This is a belated testimonial to Elie Wiesel, who died earlier this year, on 2 July 2016, thirty years after he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his extraordinary work on justice, testimony, memory, violence, oppression and persecution. On 10 December 1986, in Oslo's City Hall, Elie Wiesel spoke of the significance of receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. He cast his address in the form of a dialogue with himself as a young boy, imprisoned in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps, a story he told so eloquently in his autobiographical account, Night (retranslated in 2002 by his wife Marion). "The witness has forced himself to testify. For the youth of today, for the children who will be born tomorrow. He does not want his past to become their future."
This is what I say to the young Jewish boy wondering what I have done with his years. It is in his name that I speak to you and that I express to you my deepest gratitude. No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged from the kingdom of night. We know that every moment is a moment of grace, every hour an offering; not to share them would mean to betray them. Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately.
I remember: it happened yesterday or eternities ago. A young Jewish boy discovered the kingdom of night. I remember his bewilderment, I remember his anguish. It all happened so fast. The ghetto. The deportation. The sealed cattle car. The fiery altar upon which the history of our people and the future of mankind were meant to be sacrificed.
I remember: he asked his father: "Can this be true?" This is the twentieth century, not the Middle Ages. Who would allow such crimes to be committed? How could the world remain silent?
And now the boy is turning to me: "Tell me," he asks. "What have you done with my future? What have you done with your life?"
And I tell him that I have tried. That I have tried to keep memory alive, that I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices.
And then I explained to him how naive we were, that the world did know and remain silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.
Of course, since I am a Jew profoundly rooted in my peoples' memory and tradition, my first response is to Jewish fears, Jewish needs, Jewish crises. For I belong to a traumatized generation, one that experienced the abandonment and solitude of our people. It would be unnatural for me not to make Jewish priorities my own: Israel, Soviet Jewry, Jews in Arab lands ... But there are others as important to me. Apartheid is, in my view, as abhorrent as anti-Semitism. To me, Andrei Sakharov's isolation is as much of a disgrace as Josef Biegun's imprisonment. As is the denial of Solidarity and its leader Lech Walesa's right to dissent. And Nelson Mandela's interminable imprisonment.
There is so much injustice and suffering crying out for our attention: victims of hunger, of racism, and political persecution, writers and poets, prisoners in so many lands governed by the Left and by the Right. Human rights are being violated on every continent. More people are oppressed than free. And then, too, there are the Palestinians to whose plight I am sensitive but whose methods I deplore. Violence and terrorism are not the answer. Something must be done about their suffering, and soon. I trust Israel, for I have faith in the Jewish people. Let Israel be given a chance, let hatred and danger be removed from her horizons, and there will be peace in and around the Holy Land.
Yes, I have faith. Faith in God and even in His creation. Without it no action would be possible. And action is the only remedy to indifference: the most insidious danger of all. Isn't this the meaning of Alfred Nobel's legacy? Wasn't his fear of war a shield against war?
There is much to be done, there is much that can be done. One person – a Raoul Wallenberg, an Albert Schweitzer, one person of integrity, can make a difference, a difference of life and death. As long as one dissident is in prison, our freedom will not be true. As long as one child is hungry, our lives will be filled with anguish and shame. What all these victims need above all is to know that they are not alone; that we are not forgetting them, that when their voices are stifled we shall lend them ours, that while their freedom depends on ours, the quality of our freedom depends on theirs.
This is what I say to the young Jewish boy wondering what I have done with his years. It is in his name that I speak to you and that I express to you my deepest gratitude. No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged from the kingdom of night. We know that every moment is a moment of grace, every hour an offering; not to share them would mean to betray them. Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately.
Members of Seniors for Peace here in Mill Valley gathered yesterday to read poems about peace. I chose a poem by my close friend Richard O. Moore, from his last book of published poems, Particulars of Place (Omnidawn, 2015). The poem is called "Jackstraw," and it's part of a longer series of poems called "Scaffolds."
This morning, reviewing the poems chosen by others, I found myself immersed again in the long-admired poetry of Wislawa Szymborska, who won a Nobel Prize in 1996. I thought I was familiar with her published work, but I discovered a poem I did not know, which could well have been read yesterday. Here it is:
"Woman, what's your name?" "I don't know."
"How old are you? Where are you from?" "I don't know."
"Why did you dig that burrow?" "I don't know."
"How long have you been hiding?" "I don't know."
"Why did you bite my finger?" "I don't know."
"Don't you know that we won't hurt you?" "I don't know."
"Whose side are you on?" "I don't know."
"This is war, you've got to choose." "I don't know."
"Does your village still exist?" "I don't know."
"Are those your children?" "Yes."
The California primary elections are scheduled for this coming Tuesday, June 7. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are running neck and neck. While Clinton's lock on the Democratic nomination appears assured, a loss to Sanders in California next week would be a real setback for her, particularly as she copes with renewed attention to her email travails and her need to turn her attention toward the Republican opposition.
Clinton and Sanders are statistically tied in the most recent USC/Los Angeles Times poll, but Clinton's lead with those most likely to vote (49% to Sanders' 39%) and with registered Democrats (53% to Sanders' 37%) is substantial. On the other hand, as the Los Angeles Times indicates, "Sanders benefits here from party rules that allow registered nonpartisan voters — known in California as 'no party preference' voters — to take part in the Democratic primary. Among nonpartisans who were likely to vote, he led by 48%-35%." In other words, it's a very close horse race in the final stretch.
While I have a lot of admiration for Bernie Sanders and his longtime devotion to economic justice, and I am concerned about Clinton's more hawkish views on foreign and national security policy, their differences pale when set beside the compelling need to defeat Donald Trump, whose ascent to the presidency would be catastrophic for the nation and the wider world. Clinton is the stronger, more practical and experienced Democratic candidate, more likely to extend the accomplishments of Barak Obama, the president who, on balance, I will sorely miss.
The First Presidential Flight
Nowadays the U.S. President has his own airplane. But for Franklin Roosevelt in 1943, flying was still a big deal.
by Tony Reichhardt , Air & Space Magazine, January 2016
The Casablanca Conference, held 70 years ago this week, is remembered today for the agreement by Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill to demand unconditional surrender from their Axis enemies. But even before the leaders sat down to talk, FDR made history. His trip across the Atlantic, in a Boeing 314 flying boat, was the first time a sitting U.S. president flew on an airplane.
Nobody was more impressed than his pilots. The flights had been planned in secrecy, and when Roosevelt and his entourage showed up at the Pan American airways base in Miami on the morning of January 11, 1943, to board the Dixie Clipper, the crew was “very much surprised to learn the identity of our guest,” recalled Pan Am pilot Howard M. Cone, Jr. A 34-year-old veteran of transoceanic flights, Cone flew Roosevelt, advisor Harry Hopkins and several military leaders on one Clipper, while another flying boat carried the presidential staff.
Cone said the President was an “excellent passenger” and a “good air sailor” on his 15,000-mile round-trip, displaying an impressive knowledge of geography on a journey that included stops in Trinidad and Brazil. Once in Africa, Roosevelt boarded a TWA C-54 piloted by 35-year-old Captain Otis F. Bryan, who flew him from Bathurst, Gambia to Morocco. The trip back from Casablanca included a flyover of the harbor at Dakar, Senegal, at an altitude of 3,000 feet.
In a War Department press conference following their return to the States, the two airline pilots couldn’t stop effusing about their VIP passenger’s ability to “make you feel perfectly at home. We felt at ease as long as he was,” said Bryan. Roosevelt even joined in the ritual of signing “short snorters” for the crew — dollar bills autographed by all the passengers on a flight.
The President also celebrated his 61st birthday on the way back, dining on caviar, olives, celery, pickles, turkey, dressing, green peas, cake, and champagne. (Captain Cone, reported the New York Times, drank coffee instead.)
It wasn’t FDR’s first time in an airplane — in 1932 he had flown to the Democratic convention in Chicago to accept the presidential nomination. But before 1943, airplanes weren’t considered a safe form of transportation for an American president. (In fact, if the fatal crash of Pan Am’s Yankee Clipper on February 22 had happened before Roosevelt’s flight instead of just after, the Secret Service may not have approved the Casablanca trip.)
From Bill Moyers:
The New York Times is running an editorial on its front page today, the first time the paper has done so since 1920, calling for greater regulation on guns in the aftermath of a spate of mass shootings.
In a statement, NYT Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. said this about the editors' decision:
"It has been many decades since The Times ran an editorial on Page One. We do so today to deliver a strong and visible statement of frustration and anguish about our country’s inability to come to terms with the scourge of guns. Even in this digital age, the front page remains an incredibly strong and powerful way to surface issues that demand attention. And, what issue is more important than our nation’s failure to protect its citizens?"
