useful approach to ignore comments by Fred. They aren’t meant to be taken seriously, I assume.

    45. Michael Kennedy Says:

      I’m reading another biography of Roosevelt, A Traitor to His Class, and it is impressive how great the difference in accomplishment is that exists between the 1924 Roosevelt and Obama as president. I don’t agree with the author’s apparent politics (he attributes all interest in Mussolini in the 1920s to Republican businessmen, for example) but he does a good job showing what an impressive figure Roosevelt was by then. I fear our politics have been badly trivialized.

      I should add that, while I agree that Roosevelt’s policies failed to shorten the Depression, and may have added to its length, I don’t think anyone knew any better. Now we have no such excuse.