Monday, April 14, 2003

I find it less remarkable than depressing that Eric Alterman can ask his readers not to ignore an article by Frank Rich "just because he’s in the... Arts and Leisure section," and that Atrios underplays if only slightly, the looting of a museum. Alterman was joking, of course; that changes nothing.

I was reading the New York Review today and was struck by how many articles touched on the barbarous stupidity of the war. There were three pieces on the war itself, but Tim Parks writing on the Medici made a few cutting remarks on the relation of the Florentine republic to our own, and though he wasn't specific and I could be reading in too much, Jasper Griffin's description of Cicero's despair at the fall of his republic felt awkwardly real and present.

Of all the bloggers I read, including academics and lawyers, the only one I can think of who speaks with a voice I would call 'humanist' is Sam Heldman. He's the only one who refers to the most important subjects as questions, even when it comes to politics - the only one I would actually refer to as being curious by nature. Most others leave their questions for the less important subjects like art or 'spirituality' (whatever that word means.)

The first post I read by Sam was on the question of when or if the historical significance of a plaque or statue trumps its obvious unconstitutionality. Is it right to remove a copy of the Ten Commandments from the local courthouse if it has been there for one hundred and fifty years? I think he said it is, but to me that mattered less than the fact that he asked the damn question to begin with, and understood its weight.

Alterman and Atrios come from the everything I learned about being nice I learned in kindergarten school of philosophy. Atrios extends that logic about as far as it can go. He's a know-nothing with a strong moral compass, which is better than can be said for most. Alterman thinks his ideas amount to more but they don't. To be more you have to feel curiousity and doubt beyond your own assumptions, in Alterman's case beyond the arrogance his knowledge seems to him to justify.

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