A physician colleague who practices and teaches palliative care and geriatrics at Harvard Medical School, Muriel Gillick, MD, also publishes a fine short essay online once a week, under the general title, "Life in the End Zone" (http://blog.drmurielgillick.com/). Given the importance of her topic this week, and her own wise response, I am taking the liberty of reprinting her comments below. Read them alongside a New York Times graphic, "Why It Takes Two Years for Syrian Refugees to Enter the U.S."
by Muriel Gillick, MD
22 Nov 2015
From a New York Times editorial yesterday:
After the attacks in Paris, the world is again challenged by fear. With every bombing, beheading and mass shooting, the dread spreads, along with the urgency of defeating this nihilism.
But no less a challenge for the civilized world is the danger of self-inflicted injury. In the reaction and overreaction to terrorism comes the risk that society will lose its way.
History is replete with examples of the power of fear and ignorance, to which even the great can fall prey. Franklin Roosevelt calmed a nation in bleakest days of the Depression, but he also signed the executive order imprisoning tens of thousands of American citizens for the crime of Japanese ancestry.
And an excerpt from Nicholas Kristof's column in today's Times:
Republican leaders say they simply want to tighten security to keep America safe. That’s an echo of what American officials claimed in the late 1930s and early 1940s as they blocked the entry of Jewish refugees.
Breckinridge Long, then a senior State Department official in charge of visas, warned that Nazi spies were trying to enter the U.S. as refugees. In the name of security, he established vetting rules so strict that few Jews could pass.
“We can delay and effectively stop for a temporary period of indefinite length the number of immigrants,” Long boasted in a 1940 memo. His callous security requirements led to the deaths of many tens of thousands of Jews.
Yes, security was a legitimate concern then, as it is now, but security must be leavened with common sense and a bit of heart.
To seek to help desperate refugees in a secure way is not naïveté. It’s not sentimentality. It’s humanity.
A war the West cannot win
(Thanks to Bill Goodfellow for drawing my attention to this important article by Andrew Bacevich of Boston University. In too many instances - from 9/11 to now - Western response to events kin to those perpetrated tragically against Paris have been grounded in conviction that military retaliation and revenge are the preferred, indeed the only, appropriate reaction. That we have not learned better is profoundly distressing. As Bacevic concludes, "Hollande views the tragedy that has befallen Paris as a summons to yet more war. The rest of us would do well to see it as a moment to reexamine the assumptions that have enmeshed the West in a war that it cannot win and should not perpetuate.")
by Andrew J. Bacevich
November 14, 2015
French President Francois Hollande’s response to Friday’s vicious terrorist attacks, now attributed to ISIS, was immediate and uncompromising. “We are going to lead a war which will be pitiless,” he vowed.
Whether France itself possesses the will or the capacity to undertake such a war is another matter. So too is the question of whether further war can provide a remedy to the problem at hand: widespread disorder roiling much of the Greater Middle East and periodically spilling into the outside world.
It’s not as if the outside world hasn’t already given pitiless war a try. The Soviet Union spent all of the 1980s attempting to pacify Afghanistan and succeeded only in killing a million or so Afghans while creating an incubator for Islamic radicalism. Beginning in 2003, the United States attempted something similar in Iraq and ended up producing similarly destabilizing results. By the time US troops withdrew in 2011, something like 200,000 Iraqis had died, most of the them civilians. Today Iraq teeters on the brink of disintegration.
Perhaps if the Russians had tried harder or the Americans had stayed longer they might have achieved a more favorable outcome. Yet that qualifies as a theoretical possibility at best. Years of fighting in Afghanistan exhausted the Soviet Union and contributed directly to its subsequent collapse. Years of fighting in Iraq used up whatever “Let’s roll!” combativeness Americans may have entertained in the wake of 9/11.
Today, notwithstanding the Obama administration’s continuing appetite for military piddling — airstrikes, commando raids, and advisory missions — few Americans retain any appetite for undertaking further large-scale hostilities in the Islamic world. Fewer still will sign up to follow President Hollande in undertaking any new crusade. Their reluctance to do so is understandable and appropriate.
The fact is that United States and its European allies, to include France, face a perplexing strategic conundrum. Collectively they find themselves locked in a protracted conflict with Islamic radicalism, with ISIS but one manifestation of a much larger phenomenon. Prospects for negotiating an end to that conflict anytime soon appear to be nil. Alas, so too do prospects of winning it.
In this conflict, the West generally appears to enjoy the advantage of clear-cut military superiority. By almost any measure, we are stronger than our adversaries. Our arsenals are bigger, our weapons more sophisticated, our generals better educated in the art of war, our fighters better trained at waging it.
Yet most of this has proven to be irrelevant. Time and again the actual employment of that ostensibly superior military might has produced results other than those intended or anticipated. Even where armed intervention has achieved a semblance of tactical success — the ousting of some unsavory dictator, for example — it has yielded neither reconciliation nor willing submission nor even sullen compliance. Instead, intervention typically serves to aggravate, inciting further resistance. Rather than putting out the fires of radicalism, we end up feeding them.
In proposing to pour yet more fuel on that fire, Hollande demonstrates a crippling absence of imagination, one that has characterized recent Western statesmanship more generally when it comes to the Islamic world. There, simply trying harder won’t suffice as a basis of policy.
It’s past time for the West, and above all for the United States as the West’s primary military power, to consider trying something different.
Rather than assuming an offensive posture, the West should revert to a defensive one. Instead of attempting to impose its will on the Greater Middle East, it should erect barriers to protect itself from the violence emanating from that quarter. Such barriers will necessarily be imperfect, but they will produce greater security at a more affordable cost than is gained by engaging in futile, open-ended armed conflicts. Rather than vainly attempting to police or control, this revised strategy should seek to contain.
Such an approach posits that, confronted with the responsibility to do so, the peoples of the Greater Middle East will prove better equipped to solve their problems than are policy makers back in Washington, London, or Paris. It rejects as presumptuous any claim that the West can untangle problems of vast historical and religious complexity to which Western folly contributed. It rests on this core principle: Do no (further) harm.
Hollande views the tragedy that has befallen Paris as a summons to yet more war. The rest of us would do well to see it as a moment to reexamine the assumptions that have enmeshed the West in a war that it cannot win and should not perpetuate.
Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor emeritus at Boston University. His new book “America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History’’ will appear in April 2016.
It is indeed an anniversary to remember, or to learn and reflect upon for the increasing majority of people alive in the world who have not such memory at hand, since they were born well after 1945. I myself was only six years old on August 6, 1945, so my own learning was later, second hand. But I grew up in the years when the memory of the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was still vivid, when we learned to crouch under our desks at school (as if that would make a difference), when people built bomb shelters in their backyards, or at least did not regard such construction as unnatural.
The three paragraphs below are drawn from Garrison Keillor's "Writer's Almanac." It occurs to me that John Hersey's Hiroshima should be in required high school curricula today as it may once have been decades ago. (The New Yorker has put on its website the full text of Hersey's book, which first appeared in the magazine.) Although "Little Boy" - what a name for an atomic bomb that crushed a city and over 100,000 of its people - was puny compared to the thermonuclear weapons that became commonplace, the dangers of nuclear proliferation and of another use of such weapons in wartime remains a danger too often unrecognized or disbelieved. Witness the current unlikelihood of Congressional approval of the deal negotiated to prevent development of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.
Seventy years ago today, in 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The American B-29 bomber Enola Gay released the bomb, which was nicknamed "Little Boy," at 8:16 in the morning, local time. Sixty-two thousand buildings were destroyed by the blast, which was equivalent to more than 12,000 tons of TNT. Eighty thousand people were killed on impact, and 35,000 died over the next week of their injuries or radiation poisoning. Sixty thousand more died over the next year. The bomb exploded over a hospital, and 90 percent of the city's doctors were killed in the blast. It was the beginning of the end of World War II; Germany had already surrendered and Japan would follow after the U.S. dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki three days later.
A year later, The New Yorker devoted an entire issue to the publication of an article by John Hersey. The article, called simply "Hiroshima," followed the lives of six survivors of the blast. The magazine's founder and editor Harold Ross wrote to E.B. White: "Hersey has written thirty thousand words on the bombing of Hiroshima [...] one hell of a story, and we are wondering what to do about it [...] [William Shawn, managing editor] wants to wake people up, and says we are the people with a chance to do it, and probably the only people that will do it, if it is done."
Hiroshima begins: "At exactly fifteen minutes past eight in the morning, on August 6th, 1945, Japanese time, at the moment when the atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshima, Miss Toshiko Sasaki, a clerk in the personnel department at the East Asia Tin Works, had just sat down at her place in the plant office and was turning her head to speak to the girl at the next desk."
And from an article in today's New York Times:
HIROSHIMA, Japan — Hiromi Hasai was being trained to make machine gun bullets when the flash from the atomic bomb that destroyed his city lit up the already bright morning sky. Just 14, he had been pulled from school a week before to help Japan’s failing war effort.
Mr. Hasai, now 84, has often talked publicly of his experiences that day, 70 years ago Thursday, when the first of the only two nuclear weapons ever used in war ultimately killed more than 100,000 people. The victims included hundreds of his classmates, who were still at their school near the blast’s epicenter. The bullet factory, 10 miles out of town, was paradoxically a haven.
