Thursday, January 22, 2004

From a letter

It's really become a running theme for me that people tend to look to ideas as objects to be named. I was amazed reading Solum v. Balkin on constitutional change. Solum yammered on about how it change should occur without any mention of how it actually does. And of course I would say it occurs as a form of assimilation that's documented -or demonstrated- in rhetoric and art. When an idea can be described in a form of common grace, and I remember I've used that phrase recently, its time has come. Until then it's the property only of visionaries and intellectuals, none of whom will ever be as valued as the one who, building on their work, for the first time describes their idea as if it had always been obvious.

I don't think there's that much for science to study in Bush's con, any more than there was in Clinton's, but the con worked and continues to. Dean had the guts to stand out in front, but he can't articulate a clear and 'popular' response from ideas the majority take for granted. If Edwards is as good a courtroom performer as you say, then he might do a better job at it, and be able to build on what Dean began. But the country will still have to be ready for him. The process is key. The normative is in constant motion. Do we move it, or does it move us?

What are the differences between the language of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X? Why did my parents as 'intellectuals' prefer Malcolm X hands down as smarter, edgier and more complex, while King is rightfully more 'important.' What was it about Lincoln that made him able to articulate not so much a moral position as a moral ambiguity that white Northerners understood but that abolitionists rightfully disdained? Does it take more brilliance to be appropriately ambiguous than to speak the truth? That's a question for the Platonists (and the answer can't make them happy.)

Bush is feeding, as Bin Laden is, off the last gasp of reaction. And if the two of them don't get us all killed, in time they will be seen as having done no more than mark the final victory of technocratic neoliberalism in the US and the rise of Modern secularized, technocratic, Islam.

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