One might think that a reasonable knowledge of the history of human barbarity would leave little room for further disillusionment.

A similar knowledge of human experience also tells us that such a statement as that holds no place either at the dinner tables of young families, the town halls of electoral politics, or the congregational gatherings of organized worship. These are the places where hope must reign.

It is such hope that has sustained the human race through all the disillusionment, in the renewable belief that life can be better — and, in fact, in almost incalculable ways for most…


The Dark History of White Reaction to Black Protest

As we observe what I will call the Trumpian conservative and white moderate reaction to the current Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests and movement, it helps to contextualize historically the nature of that reaction. When we do, we find that conservative and moderate white reaction is persistently critical of, and unresponsive to, black civil rights and social justice movements. At its worst, such white reaction has amplified the original historical dehumanizing offense against African Americans. …


For some time now, leading anti-Trump journalist David Frum has offered as the pinned tweet atop his Twitter page, the prediction, “When this is all over, no one will admit to ever having supported it.” A near corollary forecast will most assuredly prove as true — that many more will claim to have opposed Trump than ever really did.

The current case in point is the latest contretemps at The New York Times, over Tom Cotton’s Op-Ed calling on Donald Trump to “employ the military” in an “overwhelming show of force” against Black Lives Matter demonstrations and disturbances. Faced with…


Many songs seem emblematic or emotionally reminiscent of the 60s, but for me, none is more so than Goodbye and Hello, by Tim Buckley and Larry Becket, with its marriage of folk lyricism to Kurt Weill, Wiemar theatricality.

O the new children dance — — — I am young
All around the balloons — — — I will live

Did Arnie and I feel like new children sitting on the ground in the middle of a small outdoor stadium in Santa Barbara listening to Blind Faith? Probably not. We did have strong political views. I had canvassed Washington Square in…


John “Jack” Niflot (Gift of Duke Devlin)/The Museum at Bethel Woods/Via Reuters

Ann-Margaret was dancing down the middle of Sepulveda Boulevard.

We were watching her from an overpass above. We were 17 and 19, and we had just walked out of Los Angeles International Airport. We had worked the first part of the summer to afford this first ever trip on our own — a three-week odyssey up the coast of hippie California. But there was no allowance in the budget for taxis out of airports, so we walked out. Suitcases in hand, we crossed over Sepulveda toward Century Boulevard, and we looked down from the overpass. …


In the aftermath of the alarm-raising dud that were the Mueller congressional hearings, some observations are in order. We need to see clearly where the nation stands.

The first misfortune in post-election resistance to Trump was a GOP congress during the first two years. Unlike Watergate, the developing, synergistic drama of an ongoing special counsel investigation together with congressional hearings was thus impossible.

In place of that joint drama, news coverage, even with all the revelations that came, was ineffectual. …


Steve Bannon was recently disinvited from the New Yorker Festival. What should we make of that?

The concept of free speech has emerged as a surprising ideological battle ground in 21st-century liberal democracies. Extremist left and right parties like Marxists and fascists have always stood outside the free speech framework, but now, emergent political tendencies within liberal democracy challenge it as well.

Left-identitarian and Antifa-identified activists reject full commitment to the free speech ideal and its protections. They do so, in the first instance, in deference to the vulnerability of marginalized populations; in the second, as a settled case of historical evil: punch a Nazi.

Right identitarians—white nationalists and nativists—seek to limit free speech as part…


On the duality of human experience

Once upon an academic time in literary studies (what undergrads and lay people in the United States call “English”), students learning to analyze works of literature were directed to consider the presence of thematic dualities.

In the admixed relationships found between love and hate, good and evil, or idealism and ambition, students might gain, it was believed, both human and intellectual insight into the tritely expressed, but profoundly true, “complexity of life” — and of art. William Blake was even good enough to offer an assist in this understanding, with his Songs of Innocence and of Experience.


The Necessary, Honorable Thing: Denounce Trump

Il Duce (The Leader)

Only a few true moments of conscience present themselves in a lifetime. For relatively safe and comfortable Americans of the post-World War II era — a place and period of human history unparalleled in its general security and complacency — those moments are even fewer. So unfamiliar are these crucibles of conscience in actual experience that even many among the learned are blurred in their vision, dulled to the understanding of what rises before them. Though their fates may be poised before an unalterable destination and a lifetime of nostalgia for the lost world…

A. Jay Adler

Professor of English, writer, roper of stars https://fordham.academia.edu/AJayAdler

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