Yet the things that Mr. Hasai saw and felt that day are not recounted by him alone. The person who knows his story best, after Mr. Hasai himself, is Ritsuko Kinoshita, a woman 25 years his junior who is serving as his “denshosha” — the designated transmitter of his memories. It is part of an unusual and highly personal project to preserve and pass on the experiences of atomic bomb survivors, whose numbers are dwindling rapidly.
There was, of course, the second bomb, that dropped three days later, on August 9, upon the smaller city of Nagasaki. I suggest reading an article in The New Yorker, hopefully entitled "Nagasaki: The Last Bomb," by Alex Wellerstein.
Isaiah Berlin spent most of the years of World War II in Washington, DC, at the British Embassy, writing perceptive, incisive accounts of the war and its major figures on all sides, as well as gathering friends among Washington's young and liberal elite.
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. remembered him many years later, after Berlin's death in 1997: "I first encountered Isaiah in the winter of 1942–3. He was then only thirty-three years old. One was startled from the beginning by the glittering rush of words and wit, the dazzling command of ideas, the graceful and unforced erudition, the penetrating assessments of personalities, the passion for music, the talent for merriment and, most remarkable of all, the generosity of spirit that led him to treat all of us as his intellectual equals. He had the exciting quality of intensifying life so that one perceived more and thought more and understood more."
"His years in Washington confirmed him in his view of the benefits of pragmatism in political affairs. He was delighted by the young men and women of the New Deal and exhilarated by the spirit and effectiveness of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s humane experimentalism. The New Deal, he later said, was ‘the most constructive compromise between individual liberty and economic security which our own time has witnessed’. He regarded FDR as ‘the most genuine and unswerving spokesman of democracy of his time, the most contemporary, the most outward-looking, the boldest, most imaginative, most large-spirited, free from the obsessions of an inner life, with an unparalleled capacity for creating confidence in the power of his insight, his foresight, and his capacity genuinely to identify himself with the ideals of humble people’. As Roger Hausheer writes in the introduction to the recently published Berlin anthology The Proper Study of Mankind, ‘Berlin has always been an enthusiastic New Dealer – a natural allegiance, surely, for an objective pluralist.’ His love and hope for America survived even the vicissitudes of the post-war years.
"Isaiah was above all a most civilised man in this horribly uncivilised century – the ‘most terrible century in Western history’, he called it. Wise, brave, kind, unaffected, an exemplar of moral courage, unalterably committed to the politics of decency, he was himself a stirring prediction of what a truly civilised world might be."
Though in the course of his war years in Washington, improbably, Berlin never saw FDR and heard him only on the radio, he later wrote of him with extraordinary insight. "He was seeking to establish new rules of social justice," and to do that "without forcing his country into some doctrinaire strait-jacket, whether of socialism or State capitalism, or the kind of new social organization which the Fascist regimes flaunted as the New Order." Roosevelt, for Berlin, was a supreme example, of "political skill - indeed virtuosity - which no American before him had ever possessed." He was, preeminently, a fox, "a magnificient virtuoso of this type, and he was the most benevolent as well as the greatest master of his craft in modern times.... He became a legendary hero - they themselves did not know quite why - to the indigent and the oppressed, far beyond the confines of the English-speaking world."
"Roosevelt's example strengthened democracy everywhere, that is to say the view that the promotion of social justice and individual liberty does not necessarily mean the end of all efficient government; that power and order are not identical with a strait-jacket of doctrine, whether economic or political; that it is possible to reconcile individual liberty - a loose texture of society - with the indispensible minimum of organizing and authority; and in this belief lies what Roosevelt's greatest predecessor once described as 'the last best hope of earth.'"*
*Berlin was referring to Abraham Lincoln's message to Congress on December 1, 1862.
Editor's comment —
The following brief and characteristically eloquent essay by Isaiah Berlin appears in The New York Review of Books in its issue of October 23, 2014, with this introductory note:
Twenty years ago—on November 25, 1994—Isaiah Berlin accepted the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws at the University of Toronto. He prepared the following “short credo” (as he called it in a letter to a friend) for the ceremony, at which it was read on his behalf.
Marking Berlin's death three years later, on 5 November 1997, The Independent wrote:
Isaiah Berlin was one of the most remarkable men of his time, and one of the leading liberal thinkers of the century. Philosopher, political theorist, historian of ideas; Russian, Englishman, Jew; essayist, critic, teacher; he was a man of formidable intellectual power with a rare gift for understanding a wide range of human motives, hopes and fears, and a prodigiously energetic capacity for enjoyment of life, of people in all their variety, of their ideas and idiosyncrasies, of literature, of music, of art.
Fortunately, his legacy is generously gathered online in The Isaiah Berlin Virtual Library, in which it is well worth spending many hours, and then returning, exploring afield, and returning again.
I particularly recommend his essay on Tolstoy's view of history, "The Hedgehog and the Fox," and the excellent anthology of Berlin's essays, The Proper Study of Mankind, published the year he died. Then there are his remarkable letters, the fourth and final volume of which will be published in 2015.
"The fox knows many things," goes the old Greek adage, "but the hedgehog knows one big thing"; so too, Berlin writes, writers and thinkers may be divided into two categories, those who are fascinated by the infinite variety of things (foxes) and those who relate everything to a central, all-embracing system (hedgehogs). Berlin's examples of hedgehogs include Plato, Lucretius, Dante, Pascal, Hegel, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Ibsen and Proust. The foxes, those who draw on a wide variety of experiences and for whom the world cannot be reduced to a single idea, include Herodotus, Aristotle, Erasmus, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Molière, Goethe, Pushkin, Balzac and Joyce).
As many have observed, Berlin himself, as will be clear from reading the short credo below, is decidedly in the second category.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” With these words Dickens began his famous novel A Tale of Two Cities. But this cannot, alas, be said about our own terrible century. Men have for millennia destroyed each other, but the deeds of Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Napoleon (who introduced mass killings in war), even the Armenian massacres, pale into insignificance before the Russian Revolution and its aftermath: the oppression, torture, murder which can be laid at the doors of Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, and the systematic falsification of information which prevented knowledge of these horrors for years—these are unparalleled. They were not natural disasters, but preventable human crimes, and whatever those who believe in historical determinism may think, they could have been averted.
I speak with particular feeling, for I am a very old man, and I have lived through almost the entire century. My life has been peaceful and secure, and I feel almost ashamed of this in view of what has happened to so many other human beings. I am not a historian, and so I cannot speak with authority on the causes of these horrors. Yet perhaps I can try.
They were, in my view, not caused by the ordinary negative human sentiments, as Spinoza called them—fear, greed, tribal hatreds, jealousy, love of power—though of course these have played their wicked part. They have been caused, in our time, by ideas; or rather, by one particular idea. It is paradoxical that Karl Marx, who played down the importance of ideas in comparison with impersonal social and economic forces, should, by his writings, have caused the transformation of the twentieth century, both in the direction of what he wanted and, by reaction, against it. The German poet Heine, in one of his famous writings, told us not to underestimate the quiet philosopher sitting in his study; if Kant had not undone theology, he declared, Robespierre might not have cut off the head of the King of France.
He predicted that the armed disciples of the German philosophers—Fichte, Schelling, and the other fathers of German nationalism—would one day destroy the great monuments of Western Europe in a wave of fanatical destruction before which the French Revolution would seem child’s play. This may have been unfair to the German metaphysicians, yet Heine’s central idea seems to me valid: in a debased form, the Nazi ideology did have roots in German anti-Enlightenment thought. There are men who will kill and maim with a tranquil conscience under the influence of the words and writings of some of those who are certain that they know perfection can be reached.
Let me explain. If you are truly convinced that there is some solution to all human problems, that one can conceive an ideal society which men can reach if only they do what is necessary to attain it, then you and your followers must believe that no price can be too high to pay in order to open the gates of such a paradise. Only the stupid and malevolent will resist once certain simple truths are put to them. Those who resist must be persuaded; if they cannot be persuaded, laws must be passed to restrain them; if that does not work, then coercion, if need be violence, will inevitably have to be used—if necessary, terror, slaughter. Lenin believed this after reading Das Kapital, and consistently taught that if a just, peaceful, happy, free, virtuous society could be created by the means he advocated, then the end justified any methods that needed to be used, literally any.
The root conviction which underlies this is that the central questions of human life, individual or social, have one true answer which can be discovered. It can and must be implemented, and those who have found it are the leaders whose word is law. The idea that to all genuine questions there can be only one true answer is a very old philosophical notion. The great Athenian philosophers, Jews and Christians, the thinkers of the Renaissance and the Paris of Louis XIV, the French radical reformers of the eighteenth century, the revolutionaries of the nineteenth—however much they differed about what the answer was or how to discover it (and bloody wars were fought over this)—were all convinced that they knew the answer, and that only human vice and stupidity could obstruct its realization.
