Wednesday, November 03, 2004

From The Cellar of Dreams

Countries go insane like people go insane...Most places just are something, but America had to mean something too, hence her vulnerability - to make-believe, to false memory, false destiny. And finally it looked as though the riveting struggle with illusion was over, and America had lost...America thought she was awake, brightly awake, but in reality she was sleeping, and deep-dreaming; and she was all by herself. She wanted to be good, to be better - special. We all do. When you go insane, what happens? Wanting to be good and right: can this do it? Can love do it? Too much love, and all of the wrong kind. Love unreturned, tantrum love, collapsing into hurt feelings. Feelings ripped and torn. Inconsolable America, cruelly stung, breathing deeply, and not coming out to play. Marriageably she slept, and dreamt, and thought she was awake.
      -Martin Amis

Chicago...isn't any tougher at heart than the USA is tough at heart, for all her ships at sea. It just acts with the nervous violence of the two timing bridegroom whose guilt is more than he can bear: the bird who tries to throw his bride off the scent by accusing her of infidelity loudly enough for the neighbors to hear. The guiltier he feels the louder he talks...He isn't a tough punk, just a scared one. Americans everywhere face gunfire better than guilt...You can't push nineteen-year-olds who want to be good doctors and good engineers into a war for the salvation of importers' investments and expect them to come out believing in anything much beyond the uses of the super-bazooka against "gooks."
      -Nelson Algren, l951

The wonder of astronomy lies as much in what is unknown as in the beauty of the 1% that is known. However, when discussing these unknowns, one should heed the wisdom of the past, so when lecturing about cold dark matter, I always quote: "If a thousand men believe a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing."
      -Dr. D. Lynden-Bell

Every movement - the new left, the new right, the new middle, the new church - should have its own court jester. If he can teach each of the militants to laugh at itself it would be useful, if only for that distant day when there would be nobody else to act as a target. The apparent objective of any of these movements seems to be the complete obliteration of all other dedicated thinkers.
      -Walt Kelly

...At an extension college in Little Rock, the students damned the victims of AIDS-"They deserve to die." Yet on seeing a documentary film about those damned, they wept softly...These young, who wept for those they damned, may offer the challenge as yet unrecognized. In a wholly different context, Tom Paine remarked on it: the nature of infidelity to oneself, professing to believe what one does not believe. Could this be "our dirty little secret"?
      -Studs Terkel

I picked you for the job not because I think you're so darn smart, but because I thought you were a shade less dumb than the rest of the outfit.

Guess I was wrong. You're not smarter, Walter. You're just a little taller.
      -from Double Idemnity

The camp ground was littered with spent shot and rubbish and pools of congealed blood - my stars, wouldn't I just like to take one of our Ministers, or street-corner orators, or bloodlusting, breakfast-scoffing papas, over to such a place as the Alma hills - not to let him see, because he'd just tut-tut and look anguished and have a good pray and not care a damn - but to shoot him in the belly with a soft-nosed bullet and let him die screaming where he belonged. That's what they all deserve.
      -George MacDonald Fraser (Flashman at the Charge)

Once you get used to it, reality is as irresistible as a club, and I was clubbed into the cellar before I caught the hint. Perhaps that’s the way it had to be; I don’t know. Nor do I know whether accepting the lesson has placed me in the rear or in the avant-garde.
      -Ralph Ellison

Your enemy is not surrounding your country, your enemy is ruling your country.
      -George W. Bush, January 28, 2003

Elections are a sports metaphor inadequate to encompass all of how society runs. The failed swing would not have saved the world, no did striking out doom it. Morals and politics are not a series won by one choice, but but a series of ongoing jobs, even when times are good. So it is not so bad the one magical choice failed to produce the desired result, nor is it entirely disheartening to face the harder task. It is easier to hope about an ongoing process than to bet one's whole sense of country on a single day. If we do only the latter, then we truly lose.