A Stylish Diversion

David Foster’s discussion of the numerous analogies – some helpful, some not – that have been spun from the Titanic disaster reminded me of an essay’s  rather lovely job of spinning out for two pages a simple analogy.  The verbal play within it does bring home a point.   By Pico Iyer, it was one of those two-page essays in Time, when people read it.  (Clint’s uncle still subscribes to it – I didn’t know anyone did – but bed ridden and in his eighties, he uses it mainly to rail against modernity – or what passes for it in Time.)  Anyway, here’s “In Praise of the Humble Comma” – a short read but I’ll tempt you with the opening:

The gods, they say, give breath, and they take it away. But the same could be said — could it not? — of the humble comma. Add it to the present clause, and, of a sudden, the mind is, quite literally, given pause to think; take it out if you wish or forget it and the mind is deprived of a resting place. Yet still the comma gets no respect. It seems just a slip of a thing, a pedant’s tick, a blip on the edge of our consciousness, a kind of printer’s smudge almost. Small, we claim, is beautiful (especially in the age of the microchip). Yet what is so often used, and so rarely recalled, as the comma — unless it be breath itself?

 

Something Light from Ukraine

Netflix is streaming Servant of the People; we’ve been enjoying it.  A sit com juxtaposed with the daily news of death and destruction is trivial, but few cultural artifacts are more interesting than those that reveal what a nation laughs at, what it likes.   The series satirizes corrupt government but also reflects daily life and asserts values that attracted its public.

The charismatic Zelensky we see on the news has a touch of the honorable, naive history teacher he portrayed just a few years ago;  we’ve only seen the first few episodes, but the ghost we might most want to represent our own history – Abraham Lincoln – appears to advise him as he nervously goes over his inaugural speech.

Some of you may be (quite understandably) opposed to Netflix, but I’m not sure if this is streaming somewhere else. If anyone knows  of other outlets or where the second season or the film produced between the two is showing, please comment.

Response to David that wandered off

I think this supports your point, David, but prompted less by reasoning than impulse:  I am not discriminating in my television viewing,  but, frustrated when Trump seems less persuasive than he should be, I turn off his speeches and interviews.   I didn’t really want to vote for him, but to vote any other way was to betray America to a nominee and a party of grifters, liars, and if not actual traitors then a good imitation.  But within the first day he did many sensible and surprising things – and it continued. He was surprising, directed, somewhat idealistic but also practical.  Energy independence – at last someone who understood its value, the importance of energy!  So, his feckless opposition won and here we are – having thrown away an incredibly important position.   (Remember how Pelosi told us when Palin campaigned,  we couldn’t drill our way to independence?  Is it always 2008 or 2012 for those people?)

Talk of his totalitarian streak was absurd; he was bombastic, the force of his will and personality dominate any scene. But his belief that a buy-in from Europe was necessary for true partnership and for NATO to fulfill its mission was that of an honest partner; he thought Israel should be able to decide where its capitol was, he took seriously the North African sentiments – expressed before but not taken seriously – that they had other fears and other fish to fry, they weren’t solely defined by Palestine.  He thought Congress should take responsibility and the states should not be ridden over in a national power grab, he accepted the division of adversaries – the executive needed to stand up to foreign powers and the states should be responsible for keeping law and order, even if he found some mayors and governors frustrating.  This gaudy entrepreneur argued for prudence – lowering the price of the presidential plane, fighting waste and increasing productivity.  He accepted a structure that didn’t make him king.  He was not a tall Fauci and he hadn’t the Doctor’s Napoleon complex.  He understood schools’ influence, money and policies should arise from local entities.  He backed de Vos as she increased choices for parents and justice in controlling campus crime.  He valued the blood of our soldiers in a way that Biden never has.

More perceptive people got out of his speeches the energy and vision I appreciated.  Of course, I’d rather  a leader acted like a statesman than sounded like one and it would have been nice if idiots on the other side didn’t reduce everything to ad hominem. His defended himself  – fiercely, quickly, angrily fired back before all the lies or nasty memes became immersed in the wide subconscious.  Of course, you are right, a more systematic, rational presentation would have been useful; it also might have raised the level of discussion to policy (where I suspect much more than half the nation would have stood with him).  Unfortunately for us, the Churchills and Lincolns of the world don’t come around that often.  And even a well-formed argument isn’t a skill America values as it once did.  (I taught freshman rhetoric for years. Sure, we read Orwell, sure we talked about the fallacies, but I don’t think I knew and certainly didn’t teach the formal structures that help a writer solidify and reason an audience to agreement.)

I insisted on facts and objectivity and always assumed a knowable and falsifiable truth.  The following segues shamelessly to another tempting arena, demonstrating erratic organization.

An interesting take-down of CRT in terms of the Enlightenment/Romanticism is spelled out in the American Enterprise podcast, hosted by Thiessen and Pletka, “WTH is critical race theory? How a philosophy that inspired Marxism, Nazism, and Jim Crow is making its way into our schools, and what we can do”:

Read more

Rittenhouse Found (Appropriately) Not Guilty but Who Was?

I have not followed the Rittenhouse case as closely as many, but I’m old – we’ve been there before. Remember the 70’s, the 80’s?  Last year a hundred thousand Americans died of overdoses; theft is not prosecuted in some cities.  Did we think our lives would be peaceful?  Did we then, as we pulled out some of the pillars that held the roof over our society, protecting and ordering it?  Some of those pillars were being reconstructed, but the last few years have seen their destruction, again and more thoroughly.

Rittenhouse, certainly out of self-defense, killed, but these deaths are not just the result of the actions of the men, apparently unhinged and certainly violent and predatory from long before Blake was shot, that attacked him.  The fault also lies in those in charge, who have little humility in taking over our lives from cradle to grave, but shrug off their first responsibility – to nurture an ordered society, where the rights of citizens are protected and civility reigns.  They seem to want to take our guns but they certainly don’t want to protect us.  Our leaders have lost a sense of the priorities outlined in our unique, beautiful, and profound Constitution.  However, it codifies and organizes responsibilities long seen as a government’s duty:  to protect citizens from threats external (the federal) and internal (the state and city). They found a sensible format for fulfilling those duties – one with checks and balances.  Our tradition, of course, has always included a healthy bit of personal responsibility, of self-protection.  Rittenhouse is in that tradition.  Those who did not do their duty are in no position to scoff at someone who tries to protect the home town of his father and grandmother.

Read more

A Note on Votes

Parents want to take responsibility, perhaps, but they have (I certainly often did) shirked their responsibility to keep track of the teachers and their good and bad teaching;  this new movement is surely restorative, good, appropriate. Our public schools have been examples of the tragedy of the commons – who really was taking care of the children, nurturing their minds?    Who respected the students/children enough, the discipline they taught enough,  not to give gruel and expect equally watered down responses?  For many school boards this Tuesday will be a reckoning – we’ll see how much parents cared, how much others cared.