Weak parties are susceptible to extreme candidates who take advantage of party weakness to run shallow, populist campaigns. These people seem fun. They appeal to our political id, mostly in the way they make fun of everyone who opposes them, and encourage us to fester in our (often reasonable) frustrations and anger.
A skeptic’s take on such a variety of experience would chalk it up as privileged gonzo larkishness or chest-beating thrill-seeking—an understandable take, one likely partly true. But there was more to it. For I’ve not acknowledged the murders of his father and uncle; the psychic fallout in the family afterward; and his years-long struggle with drug addiction. That Mr. Kennedy had such an appetite for life despite these harrowings is considerable.
For Kaplan, when comparing two countries and asking why one has succeeded where the other has failed, what matters most is not national policies but “societal dynamics—the strength of the social glue, the nature of relationships across groups, and the role of social institutions.” These are things that manifest (or fail to manifest) at the local level.
My point is not to get lost in conventional debate here. But seeking to heal from the culture war, I want to uncover the bodies of my neighbors, which industrial stories kick in the face, deform, and then at election time bury beneath the red-blue map. Aligned with my neighbors, I want to stand in a place off that map, outside those stories.
In her introduction, Hudson calls The Soul of Civility “a humanistic manifesto.” And she’s right: the book is steeped in humanism, in more ways than one. First, Hudson underscores the profound potential of humanistic texts, from a variety of human civilizations, to pinpoint the thorniest problems of human existence and to help readers contemplate how best to address them.
The liberty and justice which republics are erected to safeguard requires, as Milton and the Founders knew, a moral, virtuous, and religious citizenry. Without this moral and virtuous spirit, the citizenry is slothful and servile. Despotism takes hold once the bulwark of liberty and justice, moral love, has withered away. Welcome to the twenty-first century.
Pattinson captured the appeal of Christopher Nolan’s movies: “You can either really, really dig into it, find so many different threads to pull, or you can appreciate it as a big, massive adventure movie, and you don’t even need to know what’s happening that much.”
What I failed to realize was that the conservatism I was shifting away from was not a historical conservatism at all—rather, it was a distinctly 2000s neoconservatism that I had assumed was the only flavor.
Even Rosa the respectable sociologist entertains the possibility that if we relearned how to listen, the mountains might speak. Perhaps they too have their spirits, mute but waiting.
What keeps me on one side rather than the other is my belief that if we had been living more fully in that real world, a lot of what we call “the pandemic” simply would not have occurred (perhaps including the virus itself, if we accept the increasingly compelling theory that it was man-made).