Is insidious destruction of our democracy by a bureaucratic samurai with the soothing voice of a boys’ school headmaster even more dangerous than a self-destructive buffoon ripping up our values in plain sight?
As a historian who sometimes teaches about Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, I have to give Trump credit for one thing: His constant upending of the broad political consensus that emerged after World War II and the Cold War means that basic historical terms are constantly making it into the news and national discourse as quasi new problems, new questions. As upsetting as these times are, as abhorrent as Trump is, it is hard to deny the value of Ron Elving’s reaction to the president’s recent statement about being a nationalist:
We are about to have a national conversation about the word nationalist.
And Elving wants to offer nuance to the term’s meanings in past and present—well, as much as anyone can in some 1,100 words. See the whole article at NPR.
If you have the stomach for more on relating to a filmmaker’s work who you now know (but perhaps tried to forget) is a child molester, this piece from May 2016 by Matt Zoller Seitz is worth considering: “I Believe Dylan Farrow.”
Such is the kind of reading I sometimes find myself doing these days when I least expect it. I’ll try to escape the everyday with a comedy, but then I’ll dig around the web to learn more about its makers or players. If this effort lands me back in the ugly everyday, pieces like this one help me see how other people deal with such contradictions, which are about much more than art.
The caption reads, “I’ve decided to accept God, but he has to become Italian.” The German here for “accept,” “gelten lassen,” could also be translated as “allow.” Source: Simpicissimus, May 3, 1926, http://www.simplicissimus.info.
I have had health insurance through my employer these past seven years, but I still depend on the Affordable Care Act. It has made the scope of coverage meaningful, especially by including so-called preexisting conditions. It has also relieved me of anxiety caused by not knowing if I would have health insurance from one year to the next. Yes, coverage has been growing more expensive, but at least there have been those statewide exchanges and—if need be—subsidies, which, I thought, would still make insurance possible.
Enter bomb-throwing DJT.
Header image: Angela De Rosette, SP.M.0911, 2001, via LoC PPOC
Dear National Security Establishment,
Please stop your collective freak-out about North Korea. The power of that country’s weapons lies mainly in our inability to tolerate any risk whatsoever.
False information gains strength from its roots in stories that make sense to a lot of people; mow down the latest false facts and more will soon sprout until we address those stories themselves—and the reasons people believe them.
– Paul, J. Croce, “What We Can Learn from Fake News,” History News Network, July 23, 2017, http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/166400.
Jeet Heer’s provocative commentary in the New Republic is worth a read: “America Has Always Been Angry and Violent”. The historical rhetoric he offers is startling. I definitely need to read more U.S. history.
I’ve been off RSS readers for a while, in part because of Google’s exit from the game, but also because of information overload. Thinking about using it again and revisiting some old stomping grounds in the blogosphere, I found Dan Cohen’s relevant comments on Ann Blair’s Too Much to Know. Seems I am in good company with my occasional ignoring of information—ignoring that I prefer to think won’t lead to, might even prevent, ignorance.
I treat Twitter rather cavalierly too, as if it were a place to hang out, learn stuff, share things, and then leave—sometimes for longer spells. If I view all these information inputs in social terms, this is a perfectly rational way to engage with the Twittersphere. If I worried about missing some bit of news, some fascinating article or weird event, I would never get anything done and my mind would become a still murkier mess. Besides, meaningful ideas and conversations tend to have longer lifespans, and they make themselves felt in other contexts.
Dan’s piece, indeed his whole blog, reminds me of another thing. Much ostensibly older writing on the web has value, and sometimes we should take a moment to read bits of it instead of gulping down and spewing forth a remixed version of the latest clever insight or rant. (I’m talking about myself here, bigly, uh, big league.)
If we pass around quotes on images without even a hint of the quotes’ origins, aren’t we part of the problem?