This is the idea of which I spoke, and what I wish to tell you is that it is false. Not only because the solutions given by different schools of social thought differ, and none can be demonstrated by rational methods—but for an even deeper reason. The central values by which most men have lived, in a great many lands at a great many times—these values, almost if not entirely universal, are not always harmonious with each other. Some are, some are not. Men have always craved for liberty, security, equality, happiness, justice, knowledge, and so on. But complete liberty is not compatible with complete equality—if men were wholly free, the wolves would be free to eat the sheep. Perfect equality means that human liberties must be restrained so that the ablest and the most gifted are not permitted to advance beyond those who would inevitably lose if there were competition. Security, and indeed freedoms, cannot be preserved if freedom to subvert them is permitted. Indeed, not everyone seeks security or peace, otherwise some would not have sought glory in battle or in dangerous sports.
Justice has always been a human ideal, but it is not fully compatible with mercy. Creative imagination and spontaneity, splendid in themselves, cannot be fully reconciled with the need for planning, organization, careful and responsible calculation. Knowledge, the pursuit of truth—the noblest of aims—cannot be fully reconciled with the happiness or the freedom that men desire, for even if I know that I have some incurable disease this will not make me happier or freer. I must always choose: between peace and excitement, or knowledge and blissful ignorance. And so on.
So what is to be done to restrain the champions, sometimes very fanatical, of one or other of these values, each of whom tends to trample upon the rest, as the great tyrants of the twentieth century have trampled on the life, liberty, and human rights of millions because their eyes were fixed upon some ultimate golden future?
I am afraid I have no dramatic answer to offer: only that if these ultimate human values by which we live are to be pursued, then compromises, trade-offs, arrangements have to be made if the worst is not to happen. So much liberty for so much equality, so much individual self-expression for so much security, so much justice for so much compassion. My point is that some values clash: the ends pursued by human beings are all generated by our common nature, but their pursuit has to be to some degree controlled—liberty and the pursuit of happiness, I repeat, may not be fully compatible with each other, nor are liberty, equality, and fraternity.
So we must weigh and measure, bargain, compromise, and prevent the crushing of one form of life by its rivals. I know only too well that this is not a flag under which idealistic and enthusiastic young men and women may wish to march—it seems too tame, too reasonable, too bourgeois, it does not engage the generous emotions. But you must believe me, one cannot have everything one wants—not only in practice, but even in theory. The denial of this, the search for a single, overarching ideal because it is the one and only true one for humanity, invariably leads to coercion. And then to destruction, blood—eggs are broken, but the omelette is not in sight, there is only an infinite number of eggs, human lives, ready for the breaking. And in the end the passionate idealists forget the omelette, and just go on breaking eggs.
I am glad to note that toward the end of my long life some realization of this is beginning to dawn. Rationality, tolerance, rare enough in human history, are not despised. Liberal democracy, despite everything, despite the greatest modern scourge of fanatical, fundamentalist nationalism, is spreading. Great tyrannies are in ruins, or will be—even in China the day is not too distant. I am glad that you to whom I speak will see the twenty-first century, which I feel sure can be only a better time for mankind than my terrible century has been. I congratulate you on your good fortune; I regret that I shall not see this brighter future, which I am convinced is coming. With all the gloom that I have been spreading, I am glad to end on an optimistic note. There really are good reasons to think that it is justified.
© The Isaiah Berlin Literary Trust 2014
Lincoln's Gettysburg Address
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, November 19, 1863
President Abraham Lincoln, November 8, 1863, eleven days before he gave his Gettysburg Address. Compare this photo with the last photograph of Lincoln, taken only 1½ years later, included below. The costs of those months of service to the nation in wartime are evident on his face in the later photo. At any time, the presidency is a stressful job; in wartime or crisis especially so, particularly if one is as deeply ethical, as profoundly feeling and as devoted to the lives of others as was Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln's address at Gettysburg is probably the most famous American speech — short, eloquent, modest, not near enough to the end of America's costliest war, on our own soil. A scholar said correctly that it's harder to write a short speech than a long one. Lincoln prepared his with care. Legend has it that he thought it a failure, as his audience at the end was silent. It was a sober occasion, November 19, 1863, 150 years ago today. President Lincoln had come to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to dedicate Soldiers National Cemetery, where those who fell at the Battle of Gettysburg were buried, and more were to be buried still.
"In the summer of 1863, General Robert E. Lee pushed northward into Pennsylvania. The Union army met him at Gettysburg, and from July 1 to July 3, the bloodiest battle of the Civil War ensued. By the time it was over, the Confederates were in retreat, and the battlefield was strewn with more than 50,000 dead and wounded." — Sage Sossel in The Atlantic
When Lincoln spoke in Gettysburg, the air was still thick with the smell of death.
His address, in its entirety, is carved on a wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.
I memorized it as a child, and I remember it still. Two hundred and sixty eight words, two or three minutes to say.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.
The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
I still shiver when I read or say Lincoln's words.
November 19, 2013
Abraham Lincoln, the last portrait, only days before his assassination
Lincoln at Gettysburg Long Ago
By The Editorial Board, The New York Times
Garry Wills once wrote that “all modern political prose descends from the Gettysburg Address,” which was read aloud by a bareheaded man, exhausted and ill, before a black-suited crowd 150 years ago. Mr. Wills chose the right word: “descends.” Lincoln’s speech is the pinnacle of American civic utterance. His words honoring the dead at Gettysburg on Nov. 19, 1863, do what words are only rarely able to do. They invoke an eloquent silence.
Most of us recall the momentous phrases in this short, simple speech. But other words and phrases are doing work that is nearly as important. “Now,” Lincoln says, “we are engaged in a great civil war.” It is “now” that resonates. So does the word “here.” Lincoln uses it eight times, seven in the last paragraph: the brave men “who struggled here,” the living crowd that is “dedicated here” to finishing the work of the honored dead, and we who “here highly resolve” that this nation shall not perish from the earth.
There is an overpowering immediacy in these plain words. They root Lincoln’s more expansive rhythms to the moment, insisting, as we listen, on where we are as much as why we have gathered. All these years later, those words, “now” and “here,” work to place us on that field that November afternoon. So much of what we feel about Lincoln still arises from this speech. There is no false modesty in his sense of insufficiency, only respect for the dead on both sides of that battle. He embodies the very premise of his speech — that only the dead can consecrate the ground at Gettysburg — by making his speech so short.
For many of us, almost everything we think about the Civil War, about the “new birth of freedom” it was meant to bring, is merely an extension of Lincoln’s words. That, perhaps, is what Lincoln understood best as he began to talk that afternoon. He was there not only to speak our thoughts aloud but to give them language so moving that they could continue to resound all these years later. And so they still do.
Walt Whitman on Lincoln's life and death
Walt Whitman wrote most memorably of Lincoln in his Leaves of Grass. I cannot resist his feeling for Lincoln, his response to Lincoln's death and vision of the slow train bearing the body, the sheer beauty of Whitman's words, of which those below are a few. Whitman himself served as a nurse during the Civil War. He knew war, its terrible wounds and its dealing of death.
One day I'll write about these moving lines of Whitman. Not today.
Let the story be told for now in this iconic photograph of a black man weeping for Franklin D. Roosevelt as Roosevelt's body traveled like Lincoln's, by slow car and then train toward his final resting place. My grandmother sat in silence with my mother.
Franklin D. Roosevelt's First Inaugural Address
on the Capitol steps, March 4, 1933
The only presidential speech that stands with Lincoln's at Gettysburg is Franklin D. Roosevelt's first inaugural address in March of 1933, reassuring a deeply troubled nation in the throes of Depression, an address in which he gave birth to the phrase "a New Deal" for the American people.
Revolution was in the air, Depression a grim reality for a great many Americans. They badly needed reassurance. As James Tobin writes in his new book, The Man He Became: How FDR Defied Polio to Win the Presidency,
"The preceding week had been the worst in the history of the American economy. People felt a collective desperation unknown in the United States since the Civil War. The banking system was collapsing... One in four Americans was out of work, and the prospect of many more losing their livelihoods loomed over everyone. Two million people or more were riding freight trains in search of a chance to work. Dairy farmers in Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin had blockaded roads and dumped thousands of gallons of milk on the pavement in an effort to drive up starvation prices of two cents a quart. On the left there was dead-serious talk of the need for social revolution; on the right, of the need for a dictator."
Gathering around their radios, standing in the Capitol plaza, up the steps of the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress, some in the branches of trees, they heard his voice, strong and confident as I remember it. This speech was recorded; we can hear his voice, judge its quality, but realize he spoke in a day when speeches still needed to be heard — microphones and PA systems were in their early stages of development. He may sound strident. He was not. He was confident, ready to assume the presidency in a time of crisis unequaled in American history.
