Saturday, January 21, 2017

E. B. White on America Firsters

Fascism, nationalism, and America Firsters:

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), there is a certain quality in Fascism which is quite close to a certain quality in nationalism. Fascism is openly against people-in-general, in favor of people-in-particular. Nationalism, although in theory not dedicated to such an idea, actually works against people-in-general because of its preoccupation with people-in-particular. It reminds one of Fascism, also, in its determination to stabilize its own position by whatever haphazard means present themselves — by treaties, policies, balances, agreements, pacts, and the jockeying for position which is summed up in the term “diplomacy.” This doesn’t make an American Firster a Fascist. It simply makes him, in our opinion, a man who hasn’t grown into his pants yet. The persons who have written most persuasively against nationalism are the young soldiers who have got far enough from our shores to see the amazing implications of a planet. Once you see it, you never forget it.

E. B. White, The Wild Flag: Editorials from “The New Yorker” on Federal World Government and Other Matters (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1946).
See also: “With Echoes of the ’30s, Trump Resurrects a Hard-Line Vision of ‘America First’” (The New York Times). That Trump claims no grounding in the history of “America First” isn’t “liberating,” as a scholar quoted in the Times article claims. It’s frightening. Words have history. History has history.

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Zippy panel for the day

[Zippy, January 20, 2017.]

That’s the God of Zippy, a triune God in today’s third panel. Perhaps Bill Griffith was thinking of a line from Tom Waits’s song “Heartattack and Vine”: “don’t you know there ain’t no devil, there’s just god when he’s drunk.”

Related reading
All OCA Tom Waits and Zippy posts (Pinboard)

[Lyric from the LP’s inner sleeve.]

A song for the day

“And in a city of tents those with no recompense
are encamped on the broad White House lawn.”

Two performances, 2012 and 2013: “I’m History,” words and music by Van Dyke Parks.

What to post today? I tried a passage from Thomas Paine. The words seemed out of proportion to the occasion, though I liked what Paine had to say about the folly of swearing allegiance to “a sottish, stupid, stubborn, worthless, brutish man.” I tried a passage from Abraham Lincoln, warning that “our common country is in great peril.” Okay. But Lincoln was attempting to persuade border states to go along with gradual emancipation, to be followed by freed slaves’ departure for colonized territory in South America. No thank you, President Lincoln. And then I thought of the idiotic claim about Cabinet IQs, remembered the story that begins Van Dyke’s lyric, and knew what to post. It’s the intensity of the live performance that especially gets me.

More about this song in this post. And if you like the music, buy something.

Related reading
All OCA VDP posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Things to do on Friday

In The New Republic, a writer suggests not watching: “A mass refusal to watch Trump on TV will deprive him of big ratings, which he routinely uses to create a false impression of widespread popularity.” An uncredited message circulating online suggests changing the channel: “if we turn off the TVs, it looks like a large majority of viewers tuned into Trump. But if our TVs are tuned to other shows, the percentage drops.” Snopes has discredited the change-the-channel tactic by pointing out that only Nielsen families make a difference to ratings. If you’re not a Nielsen family, turning off the television makes no difference either.

I too would like to think that changing the channel or turning off the television will somehow bruise a certain outsize ego. But it’s not happening. What I plan on doing late Friday morning: talking a walk, perhaps to the library and the supermarket. And on Saturday there’s a march to attend.

Recently updated

Make it known Now with a source for Walt Whitman’s “Make it plain.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Mystery actor


Do you recognize him? Do you think you might recognize him? Leave your best guess in the comments. If necessary, I will add a hint.

More mystery actors
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Margaret Atwood’s “Letter to America”

On March 27, 2003, one week after the United States-led invasion of Iraq began, The Nation published Margaret Atwood’s “Letter to America.” It begins, “This is a difficult letter to write, because I’m no longer sure who you are. Some of you may be having the same trouble.” And the closing paragaphs:

If you proceed much further down the slippery slope, people around the world will stop admiring the good things about you. They’ll decide that your city upon the hill is a slum and your democracy is a sham, and therefore you have no business trying to impose your sullied vision on them. They’ll think you’ve abandoned the rule of law. They’ll think you’ve fouled your own nest.

The British used to have a myth about King Arthur. He wasn’t dead, but sleeping in a cave, it was said; and in the country’s hour of greatest peril, he would return. You too have great spirits of the past you may call upon: men and women of courage, of conscience, of prescience. Summon them now, to stand with you, to inspire you, to defend the best in you. You need them.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

“Oh, Jesus — God — no —”

The Washington Post reports that the Beach Boys will be headlining an inaugural ball — when even a Bruce Springsteen cover band has stepped away from a Jersey-themed inaugural event. Way to go, Mike and Bruce. Or just Mike, really.

A related post
Caroline, no!

[Post title with thanks to Benjamin Braddock.]

A misspelling in the news

In Maryland, Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS, motto: “Expecting Excellence Everywhere”) has fired Katie Nash, a “web experience coordinator,” apparently for a reply to a student on Twitter. The exchange, from January 5, followed a forecast of a winter storm:

Student: close school tammarow PLEASE

Nash, writing as @FCPSMaryland: but then how would you learn how to spell "tomorrow"? :)
The student’s comment on Nash’s response, tweeted the next day: “i didn't take it like personaly.”

I have four thoughts:

1. Students are always hoping that school (or classes, if they’re in college) will be canceled. That’s a fact of educational life. I think it’s safe to say that a tweeted request to a school system to close up for the day is a cheeky, joking gesture. Replying with a degree of cheek is not necessarily inappropriate.

2. Nash’s response was meant to be cheeky and joking, not mean-spirited. The smiley makes that clear. Twitter is a medium that lends itself to jokes and banter (and, of course, to much else). Whether jokes and banter are appropriate in a school system’s communication with students is a good question. Tone can be tricky. Perhaps FCPS should develop guidelines (or clearer guidelines) for its use of social media.

3. Nash could have responded without acknowledging the misspelling. Using tamarrow or tacitly correcting the misspelling by writing tomorrow might itself have seemed sarcastic or mean-spirited. Instead, Nash corrected the mistake and offered a gentle reminder about the value of school: there are reasons to show up, kid; there’s stuff that you need to learn. The correction serves as a reminder, too, about how words represent a writer in social media.

4. Whatever one thinks about Nash’s response, it certainly doesn’t merit firing. A more reasonable response: “Ms. Nash meant no harm by her tweet. FCPS will be working to develop clear guidelines for our future use of social media.” End of story. Instead, Nash is the focus of two hashtags, #FreeKatie and #KatieFromFCPS.

Related reading
All OCA misspelling posts (Pinboard)

The tiny-house reach

We were idly watching a few minutes of Tiny House Hunters a show our daughter Rachel recommended to us as a trove of unwitting comedy. We especially like the lingo: “cabin aesthetic,” “coastal look,” “cottage feel,” “eclectic,” “great for entertaining,” and other bits of harmless fun.

Last night a fellow inspecting a house exclaimed, “It makes me feel like I can reach from the toilet to the fridge!” Was he celebrating, or complaining? It wasn’t clear at first. But he was complaining. A recurring theme of the show: people want a small house, but not that small.

[Post title inspired by the expression boardinghouse reach. One of my grandfathers encouraged that reach at the table. And yes, the show’s title should really be Tiny-House Hunters. It’s not the people who are small.]