Obama: “This is Not Who We Are”

Audio: Rufus Wainwright

Today, Andrew Sullivan wrote on his Daily Dish blog at Atlantic Magazine:

“I went to see Obama last night.  He had a fundraiser at H20, a yuppie disco/restaurant in Southwest DC.  I was curious about how he is in person.  I’m still absorbing the many impressions I got.  But one thing stays in my head.  This guy is a liberal.  Make no mistake about that.  He may, in fact, be the most effective liberal advocate I’ve heard in my lifetime.  As a conservative, I think he could be absolutely lethal to what’s left of the tradition of individualism, self-reliance, and small government that I find myself quixotically attached to.  And as a simple observer, I really don’t see what’s stopping him from becoming the next president.  The overwhelming first impression that you get – from the exhausted but vibrant stump speech, the diverse nature of the crowd, the swell of the various applause lines – is that this is the candidate for real change.  He has what Reagan had in 1980 and Clinton had in 1992: the wind at his back.  Sometimes, elections really do come down to a simple choice: change or more of the same?….

At a couple of points in his speech, he used the phrase: “This is not who we are.”  I was struck by the power of those words.  He was reasserting that America is much more than George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and Gitmo and Abu Ghraib and Katrina and fear and obstinacy and isolation.  And so he makes an argument for change in the language of restoration.  The temperamental conservatives in America hear a form of patriotism; and the ideological liberals hear a note of radicalism.  It’s a powerful, unifying theme.

My favorite moment was a very simple one.  He referred to the anniversary of the March on Selma, how he went and how he came back and someone (I don’t remember who now) said to him:

That was a great celebration of African-American history.”

To which Obama said he replied:

No, no, no, no, no.  That was not a great celebration of African-American history. That was a celebration of American history.”

Yes.

There’s a reason for his wide appeal.  The over-whelming question for me at this point in this historic campaign is a simple one: who will stop him?”

To read more of this article, please go here: Andrew Sullivan

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Lump and Split: Order is in the Mind of the Tagger

There was a time when it was assumed that God had created a perfectly ordered the universe.  Within that universe, we assumed that each thing had its own place, clustered with other things like it, but also each being essentially different from the other things in the cluster.  The clusters were themselves clustered, creating a Grand Tree of Everything, each branching determined by a perfectly unambiguous definition.

But, although God knew all of the the definitions, it was often hard for mere mortals to grasp exactly what it was that He had in mind.  What were the most relevant principles guiding decisions about likeness and difference?  For example, did it matter more where they lived, how they looked, or how they behaved?

Finally, we got past the notion that there must be a single right order.  Now, for all of those who want to know their universe the task of creating order in the world is more like:  Go forth and lump and split.  “Lump” and “split,” are, surprisingly, technical terms currently in use among professional indexers.  A “Lumper” takes things that seem disparate and combines them because they have something similar.  A “Splitter” tends to take two things that are lumped together and separate them into smaller categories. Indexers tend to be one or the other, their technique driven by their personality.

So, go forth into your world and Lump and Split.  Order is in the eye of the tagger.

Read more here: Social Tagging

You are invited to look at the manner in which I tag in my own home library:



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Reading and the Silent Self

READING A BOOK: THE SELF IN SOLITUDE

THE SILENT SELF

Whenever I read a book, it is as though someone is speaking with me in their absence.  Somewhat like being in a dream, I am hearing things, but there is no sound.  The rapid advance of modern technology leads us to forget how truly incredible it is that people can communicate with us in their absence and after their deaths.  It also makes us forget that reading a book allows us to touch upon a self to whom one is true in solitude, versus the self to which one is true when in the company of others.

The self (or selves) to whom one is true in solitude is relatively undisturbed by the demand of the other; impingement is kept to a minimum.  This is part of what one might mean by saying that one has a relationship with the writer of a book.  The author speaks to you, but doesn’t answer back.  The author, in actuality, never speaks at all.  Like the experience of dreaming, reading proceeds in silence, unless, of course, one reads aloud, in which case, oddly enough, one only hears one’s own voice.

Therefore, psychologically, one might think of reading as the experience of having a relationship in silence, the unusual experience of a relationship in which no one speaks.  An interest in reading biographies, in knowing about writers through interviews and live readings, is, I think, a wish to break this silence.  Reading literature is a relationship conducted in silence, and yet what we ordinarily think of as a relationship is something in which people break into words together.  Indeed, it is inconceivable how people could do anything together without actually speaking.  Social life, by definition, is very noisy.

Therefore, ultimately one is led to wonder about what we should think about someone saying that he felt truer to himself in that solitary silence, sponsored and sustained as it must be by the relationships surrounding or occurring prior to that silence.  What should we make of that?  We are confronted with the paradox that no matter how much more true one might feel about one’s silent self, the fact remains that we can only understand our relationship with ourselves in the language of our relationship with others.  However much I might feel true to myself in the silence provided by the essentially meditative experience of reading literature, in order to be a social being I must ultimately both speak and believe in the value of listening to other people’s spoken voices.

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