Franklin Roosevelt did not disappoint. He had, in a sense, been preparing for this moment most of his life. When he contracted polio and lost the use of his legs in 1921, he suffered a setback that became a source of renewal, strength, and moral courage. As he walked slowly to the podium now, supported by his steel braces, a cane and the arm of his son Jimmy, everyone knew that he was crippled, and no one imagined that fact a deterrent to his capacity to lead the nation. A hundred thousand people watched. As Tobin writes, "It was not an act of deception; he was not trying to fool anyone into thinking he was not crippled. Anyone who read the newspapers knew that. Rather, it was a deliberate show of strength, a silent, symbolic assertion that he could bear the burden of the presidency."
"This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.... In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties.
"They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone. More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.
"Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.... True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.
"The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.
"For the trust reposed in me I will return the courage and the devotion that befit the time. I can do no less ... We do not distrust the future of democracy. The people of the United States have not failed. In their need they have registered a mandate that they want direct, vigorous action."
He did just that, the first hundred days of his presidency filled with legislation as none other before or after. The first steps on the long road of recovery were taken. World War II did not end the Great Depression, nor did Roosevelt's leadership. Ordinary people did. But his principled leadership was critical. Re-elected an unprecedented four times, the last in 1944, near the end of a long and costly war, as was Lincoln at Gettysburg.
Neither Roosevelt nor Lincoln lived to see their wars end. Both were casulties of the war they endured, as much as those who died in the fields and trenches, the cities and hamlets of America and Europe. FDR died of a cerebral hemmhorage on April 12, 1945, at his Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia. Lincoln was shot in the head by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865. When Lincoln was pronounced dead the next morning, his Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, said, "Now he belongs to the ages." The same could have been said of these two remarkable men, reckognized by American historians as our greatest presidents.
The proximity of the two dates is remarkable. After being shot by John Wilkes Booth, the fatally wounded president was carried across the street to the Petersen House, where he died the next morning, April 15, 1865. Ford's Theatre is now the centerpiece of a National Historic Site. FDR's Little White House is now part of Georgia's state park system. The Roosevelt family held its reunion there this year. My grandfather departed on his last trip to the Little White House on March 30, 1945, my sixth birthday. He said to my mother, "Give my love to Johnny." My mother and I were living with him in The White House. He was exhausted from his wartime responsibilities, and felt, after his long journey — seven thousand miles home by sea and air from Yalta in the Crimea — he did not rest enough at the family's Hyde Park home. According to some observers at Warm Springs, Roosevelt looked "ghastly."
When he reported to a joint session of Congress on the Yalta trip on March 1, 1945, he sat for the first time before the legislators, and said for the first time, as he had never spoken in public about his disability, “I hope that you will pardon me for this unusual posture of sitting down…but I know that you will realize that it makes it a lot easier for me not to have to carry about ten pounds of steel around the bottom of my legs.”
FDR's braces, now in the museum of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Libary, Hyde Park, New York.
Wikipedia reports correctly that "his usual cordial waves to the residents of Warm Springs were weak." Unlike his previous visits, he avoided the swimming pool he used to seek recovery from polio and then comfort himself in previous trips; he had been a strong swimmer. I swam with him in The White House pool; he liked to give me a friendly dunk, but made sure I resurfaced.
On April 12, 1945, he was sitting for a portrait at the Little White House when he put his hand to his temple and said, "I have a terrible headache." He had suffered a stroke, a cerebral hemorrhage. He died two hours later. I was hospitalized with a staph infection at the Bethesda Naval Hospital. The family was more worried about me than about him, who had always recovered his legendary energy at Warm Springs. My mother and grandmother did not accompany him to Warm Springs, in order to remain closer to me. He called every day to ask my mother how I was.
I remember a nurse ran into my room to turn off the radio. I had already heard the news of his death, but at 6 years old I had a hard time associating the announcement with my PaPa, my glorious grandfather, so proud of his grandchildren, all of whom gathered at The White House for his last inauguration on January 20th. Perhaps he had a premonition of his death.
In that family photograph I sit on the floor in front, he is in a chair on the right, his face radiant, just days before he left for Warm Springs. That day he did not feel his exhaustion. Look at his face.
Family portrait — all his grandchildren, his wife (my grandmother) Eleanor, gathered for his fourth inauguration as president. I sit in the middle, a little bewildered at the number of other kids — I was the only grandchild then living in The White House. I am holding a small music box, with a Currier & Ives winter scene on the front. I am dressed in a dark suit and tie and short pants for the occasion. My grandmother rests her hand on my brother's arm (he's wearing his uniform of a military academy where he studied). My sister is beside him, the eldest grandchild. They had lived in The White House with our mother when they were younger and known to the country as Sistie and Buzzie. White House staff can be glimpsed in the background, ready to take command of their charge — mostly me. The others returned to their mothers. My mother was present in those war years, but more with her father than with me, her young bewildered son. I did have close companions: the White House guards, my omnipresent Secret Service agents, who drove me to pre-school through the fords in Rock Creek, and an array of nannies.
Exhausted, he struggled to finish his job of leading the United States, first in Depression then at war, here meeting with Churchill and Stalin at Yalta. Like almost everyone in those days, he smoked a lot, up to three packs of Camels a day, often in a cigarette holder. My mother was with him, a joy for her to be at his side.
FDR's Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia, where he died on April 12, 1945.
The Roosevelt family recently had a reunion at Warm Springs, in the autumn of 2013 (no longer observing the quadrennial presidential calendar as when I began to organize those reunions in 1980 and 1984, years of presidential elections — albeit not happy ones, the first when Ronald Reagan defeated the incumbant Jimmy Carter, and in 1984 when Reagan was decisively re-elected. Since 1984 was also the centennial of my grandmother's birth in 1884, President Reagan invited the Roosevelts to join him for a luncheon at The White House. I shall not forget his drawing me aside to convey a conviction of his, "You know," he said, "if your grandfather was president today, he would be doing exactly what I am doing."
I held my tongue. It was his House, after all, and as my grandmother dryly said at all of our family gatherings at Hyde Park, when she offered the initial toast "to the President of the United States," "that means the office of the president, not necessarily the present incumbant." Nonetheless, I found President Reagan's remark appallingly ill-informed and self-serving, and I inwardly fumed. During the soup course, at our table filled with Roosevelt scholars who shared my view of the president's remark, I dropped one of the lenses of my eyeglasses into my cream of cauliflower soup. Since I could not remove cream of cauliflower from the errant lens with a fancy White House linen napkin, I said goodbye to President and Mrs. Reagen with one lens in and the other out.
The last photograph of Franklin D. Roosevelt, taken at Warm Springs on April 11, 1945, the day before he died. He was 63 years old on January 30, 1945. Compare it with Lincoln's last photograph above, when he was 56.
Elizabeth Shoumatoff's romanticized unfinished portrait, seeing him as she remembered him, not as the terribly tired and ill man he was, April 12, 1945. He sat at his desk as Shoumatoff painted, two good women who admired him and made no demands beside him — Daisy Suckley and Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd. He said to Madame Shoumatoff that he had only 10 minutes more to sit for her painting. Suddenly he put his hand to his temple, and complained of a terrible pain in the back of his head, His journey was done, his job, like his portrait, unfinished, but the United Nations in prospect, the peace he tirelessly sought. Hitler was beaten. Japan's surrender would follow. I loved him as PaPa. My grandmother told Vice-President Truman in her characteristic quiet voice, "Harry, the president is dead." He asked if there was anything he could do for her, to which she replied, "Is there anything we can do for you? For you are the one in trouble now."
Of course the unscrupulous moneychangers — like JP Morgan Chase, fined an unprecedented $13 billion yesterday, — have returned, as they always have. Chase will not pay $13 billion; much of the fine is tax deductible, and Chase reliably will pass it on to us, the American public. No one speaks today with the force and clarity of FDR about moneychangers in their temple of acquisitiveness. Their place is secure; too secure.
God has pity on kindergarten children,
He pities school children — less.
But adults he pities not at all.
He abandons them,
And sometimes they have to crawl on all fours
In the scorching sand
To reach the dressing station,
Streaming with blood.
He will have pity on those who love truly
And take care of them
And shade them
Like a tree over the sleeper on the public bench.
Perhaps even we will spend on them
Our last pennies of kindness
Inherited from mother,
So that their own happiness will protect us
Now and on other days.
Afterward they will get up
all together, and with a sound of chairs scraping
they will face the narrow exit.
And their clothes are crumpled
and covered with dust and cigarette ashes
and their hand discovers in the inside pocket
a ticket stub from a very previous season.
And their faces are still crisscrossed
with God’s will.
And their eyes are red from so much sleeplessness
under the ground.
And right away, questions:
What time is it?
Where did you put mine?
And one of them can be seen in an ancient
scanning of the sky, to see if rain.
Or a woman,
with an age-old gesture, wipes her eyes
and lifts the heavy hair
at the back of her neck.
Paul Krugman wrote a short piece yesterday, October 28, that he called "Poetry and Blogging."
Since I love poetry and write and edit a blog (although I dislike the word), Krugman caught my attention. He's been reading a fascinating book about both pursuits, considered in historical perspective: Tom Standage’s Writing on the Wall: Social Media — The First 2,000 Years. A great
title. Standage is an editor at The Economist and author of five well-received history books,
including An Edible History of Humanity (2009), A History of the World in Six Glasses (2005), and The Victorian Internet (1998). He also is a regular commentator on BBC radio, and has written for other publications including the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, the New York Times and Wired. He has a degree in engineering and computer science from Oxford, and says he is the least musical member of a musical family.
