Recent links of note:
“The American Character”
Charles Hill, Defining Ideas
These days, it's become common to conceive of “Americanness” as no more than a brief catalogue of basic ideas. Religious toleration, free expression, and representative government may be the pillars of our national project, but we’ve lost our old sense of the subtler bits of American character that set us apart from our peers. Charles Hill, a former foreign service officer now teaching the humanities at Yale, is both experienced enough to remember a time when American literature keyed into our unique traits and well-traveled enough to see through the delusion that these traits can be found in every country and culture. In a piece for the Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas, Hill has compiled a list of early and modern classics that capture flashes of our country’s personality from each author’s distinct angle. Highlights include Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which Hill believes to offer an example of quiet strength that modern Americans mistake for passivity, and Cole Porter’s song lyrics, which vocalize the irreverence of the early twentieth century and America’s struggle with morality and modernism.
“Orlando was Not a Tragedy”
R. R. Reno, First Things
In the aftermath of a barbaric attack, it takes courage and clear vision just to call things by their real names. This is First Things editor R. R. Reno’s thesis in his recent editorial about the terrorist rampage that claimed fifty lives at a gay nightclub in Orlando. By Reno’s judgment, the word “tragedy” on every pundit and politician’s lips is a distortion of the classical understanding of the term, which referred to suffering that results from logical consequences. When people in positions of power deploy the t-word today, they refer to the immense emotion of the event but stop short of addressing its logic, preferring to treat colossal slaughter as a “senseless” or “inexplicable” speed bump in the otherwise smooth course of American life. Reno shows understanding, if not sympathy, for this evasive language—if we acknowledged that attacks like the one in Orlando are deliberate and typical, it would leave us no choice but to engage our enemies in a long and costly war. But with each mounting slaughter, sensible observers should prefer the harsh truth that war is already underway to the cozy cocoon of emotional rhetoric.
By the Editors:
“Joe Zucker: Armada”
Harrison Tenzer, The Brooklyn Rail
A review of the exhibition curated by James Panero at the National Arts Club.
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