Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Our Perishing Republic

The news being dominated by Penn St. and Aurora, I’ve been thinking how common the course of cruelty and violence is in America these days, though much of it flows unreported, in families, schools, and the workplace. Sandusky and the Aurora gunman both sought out innocent victims and imposed unspeakable but all too common abuse upon them. Meantime, men in authority dither or connive: Coach Paterno stands accused of having sacrificed Jerry’s victims on the altar of gridiron self-aggrandizement, while neither Obama nor Romney will even mention guns in their tut-tutting about the Aurora massacre, and we must suppose that the next “national tragedy” will unfold soon enough. The father of a boy killed at Columbine, with the ironic name of Mauser (a major German weapons manufacturer), told Chris Matthews last night that the American people have given up on gun control, because the NRA and its lobbyists have worn them out promoting the idea that the Constitution grants our citizens the unassailable right to own ammo and firearms, even assault rifles with 100-round magazines—“for deer hunting,” says Senator Rob Johnson (R – WI), with a twinkle in his eye. And I think of Jeffers’ “Shine, Perishing Republic”: “While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening to empire, / And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the mass hardens . . . // But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the thickening center; corruption / Never has been        compulsory. . . .”


  1. The historian Morris Berman in anticipation of a dark ages in America said something similar to Jeffers; he said we will survive it only by "creating ‘zones of intelligence’ in a private, local way, and then deliberately keeping them out of the public eye.” Much like warning your children to "keep their distance from the thickening center."

  2. I wonder if having our children "keep their distance" is wise. Best to harden them off, temper the steel, for the reality of the new normal.

    "how common the course of cruelty and violence is in America these days, though much of it flows unreported"

    yesterday, i was short on time and stopped downtown in the wildlands for a pack of cigs. as i came out of the convenience store, two people fell upon me right away to ask for money; i refused and headed for my car; three kids, no more than 14 or 15, made a bungled attempt to rob me; i'm no flower-child, having drawn sufficient blood in my youth with my hands not to be detered...i have a permit to carry but do not own a handgun...i use the permit while traveling the state with a firearm when we hike, hunt, or fish remote areas...what saddened me was the disregard these three kids, no more than 14 or 15, had for their own lives...i am grateful i never purchased a handgun or carried one...i can't imagine living with myself if i ever used it...i thought to myself when i got home...how much money did i have...$3 in change...i never reported what happened, did not tell my wife...strange that the event is so personal yet i feel more comfortable telling the world...

    I guess it was my fault...i should have kept my distance from the very community in which i've lived for 56 years.

  3. The bright City on the Hill is no longer, nor has it ever been, save in the minds of those current self-proclaimed idealists who can enter the Founders minds (Scalia, Teapublicans, et al.). One must read the Federalist Papers (and Anti-Federalist Papers) to appreciate the uncertainty inherent to the concept of “democracy.” America has had a good run despite colonial and modern-day witch hunts, and slavery and shirtwaist factory tragedies, among other travesties we like to sweep under the rug of “patriotism.” But like the Romans once did, we have moved on, and like them, we have entered the Plutocratic Age in which the “common good” is a soiled concept and “wisdom” is validated by obscene wealth. Our Manifest Destiny has been proven a hollow shell into which we pour our national treasure of lives and gold while we collectively wallow in the muck of well-informed ignorance. Oh for the good old days of “The Trolley Song.”

  4. Very sad and true. I disagree about keeping the children away from the thickening center. That center must be shown to them, they are the ones who can (maybe)make a change. If they don't see the corruption how can they continue the fight, hopeless as it seems?

  5. Here is another comment, from a biologist at a midwestern university:

    It is the enforcement, which is missing, and I do not mean enforcement
    by the law enforcement, it is the enforcement from within. Resisting the
    temptation to do something nasty, mean or horrible.
    There will be those who are missing this feedback and experts who study
    this stuff have a name for it. For the rest of us, they are just nuts.
    Academic departments have lot of nuts in their ranks, students and
    faculty. But we cannot say "nuts" anymore. We cannot even say much of
    anything about anybody, as there are laws regarding privacy and family
    So, maybe instead looking for something to ban, what about making it OK
    to say somebody is nuts. More people will notice before the nut needs a
    public defender.