He begins Writing on the Wall by quoting Cicero:
"Not to know what has been transacted in former times is to be always a child. If no use is made of the labors of past ages, the world must remain always in the infancy of knowledge."
Paul Krugman's question, "[W]hen and why did we stop reading poetry? Educated people used to read it all the time, or at least pretend to; that’s no longer the case. Frankly, I don’t read poetry except on very rare occasions. What happened?" — is worth a response.
My own thought is too simple, so I can share it briefly. I haven't stopped reading poetry. It's central to my life, as any passing reader of Reckonings knows. I didn't know others had stopped, but Krugman knows far more others than I do, so I imagine by and large he's correct. If so, that worries me, and becomes of a piece with my worry about the decline of literacy in our culture. The costs of that decline are not up there with those of American warmaking, but I suspect not as far from it as might appear, nor unrelated to it. I do recall someone reporting that Mitt Romney had never heard of One Hundred Years of Solitude. A sobering thought. Perhaps now that he has more leisure... but I imagine not. Current and recent American politicians, by and large, with some notable exceptions, and despite the sheer volume of their speech, are not particularly literate. They haven't the time. I gather the same is true of too many journalists and purveyors of other media. More's the pity, for them, their families, and for their country. Given the awful weight of American influence abroad, the whole earth suffers as well.
Here's a contextual note: Humanities in American colleges and universities are suffering seriously declining enrollments compared to a more vocational focus on science and technology. “College is increasingly being defined narrowly as job preparation, not as something designed to educate the whole person,” said Pauline Yu, president of the American Council of Learned Societies.
October 28, 2013
I just want to give a shoutout to a book I’m reading and really enjoying: Tom Standage’s Writing on the Wall: Social Media — The First 2,000 Years. I’ve been a big fan of Standage’s ever since his book The Victorian Internet, about the rise of the telegraph, which shed a lot of light on network technologies while also being great fun. Now he’s done it again.
Standage’s argument is that the essential aspects of social media — exchange of information that runs horizontally, among people who are affiliated in some way, rather than top-down from centralized sources — have been pervasive through history, with the industrial age’s news media only a temporary episode of disruption. As he shows, Cicero didn’t get his news from Rome Today or Rupertus Murdochus — he got it through constant exchanges of letters with people he knew, letters that were often both passed on to multiple readers and copied, much like tweets being retweeted.
Even more interesting is his discussion of the Tudor court, where a lot of the communication among insiders took place through the exchange of … poetry, which allowed people both to discuss sensitive topics elliptically and to demonstrate their cleverness. You could even build a career through poetry, not by selling it, but by using your poems to build a reputation, which could translate into royal favor and high office — sort of the way some people use their blogs to build influence that eventually leads to paying gigs of one kind or another. The tale of John Harington — of the famous “treason never prospers” line — is fascinating.
[I had to - was pleased to - look up John Harington. Wilipedia says that Harington "(4 August 1561 – 20 November 1612), of Kelston, was an [Elizabethan] courtier, author and master of art, popularly known as the inventor of the flush toilet." His famous line that Krugman mentions was, "Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason? Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason." Well said. A wise comment worthy of the inventor of the flush toilet, an extraordinarily important gift to us all. Some of our most important reading...]
Incidentally, when and why did we stop reading poetry? Educated people used to read it all the time, or at least pretend to; that’s no longer the case. Frankly, I don’t read poetry except on very rare occasions. What happened?
Anyway, interesting stuff. And since I don’t think Standage is likely to get favors showered on him by our latter-day Queen Elizabeth, buy his book!
John Feffer has written a valuable and unusual assessment of the U.S.'s challenges and responsibilities, to our own people and those of the world. If the American imperium is in decline — a by no means sure thing — the United States still possesses enormous resources to do good or ill at home and abroad. That balance, given the current crazy tilt of our politics, is also far from clear. Economic inequality continues to increase, the symbolic 1% of two or three years ago has become the 0.1%, an obscene disproportionality of wealth and economic growth. Poverty and its manifold costs continue to grow, along with the plutocracy that hollows our democracy and our pretense to equality.
The United States has supported plenty of dictators in the interests of stability. We have generated considerable instability – in Afghanistan, in Iraq – when it has served our interests. Our stability is often unjust; our instability is devastating....
[T]here are still things we can do, as humans, to develop a more cooperative relationship with nature and prevent apocalypse. Similarly, the United States can take positive steps to avoid [a] global Balkans scenario....
We are in the world, there’s no escaping that. Just as humans must reconfigure their relationship with nature, the United States must reconfigure its relationship with the world. In both worst-case scenarios, the only winners will be the cockroaches....
Saturday, 26 October 2013
John Feffer is co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. His latest book is Crusade 2.0: The West's Resurgent War on Islam (2012).
In his 2007 bestseller The World Without Us, journalist Alan Weisman describes a planet that regenerates itself after the disappearance of human beings. Skyscrapers crumble and bridges collapse into rivers,... the primeval forests take over and the buffalo return to roam.
It’s an optimistic vision of the future – if you’re a buffalo or a dolphin or a cockroach. No more ranchers. No more huge trawling nets or D-Con.
But it’s not such a great future if you’re a human being. In its dispassionate, non-human-centred perspective, Weisman’s book is designed to shake humans out of our naïve assumption that we will always be around, regardless of the existential threats that drape our shoulders like the cloak of Nessus.
Evolution has, for some reason, made us incapable of facing our own demise. It’s almost as if we wouldn’t be able to balance our checkbook or plan our vacations unless we treated nuclear weapons and climate change and pandemics as just another set of vaporous bogeymen that scare the bejesus out of us but always disappear at morning’s light.
Now let’s turn from the existential to the geopolitical. What would the world be like without the United States?
The recent government shutdown has prompted many to contemplate a world in which the United States hasn’t so much disappeared but collapsed in on itself. Focused on domestic issues, Washington would cancel Pax Americana (or Pox Americana, as anti-imperialists like to say) and step down from its role as the world’s policeman and the world’s financier.
Would the world be better off? As in Weisman’s hypothetical universe, how one answers this question depends a great deal on who one is. Americans certainly profit from our country’s economic and military hegemony: our carbon footprint, our per capita GDP, our mighty dollar, our reliance on English as the world’s default language.
We take these entitlements for granted. Non-Americans, however, might feel a bit differently. Like the buffalo and the dolphins and the cockroaches in a human-free world, everyone outside the United States might very well applaud the end of American superpowerdom.
At the height of the recent political crisis in Washington, an English-language opinion piece from the Chinese news agency Xinhua called “for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanised world.”
It repeated many familiar arguments. The United States “has abused its superpower status and introduced even more chaos into the world by shifting financial risks overseas, instigating regional tensions amid territorial disputes, and fighting unwarranted wars under the cover of outright lies.”
The solution, according to the widely read piece, is to strengthen the U.N., create a replacement for the dollar as the global currency, and give more power to emerging economies in international financial institutions. These all seem like sensible suggestions.
But as several U.S. commentators have pointed out, this provocative essay doesn’t necessarily reflect Chinese government opinion. Beijing remains dependent on U.S. economic power, whether in the form of American consumers or Wall Street liquidity.
And, to the extent that the United States fights terrorism, polices the world’s sea lanes, and continues to more or less constrain the ambitions of its key allies in the Asia-Pacific, China is also dependent on U.S. military power.
Chinese leadership values domestic, regional, and international stability. It wants, in other words, to preserve an environment in which it can pursue its primary objective: domestic economic growth. If it can hitch a free ride on the gas-guzzling, armour-plated American Hummer, China will gladly get on board.
But if the Hummer starts to mess with its economic growth, political stability, and regional interests, China will bail. For now, after a congressional deal has averted default and ended the government shutdown, Chinese calls for “de-Americanisation” have subsided. But political deadlock in Washington is by no means over. And the structural issues that underlie the relative decline of the United States over the last decade remain in place.
Most observers of U.S. decline, from Paul Kennedy to Fareed Zakaria, have generally shared the same ambivalence as China. They see U.S. decline as relative, as gradual, and as something to be mourned in the absence of a viable alternative.
The same could be said of the Latin American nations that have long decried U.S. imperialism. The latest salvos in this conflict have concerned the Snowden affair and revelations of the NSA’s overseas surveillance. But like China, Latin America is heavily dependent on trade with the United States and thus also ambivalent about U.S. economic decline.
Some participants in this debate, of course, have no ambivalence at all. The 2008 documentary “The World Without U.S.” describes the state of anarchy that would result if a future progressive president trimmed the military budget and withdrew troops from around the world.
The film relies heavily on British historian Niall Ferguson’s rosy descriptions of American hegemony. At one point, Ferguson suggests that U.S. military withdrawal would likely send the world down the same path of destruction that Yugoslavia experienced in the 1990s.
