It will be interesting to teach Emerson again after two years away

In 2016, all I had to say to get the discussion started about “Self-Reliance” —

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think–

was “Ayn Rand.” This coming spring, in the Trumpera, the discussion seems all too likely to self-start out of an indignant and rejecting silence.

Still, yes:

Nature is the opposite of the soul, answering to it part for part. One is seal, and one is print. Its beauty is the beauty of his own mind. Its laws are the laws of his own mind. Nature then becomes to him the measure of his attainments. So much of nature as he is ignorant of, so much of his own mind does he not yet possess. And, in fine, the ancient precept, “Know thyself,” and the modern precept, “Study nature,” become at last one maxim.

It’s true, as you see. Nature doesn’t contemplate the possibility of an Ayn or a Donald. In her domain there is only law, reproducing its works by contemplating itself.

DSC_6078aiG

Sources: Emerson, “Self-Reliance” and “The American Scholar”

Too obvious to be interesting: decor has an ideology

The New York Times article about a California man arrested for making death threats against employees of the Boston Globe:

A page from the FBI affidavit in support of an arrest warrant:

full.pdf

https://int.nyt.com/data/documenthelper/208-fbi-boston-globe/5c72a97e953539a55fb2/optimized/full.pdf#page=1

Photoshopped only for contrast and color balance, an image of the suspect’s home:

17513 Califa St - Google Maps A

The bars on the door. The spiked fence. On a grassy street, the yard seeded with sharp-needled cactus.

There really is no need to quote Robert Frost, is there?

Lyric

On Ash Wednesday, February 14, 2018, a man with an AR-15 rifle strolled into a high school in Parkland, Florida, and killed fourteen students and three teachers. Unusually, the event remained in the news for days afterward. In consequence, President Trump made a television appearance in which he hinted that he might be in favor of some form of gun control.

President Trump’s Republican party joined in the mourning. On March 1, Republican strategist Rick Wilson searched his language, found the word “horror,” and gave it a larger meaning by connecting it with other bad things, this way.

Trump has seen the fresh-faced, well-spoken Parkland kids, with stories of the genuine horror they witnessed, their push for strict gun control, including the banning of semiautomatic rifles, particularly AR-15s, and for a general rollback of Second Amendment liberties.

Those who witnessed the killing, Mr. Wilson’s language explained, had experienced, in the recent past, horror. But in the present, those who possess semiautomatic rifles may be about to experience rollback. Read literally, that metaphor rollback refers not to a thing, such as a statute governing the sale of firearms, but to an occurrence taking place across time: a change; something not (for instance) written down but in process of being written down. And if the language of statute teaches itself to contemplate rollback, the Second Amendment, whose “well regulated militia” originated with the slave patrols that prevented liberty and killed those who sought it, will be in peril of losing its unchanging ideal meaning as a liberty an sich. It may prove to be rollable back from that interpretation, like a rock from before a tomb.

That would be a horror far worse than anything merely genuine, for once the rock has been rolled back, what can the changeless idea of the genuine mean? In Mr. Wilson’s sentence, the word, having lost its meaning, makes the whole predication ungenuine. “The horror they witnessed,” with no modifier, would have been simple and clear, and a modifier signaling itself to be a rhetorical limiter, such as “the so-called ‘horror’ they witnessed,” would have established a unity of tone with the rest of the sentence. But in “the genuine horror they witnessed,” the nakedness of “genuine” just looks like a typo. It tells a truth that its speaker himself refuses to think. Abstracted from life and the human, it is a verbal phenomenon reduced to nothing but its physical minimum, sound. It would be a word if it had a referent, but it doesn’t have a referent. It is only a lyrical sound.

The party of semiautomatic rifles throws back its head and howls the lyric. It is a next step in the evolution of music.

Source: Rick Wilson, “When you let a closet Democrat like Trump lead the GOP, this is what you get.” Washington Post, March 1, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/03/01/we-kissed-conservatism-goodbye-when-we-let-trump-lead-the-gop

A grammar of myopia

Taking the shortest possible historical view, David Brooks writes:

The Bob Corkers of the [Republican] party are leaving while the Roy Moores are ascending. Trump himself is unhindered while everyone else is frozen and scared. As a result, the Republican Party is becoming a party permanently associated with bigotry.

(“A Philosophical Assault on Trumpism,” New York Times print edition 3 October 2017, p. A27)

Mr. Brooks’s verb phrase “is becoming” is in the present progressive tense. But wouldn’t an accurate grammar of the past require the historical record to include, at the least, Richard Nixon, Strom Thurmond, Rush Limbaugh, and Lee Atwater and his Gadarene pigpen of Republican operatives? Shouldn’t Mr. Brook’s sentence therefore be in the present perfect: “The Republican Party has become a party permanently associated with bigotry”?

Or even with an intensifier — “The Republican Party has long since become a party permanently associated with bigotry”?