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On March 8, 2016, Taylor Force, a 28-year-old West Point graduate and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, was visiting Israel with members of his graduate class from Vanderbilt University when a Palestinian terrorist attacked civilians in Jaffa with a knife. Force was killed, and 10 others, including a pregnant woman, were wounded. The next day, the terrorist who killed Force, Bashar Masalha, was praised as a “hero and martyr” by the Fatah party (which is overseen by Mahmoud Abbas). He was given a hero’s funeral and thousands attended.
Talking American sends me thinking now and again. All the questions about the left and the right came up again the other day, questions that come up more often than I think they should, and which I fear can never be articulated in a way that contains partisan passions. That’s how it is: The terms of political art are almost unique in how contentious and disputable they really are. But this sent me thinking, as I said, so I have some questions and remarks below, and a sketch for a crash course on the politics of left and right — I hope you’ll be interested in this enough to make it possible to have more conversations and, possibly, more clarity.
- Is it worth learning what left and right mean in politics? Where they come from? How we ended up talking this way?
- Do people who talk this way think of it as more than a mere expedient?
- Do people who insist on talking this way have any good faith that’s not limited to partisanship?
- Do people who want to go beyond left and right really get what’s in people’s hearts as per the previous two points?
I might write something serious and respectable about this, but is it worth the time? I do have some provisional remarks, meanwhile, about what seems to me to be at stake:
- Recovering this language of left and right might bring back dispute as coming down on the yes and the no of serious questions. That’s surely needed!
- Another reason, related, is less about pugnacity and more about its ground. Deliberation implies a common ground, which surely is also needed now.
- Further, as with partisanship, there is more than mere denunciation–aspiration is part of it, too. Being on the left or the right seems to involve knowing some things and being serious about what you know.
- Contrariwise, there’s a danger of ending up not being for anything–not knowing even how to associate with like-minded people, for principle, or interest, or because circumstances require striving in common.
One way to think about this is the study proper to the liberal arts. That way of grasping the matter looks like this:
In case you’ve missed the controversy over the past couple of months, an artist named Kristen Visbal recently sculpted a statue called Fearless Girl, which depicts a little girl in a flamboyantly defiant pose. Visbal then placed Fearless Girl in front of a much more famous statue: Charging Bull. In doing so, Visbal has staged a wonderfully dramatic scene: It looks as if a giant bull is rushing the girl, and that she is completely undaunted.
Charging Bull is that giant Wall Street bull you’ve seen in a hundred movies. It has become an icon for America’s can-do spirit and economic vitality. This is exactly what the Bull’s creator intended it to mean. So, if the Bull represents America’s financial strength, you may ask, what sense does it make to place a sassy little girl in front of it?
Ah! But that was before. The Bull once represented economic strength, but the Bull has been recast. He is no longer the hero of the story. He is now the villain. According to Ms. Visbal and her patrons, the little girl represents women in leadership, and the Bull now stands for a cruel patriarchy that seeks to gore to death the aspirations of little girls everywhere.
I have never met Rosa Parks, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. So, I may not know all that much about speaking truth to power. But, it seems to me that I just met the Jeremiah of our age. At the local Hillel House.
Her remarks, for 30 or so students and faculty members from the University of Minnesota, began with a personal story. She recounted how she was introduced to violence in the Middle East through an early trauma. At the age of six, while her family was returning to their home in Dimona (in the South of Israel) from a day trip in Gaza, a Palestinian militant tossed a Molotov cocktail into the family automobile. While the Aharishs were Arabs, and observant Muslims, their car had a yellow Israeli license plate. To the militants, blind with hatred, the Aharishs appeared to be Jews; and thus deserved to die.
One week from today, on Sunday May 7, Emmanuel Macron will, barring a last-minute upset, be elected President of the French Republic. So where will France go from there ? Preview Open
City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant is drawing the ire of Washington State Patrol for calling on highways and airports to be shut down on May Day. With May Day coming up, police and protesters are gearing up for what some are expecting to be the most confrontational event in years and Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant’s calls […]
I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Friday. After it appears, I post it Sunday on Ricochet. Preview Open
So, once you save a post, so that you can edit it or add to it, how do you retrieve it? I can’t seem to find a post I started. Preview Open
Most people seem to believe that the Biblical text is about gouging an eye out. I have often seen people here on Ricochet referring to the passage in this way. But there are other interpretations. Those who look at the original Hebrew often conclude that it doesn’t say anything about gouging eyes out at all. […]
April 30, 1789 – The first constitutional president of the United States delivered his inaugural address. Quoted at length, nothing further that I can add: Among the vicissitudes incident to life, no event could have filled me with greater anxieties than that of which the notification was transmitted by your order, and received on the […]
“Winning” is the theme for Group Writing in May, and there are still spots open. Sign up, please! Especially if you haven’t done it before. You like winning, don’t you? Of course you do. Preview Open
This guy is extremely talented: https://www.youtube.com/embed/5sBnaT-4X0w Preview Open
Please excuse me for starting a new thread on this, but I feel sort of proprietary about Mystery Science Theater 3000. I was the first to write about the show, back in 1988 when MST3K had just started. I was writing features for the Star Tribune, and did a piece about it that got picked […]
Is it better to be kind? Or to be self effacing? I ask this because last week @RichardHarvester had a brilliant post in which he talked about the biblical notion of “leprosy” as coming from conceit. Which means that, to RH, the Torah is talking about the dangers that come from seeking fame for oneself, […]
When I was a young child, we were poor. At one point, we lived in a single bedroom cabin with no functioning toilet. Luckily, I was in cloth diapers (with a matching blankie and rabbit! Made with love my Grandma), so the lack of plumbing wasn’t really a concern. I hear my mother wasn’t a […]