The European Union was feckless back then, and continues to be so today. No other guarantor of peace has stepped forward. Only China looms on the horizon, and the film ends with images of nuclear blasts hitting Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, presumably from Chinese missiles launched in the wake of the U.S. military’s departure from the region.
In Alan Weisman’s book, the primeval forest takes over the once-civilised world. In "The World Without U.S.," the primeval forces of anarchy take over a world once made stable by U.S. military presence.
It is, in so many ways, a dangerously silly movie. The United States has supported plenty of dictators in the interests of stability. We have generated considerable instability – in Afghanistan, in Iraq – when it has served our interests. Our stability is often unjust; our instability is devastating.
Moreover, we have cut back on our military involvement in Latin America and the region has prospered. We’ve reduced our troop presence in South Korea, including the legendary “trip wire,” and no anarchy has been loosed upon the peninsula. We are finally closing down many Cold War-era bases in Europe, and Europe remains calm.
Remember, the real message of Weisman’s book is that there are still things we can do, as humans, to develop a more cooperative relationship with nature and prevent apocalypse. Similarly, the United States can take positive steps to avoid the global Balkans scenario.
It’s not a matter of appointing a successor as global guardian or duking it out with China to prevent Beijing from stepping into our shoes. It’s not about crawling into our shell and pouting because the world no longer wants to follow our orders.
We are in the world, there’s no escaping that. Just as humans must reconfigure their relationship with nature, the United States must reconfigure its relationship with the world. In both worst-case scenarios, the only winners will be the cockroaches.
Richard, I am grateful for your thoughts, and substantially in accord with them. The challenges you identify in the near future are critical, interactive and daunting: the danger of a permanent and restive underclass, the rising demands of a welfare state, and the development of organization and practice to save and nourish the planet. There is revolutionary potential in the first: it is hard to imagine the voting public or the Congress supporting adequate welfare for a large and permanent underclass.
As my greatest mentor, my grandmother spoke of the United Nations, the Democratic and Republican parties circa 1956-62, my own writing at Amherst College and Columbia University, and for the Collegiate Council for the United Nations, which I served as president between 1959 and 1961, but not of her husband, my grandfather. I wrote later, in A Love in Shadow (NY: Norton, 1978), about them both.
Still, from her own writing and that of her biographers — Joe Lash and Blanche Wiesen Cook, primarily — and my listening to her speak with Adlai Stevenson, JFK and others at Hyde Park and in New York, I agree with your sense of their basic differences. Of course she had the advantage of not having or choosing to serve as president of the United States; FDR would surely have been different in a less constraining political role.
But even given that, they were clearly of different temperament and inclination, he more the political strategist and tactician who like his admired cousin Theodore, loved the bully pulpit, she not without canniness — witness her taking Cardinal Spellman to the cleaners, and her influential support of Stevenson's candidacy in 1952 and 1956 — but more the moralist with strong political views and unwavering commitment to social justice.
Stevenson, inscribing to her a book about himself titled Adlai Stevenson: Conscience in Politics, wrote "To Eleanor Roosevelt, my conscience."
So yes, I was more influenced by my grandmother than by my grandfather. I admired them both inordinately, but I knew him as a child knows his grandfather. I knew my grandmother as I was at least coming into my own adult life. I'm convinced that she loved him, but as is widely known if not often well represented, theirs was not a close marriage.
— From a biographical note on the website of the Poetry Foundation.
Collections of her poems and prose that have been translated into English:
Sounds, Feelings, Thoughts (1981)
People on a Bridge: Poems (1990)
View with a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems (1995)
Poems New and Collected (2000)
Miracle Fair: Selected Poems of Wislawa Szymborska (2002)
Non-Required Reading: Prose Pieces (2002)
Monologue of a Dog (2005)
The same short note of the Poetry Foundation includes these two sentences:
Readers of Szymborska's poetry have often noted its wit, irony,
and deceptive simplicity. Her poetry examines domestic details
and occasions, playing these against the backdrop of history.
Szymborska has taught me especially about the potential and realizable intimacy of
poetry and politics, a theme to which I return in my life and writing again and again.
In her memory, here are six of her poems that have moved me:
Performance without rehearsal.
Body without alterations.
Head without premeditation.
I know nothing of the role I play.
I only know it's mine. I can't exchange it.
I have to guess on the spot
just what this play's all about.
Ill-prepared for the privilege of living,
I can barely keep up with the pace that the action demands.
I improvise, although I loathe improvisation.
I trip at every step over my own ignorance.
I can't conceal my hayseed manners.
My instincts are for happy histrionics.
Stage fright makes excuses for me, which humiliate me more.
Extenuating circumstances strike me as cruel.
Words and impulses you can't take back,
stars you'll never get counted,
your character like a raincoat you button on the run?
the pitiful results of all this unexpectedness.
If only I could just rehearse one Wednesday in advance,
or repeat a single Thursday that has passed!
But here comes Friday with a script I haven't seen.
Is it fair, I ask
(my voice a little hoarse,
since I couldn't even clear my throat offstage).
You'd be wrong to think that it's just a slapdash quiz
taken in makeshift accommodations. Oh no.
I'm standing on the set and I see how strong it is.
The props are surprisingly precise.
The machine rotating the stage has been around even longer.
The farthest galaxies have been turned on.
Oh no, there's no question, this must be the premiere.
And whatever I do
will become forever what I've done.
ConsolationDarwin.They say he read novels to relax,But only certain kinds:nothing that ended unhappily.If anything like that turned up,enraged, he flung the book into the fire.
True or not,I’m ready to believe it.Scanning in his mind so many times and places,he’d had enough of dying species,the triumphs of the strong over the weak,the endless struggles to survive,all doomed sooner or later.He’d earned the right to happy endings,at least in fictionwith its diminutions.
Hence the indispensablesilver lining,the lovers reunited, the families reconciled,the doubts dispelled, fidelity rewarded,fortunes regained, treasures uncovered,stiff-necked neighbors mending their ways,good names restored, greed daunted,old maids married off to worthy parsons,troublemakers banished to other hemispheres,forgers of documents tossed down the stairs,seducers scurrying to the altar,orphans sheltered, widows comforted,pride humbled, wounds healed over,prodigal sons summoned home,cups of sorrow thrown into the ocean,hankies drenched with tears of reconciliation,general merriment and celebration,and the dog Fido,gone astray in the first chapter,turns up barking gladlyin the last.
Children of Our Age
We are children of our age,
it's a political age.
All day long, all through the night,
all affairs--yours, ours, theirs--
are political affairs.
Whether you like it or not,
your genes have a political past,
your skin, a political cast,
your eyes, a political slant.
Whatever you say reverberates,
whatever you don't say speaks for itself.
So either way you're talking politics.
Even when you take to the woods,
you're taking political steps
on political grounds.
Apolitical poems are also political,
and above us shines a moon
no longer purely lunar.
To be or not to be, that is the question.
And though it troubles the digestion
it's a question, as always, of politics.
To acquire a political meaning
you don't even have to be human.
Raw material will do,
or protein feed, or crude oil,
or a conference table whose shape
was quarreled over for months;
Should we arbitrate life and death
at a round table or a square one?
Meanwhile, people perished,
and the fields ran wild
just as in times immemorial
and less political.
The End and the Beginning
After every war
someone has to tidy up.
Things won't pick
themselves up, after all.
Someone has to shove
the rubble to the roadsides
so the carts loaded with corpses
can get by.
Someone has to trudge
through sludge and ashes,
through the sofa springs,
the shards of glass,
the bloody rags.
Someone has to lug the post
to prop the wall,
someone has to glaze the window,
set the door in its frame.
No sound bites, no photo opportunities,
and it takes years.
All the cameras have gone
to other wars.
The bridges need to be rebuilt,
the railroad stations, too.
Shirtsleeves will be rolled
Someone, broom in hand,
still remembers how it was.
Someone else listens, nodding
his unshattered head.
But others are bound to be bustling nearby
who'll find all that
a little boring.
From time to time someone still must
dig up a rusted argument
from underneath a bush
and haul it off to the dump.
Those who knew
what this was all about
must make way for those
who know little.
And less than that.
And at last nothing less than nothing.
Someone has to lie there
in the grass that covers up
the causes and effects
with a cornstalk in his teeth,
gawking at clouds.
Hitler's First Photograph
And who's this little fellow in his itty-bitty robe?
That's tiny baby Adolf, the Hitlers' little boy!
Will he grow up to be an LL.D?
Or a tenor in Vienna's Opera House?
Whose teensy hand is this, whose little ear and eye and nose?
Whose tummy full of milk, we just don't know:
printer's, doctor's, merchant's, priest's?
Where will those tootsy-wootsies finally wander?
To a garden, to a school, to an office, to a bride?
Maybe to the Burgermeister's daughter?
Precious little angel, mommy's sunshine, honey bun.
