Before you throw that old book into the trash …

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Click this link to discover an article that should be required reading for everyone who loves literature.

It’s also for everyone who asks to ban The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because Huck uses the “N-word” to describe his friend Jim, for everyone who refuses to enjoy old movies or read any book more than 10 minutes old because the ancient artist’s point of view is abhorrent seen through our modern eyes.

It’s as if we imagine an old book to be a time machine that brings the writer to us. We buy a book and take it home, and the writer appears before us, asking to be admitted into our company. If we find that the writer’s views are ethnocentric or sexist or racist, we reject the application, and we bar his or her entry into the present.

As the student had put it, I don’t want anyone like that in my house.

I think we’d all be better readers if we realized that it isn’t the writer who’s the time traveler. It’s the reader. When we pick up an old novel, we’re not bringing the novelist into our world and deciding whether he or she is enlightened enough to belong here; we’re journeying into the novelist’s world and taking a look around.

The difference in perspective, the clarification of who exactly is doing the traveling, might lead to a different kind of reading experience.

Please, for your own sake, read the article.

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Autumn of Liberty

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For many years I wanted to be Paul Harvey when I grew up. I may grow up one of these days.

Paul Harvey was the last and greatest of the great radio news commentators. In a world of radio news blocks defined in seconds, he maintained a 15-minute weekday newscast into the 21st century.

“Paul Harvey News & Comment” encouraged, enlightened and entertained millions every day for decades.

I’m reading a book I found in a used bookstore many years ago, a book that’s out of print … partly because it was published in 1954 and many of its references were familiar in 1954 and not so much now.

And partly because 65 years later, many of its references are all too familiar.

It’s called Autumn of Liberty. By Paul Harvey. Continue reading “Autumn of Liberty”

Today we ‘choose’ our rulers

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Here in the USA it’s Election Day, when we learn who will be the boss for the next few years and who will be in a constant, unending temper tantrum.

In recent years the tantrum has been especially shrill and ugly. Each campaign has been more unseemly, especially as the world of politics and government has devolved into a perpetual campaign.

Oddly, the harder the mongers of fear and anger have worked to divide us, the more an old Who song jangles through my mind, the words screaming out as the election winners prepare to take office:

Meet the new boss: Same as the old boss.

What keeps me from despair, and what I hope will encourage you, is something that popped into my mind a few years ago while dashing off another burst of thought like this one, and so, again, I quote myself.

“Freedom is not about having the right ruler. Oh wait, yes it is. Freedom is understanding that I am the boss of me.”

The scary season is upon us

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It’s really kind of annoying at this stage; the only frightening thing would be if it works.

Social media and traditional TV are awash with people screaming about how this politician or that one is corrupt, dangerous, possibly criminal, definitely evil, and possibly Satan himself.

Aside from the possibility that most of the ads are accurate and most of these people really ARE evil, it’s an orgy of fear mongering, and I must roll out the old standby from H.L. Mencken: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

The goal, of course, is for the populace to surrender its will and its freedom and let the fear mongers lead us to safety, which more and more these days is the safety of the cage.

The bottom line for me is the extent to which, in past practice, the person asking for my vote has demonstrated a commitment to liberty and the notion that no one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force against another human being or delegate the initiation of force to anyone else. There’s pretty much no one in the political realm who buys into the latter notion, and few are even talking about liberty anymore, but I sometimes see glimmers of hope through the waves of imaginary hobgoblins.

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For what it’s worth

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“Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”

— Stephen Stills, “For What It’s Worth”

“For what it’s worth” – Why is that the name of the song? It’s a great and probably apt title, but I wonder what Stills was thinking. Why not “Stop Children, What’s That Sound?” or “(Everybody Look) What’s Going On”?

I do think it’s time we stop, children, and everybody look what’s going on.

What IS going on? WTF is going on?

Who benefits when people are this angry and this afraid? Why, what a surprise: It’s the people who are selling the anger and the fear – and especially the people who claim to have a solution.

I approve THIS message: You and I have more in common than we have differences. I got no need to beat you, I just want to go my way. You go your way, I’ll go mine. There ain’t no good guys, there ain’t no bad guys, there’s only you and me and we just disagree.

Asterisk: There are bad guys, and they’re the ones who elevate a little disagreement into fighting words. As long as we leave each other alone, we have no need to quarrel. Them folks in high places, they like to see us fighting, partially for their amusement but mostly because it keeps us from paying attention to them. The longer we stay mad each other, the longer they can perch on their potard and promise to protect us from each other. I reckon they’re protecting us by sticking us in a cage and yelling, “Cage fight!” And so we fight until we’re blue in the face, or black and blue physically, and the ones who sow the discord sit back and smile. For what it’s worth.

My solution? Don’t get mad at anyone except the ones who try to herd you into a cage and fight. In fact, don’t even get mad at them, because anytime you let anger be your primary emotion, you play into their hands. Don’t walk into the cage and don’t fight.

What you do with a fear monger is the one thing that drains their power: Ignore them. Don’t listen to the whispers or the shouts. If you’re angry, you’re in their clutches. They want you mad, and scared, and feeling like somebody ought to do something, because they’re there to volunteer to be that somebody, but give them the chance and what they’ll do will just stir us all against each other while they ride to the bank and cash our checks.

So here’s what I’m going to do: Love my neighbors. Give more than I receive. Eschew the initiation of violence. It seems to me there’s plenty of world for for all of us.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain spinning wheels, flipping switches and pressing buttons. In the end, he has no power. Or rather, he has only as much power as you surrender to his control. So ignore him and deny him the power with his loud booming voice and his flashy explosions. You’ll eventually be able to see he’s only a weak, powerless guy with a squeaky voice and an uncertain fear of his own making shining from his eyes.

The most dangerous man

“The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable …”

― H.L. Mencken, Prejudices, Third Series