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Writing in No-Man's-Land

Me and The New York Times

Hell, as long as the man on the stump whips up on limp-dick liberals, a white rural fellow might even vote for an oligarchic Manhattan real estate pirate who talks about a secret plan to fix his stressful working-class life. If he hollers at people escorting hecklers out of the auditorium to “punch him in the face!” or if he speaks before a roomful of cops and encourages them to bang the heads of those they arrest against the roofs of their patrol cars. "Don't be nice!" In dog whistle language, Kick the shit out of 'em!

If LBJ was right, these working class people are ripe to have their pockets picked.

Have we lost the thread of The New York Times in all this? Not if one accepts today’s right-wing politics as a return of the days of the nineteenth century Know Nothing Party, a political party opposed to immigrants and advocating other bigotries that proudly (like a thumb in your eye) refers to itself as knowing nothing. It's a manifestation of the saying "ignorance is bliss" -- what the great preacher in Ecclesiastes spoke to when he said, “All is vanity” and “He who increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow.” No need to be sad; just be stupid: There’s comfort and power there. Well-staffed, deeply-resourced and “liberal” journalistic institutions like The New York Times are the antidote to this kind of demagoguery, the garlic hanging on the door to keep the vampires at bay. (I should add the word liberal is, here, meant in the original sense of the word that comes out of the Enlightenment, which brought light to the Dark Ages through the free and open pursuit of secular and scientific knowledge.)

For me, “President Trump” is making it clearer than ever that Professor Frankfurt is onto something when he suggests we live in a world built on bullshit, a world where the distinction between fiction and non-fiction may be a hindrance to the search for truth. In addition to bullshit, there’s all the secrecy; the fact is we have no idea what our military is doing thanks to the walled off secret world they work in. One thing that can leap these walls -- or go right through them -- is human imagination. Again, this may be why there is no distinction between fiction and non-fiction in places like Eastern Europe, Africa and the Arab world. We make ourselves secure in the chaos of life by constructing meaning and creating metaphors out of familiar things that allow us to get a grip on unfamiliar things. Some of us, then, enforce our certainties on others via the standard vehicles of power, laws and violence.

On the other hand, knowing these things provides the healthy, compassionate person fertile soil for humility and an openness to new things and to people different from oneself. It emphasizes the need to respect nature in its raw state. No one understood this more than Walt Whitman. Consider the opening lines of his great poem “Song Of Myself,” which is less about himself than it is about taking joy and making sense out of the rich, essential chaos of life in America:

I celebrate myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

. . .

There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now;
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.

story | by Dr. Radut