While he was being born, a year ago,
there was no dearth of signs on the earth and in the sky:
spring sun, geraniums in windows,
the organ-grinder's music in the yard,
a lucky fortune wrapped in rosy paper.
Then just before the labor his mother's fateful dream.
A dove seen in a dream means joyful news--
if it is caught, a long-awaited guest will come.
Knock knock, who's there, it's Adolf's heartchen knocking.
A little pacifier, diaper, rattle, bib,
our bouncing boy, thank God and knock on wood, is well,
looks just like his folks, like a kitten in a basket,
like the tots in every other family album.
Sh-h-h, let's not start crying, sugar.
The camera will click from under that black hood.
The Klinger Atelier, Grabenstrasse, Braunau.
And Braunau is a small, but worthy town--
honest businesses, obliging neighbors,
smell of yeast dough, of gray soap.
No one hears howling dogs, or fate's footsteps.
A history teacher loosens his collar
and yawns over homework.A Few Words on the SoulWe have a soul at times.No one’s got it non-stop, for keeps. Day after day, year after year may pass without it. Sometimes it will settle for awhile only in childhood’s fears and raptures. Sometimes only in astonishment that we are old. It rarely lends a hand in uphill tasks, like moving furniture, or lifting luggage, or going miles in shoes that pinch. It usually steps out whenever meat needs chopping or forms have to be filled. For every thousand conversations it participates in one, if even that, since it prefers silence. Just when our body goes from ache to pain, it slips off-duty. It’s picky: it doesn’t like seeing us in crowds, our hustling for a dubious advantage and creaky machinations make it sick. Joy and sorrow aren’t two different feelings for it. It attends us only when the two are joined. We can count on it when we’re sure of nothing and curious about everything. Among the material objects it favors clocks with pendulums and mirrors, which keep on working even when no one is looking. It won’t say where it comes from or when it’s taking off again, though it’s clearly expecting such questions. We need it but apparently it needs us for some reason too.
I want simply to introduce two of my heros. Both, not accidentally, are women. I grew up with strong, thoughtful, compassionate women, survivors and straight shooters all, and all had a great sense of humor: my mother Anna Roosevelt, my grandmother Eleanor Roosevelt, and my older sister, Ellie Seagraves. (All, by the way, bore the same family name, still being passed from generation to generation in the Roosevelt family — Anna Eleanor. They were, and remain, my intimate heros.
But one has heros in the wider world as well. My grandmother Eleanor bridged the two for me. Here, in their own words, are two women I have never met, but I have been deeply influenced by their writing and their character, which shines through in their writing. They are Joanna Macy and Rebecca Solnit. Please meet them.
Joanna still travels the earth, if less often and closer to home. Her wisdom still shines. She still makes me weep, laugh, hope, love and work. Here are some of her current and stunning comments:
For peace, justice, and life on Earth, fresh ways of seeing arise, and ancient ways return....I share....in service to the revolution of our time: the "Great Turning" from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization.
The most remarkable feature of this historical moment on Earth is not that we are on the way todestroying the world — we've actually been on the way for quite a while. It is that we are beginning to wake up, as from a millennia-long sleep, to a whole new relationship to our world, to ourselves and each other.
The key: overcoming denial
We need to recognize that denial itself is the greatest danger we face. We have the technology to make sweeping and fairly effective changes. But not much can be done until we’re ready to acknowledge the situation we’re in, to let it sink in.
That kind of acknowledgement isn’t easy. Our fear of despair functions to filter out painful information, and furthermore it’s not in the interest of our economic system, as it is presently structured, for us to get alarmed. It’s in the perceived self-interest of the state, the corporations, and the media which serve them for us to imagine that everything is just fine and that we are happy – or that we’re just about to be happy if we buy this product or that product. So to break through this protective screen we’ve erected, it’s very helpful to see it as a spell, like in the old fairy tales.
It’s like the spell that grips the courtiers in the castle of the Fisher King in the legend of the Holy Grail: They’re in the middle of the Wasteland where nothing grows anymore, and both the land and the rulers have lost their powers of regeneration. But they’re mesmerized, so they maintain the status quo. They all move around on automatic, like smiling robots. We are under a comparable spell, and we can break out of it the way the Fisher King and his courtiers did. Thanks to Parsifal’s caring questions – "What aileth thee?" – they encountered what they already knew beneath the denial and the repressed despair, and that smack of reality woke them up. That direct connection – the great erotic connection of telling the truth – was like the kiss that woke up Sleeping Beauty.
So we break the spell by loving ourselves and each other enough to tell the truth. Our own experience, as inhabitants of an endangered planet, gives us the authority and the authenticity to tell the truth about what we see and feel and know is happening to our world. That profound inner movement of acknowledgement brings a great release of intelligence and creativity, because repressing what we know is a tremendous energy drain. It’s not so much a question of incorporating new information – sitting down at the desk and learning a new lesson – but rather relaxing our defenses and saying, "Okay, yeah, I know this is going on." There is a level on which this awareness is already present.
Obviously, we still need to transmit critically important information, but let’s do it in a way that respects the fact that on some deep level, people know they are living on an endangered planet. And indeed, it is that inner knowledge which produces what we mistakenly take for apathy or indifference. The work that I have been doing over the last ten years convinces me that so-called "public apathy" does not stem from indifference or callousness or even ignorance so much as from fear of pain. And that pain itself stems from an innate capacity to suffer with our world.
We make the mistake of thinking that we are essentially separate and fragile, and that if we acknowledge this terrifying information we’ll break. It’s a mistake that is fostered by our culture and our political-economic system. So we need to respect ourselves and realize how tough we are – tough enough to be fully present to our world and not break.
Rebecca Solnit is a marvel of perspicacious generosity and determined hope. A Californian like Joanna, I would be very surprised if they are not good friends. Here she is, in her own words. See how they echo Joanna's intelligence and graceful, passionate expression, how their fundamental values are very similar. She writes prolifically, and travels widely. I draw almost arbitrarily from a very recent essay on TomDispatch. She calls it "The Rain on my Parade: A Letter to my Dismal Allies":
Forgive me if briefly I take my eyes away from the prize to brush away some flies, but the buzzing has gone on for some time. I have a grand goal and it is to counter the Republican right with its deep desire to annihilate everything I love, and to move toward far more radical goals than the Democrats ever truly support. In the course of pursuing that, however, I’ve come up against the habits of my presumed allies again and again.
O rancid sector of the far left, please stop your grousing! Compared to you, Eeyore sounds like a Teletubby. If I gave you a pony, you would not only be furious that not everyone has a pony, but you would pick on the pony for not being radical enough until it wept big, sad, hot pony tears. Because what we’re talking about here is not an analysis, a strategy, or a cosmology, but an attitude, and one that is poisoning us. Not just me, but you, us, and our possibilities.
The poison often emerges around electoral politics. Look, Obama does bad things and I deplore them, though not with a lot of fuss, since they’re hardly a surprise. He sometimes also does not-bad things, and I sometimes mention them in passing, and mentioning them does not negate the reality of the bad things.
So here I want to lay out an insanely obvious principle that apparently needs clarification. There are bad things and they are bad. There are good things and they are good, even though the bad things are bad. The mentioning of something good does not require the automatic assertion of a bad thing. The good thing might be an interesting avenue to pursue in itself if you want to get anywhere. In that context, the bad thing has all the safety of a dead end. And yes, much in the realm of electoral politics is hideous, but since it also shapes quite a bit of the world, if you want to be political or even informed you have to pay attention to it and maybe even work with it.
When you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail, but that’s not a good reason to continue to pound down anything in the vicinity. Consider what needs to be raised up as well. Consider our powers, our victories, our possibilities; ask yourself just what you’re contributing, what kind of story you’re telling, and what kind you want to be telling.
We are facing a radical right that has abandoned all interest in truth and fact. We face not only their specific policies, but a kind of cultural decay that comes from not valuing truth, not trying to understand the complexities and nuances of our situation, and not making empathy a force with which to act. To oppose them requires us to be different from them, and that begins with both empathy and intelligence, which are not as separate as we have often been told.
Nine years ago I began writing about hope, and I eventually began to refer to my project as “snatching the teddy bear of despair from the loving arms of the left." All that complaining is a form of defeatism, a premature surrender, or an excuse for not really doing much. Despair is also a form of dismissiveness, a way of saying that you already know what will happen and nothing can be done, or that the differences don’t matter, or that nothing but the impossibly perfect is acceptable. If you’re privileged you can then go home and watch bad TV or reinforce your grumpiness with equally grumpy friends.
There are really only two questions for activists: What do you want to achieve? And who do you want to be? And those two questions are deeply entwined. Every minute of every hour of every day you are making the world, just as you are making yourself, and you might as well do it with generosity and kindness and style.
That is the small ongoing victory on which great victories can be built, and you do want victories, don’t you? Make sure you’re clear on the answer to that, and think about what they would look like.
In the voices of Rebecca Solnit and Joanna Macy -— two generations of women activists — I hear the voices of my sister, my mother and my grandmother, and I feel pride and gratitude for them all.