Midway through the World War I centenary, I decided that I would use that largely unacknowledged anniversary as the theme for my freshman composition class on writing across the curriculum. The students write a literature review about shell shock for the social sciences, a popular-science paper about chemical warfare for the natural sciences, and a literary or film analysis for the humanities. In the process, they learn about trench warfare and trench foot, maconichie stew and rum rations, Kitchener’s Mob and Craiglockhart War Hospital–just a few of the endless bits of trivia about that forgotten war that I myself have learned during my preparations for the course. The smell of lice infesting one’s body and of rotting flesh underfoot. The blazing fields of poppies in Flanders, nourished by the nitrogen and lime of war technology and the blood and bones of the boys who died there. The lines that Wilfred Owen wrote as a preface to the book of poems that remained unpublished until after his death in battle exactly a week before the Armistice: “My subject is War, and the Pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.” Continue reading
La chair est triste, hélas! et j’ai lu tous les livres.
[The flesh is sad, alas! and I have read all the books.]
© Jason O’Meara, “Pet Informed”
The end of Reconstruction in 1877 gave birth to the Solid South. In both Presidential and state politics, the South retained its essentially single-party identity until the passage of the Civil Right Act in 1964. During that time, Southerners would reportedly vote for a yellow dog if he ran on the Democratic ticket.
My own voting history has followed a a similar pattern. As one of the first beneficiaries of the Twenty-sixth Amendment, at the age of 19 I donned my Republican cloth coat and voted for Richard Nixon in 1972. My self-imposed penance for that youthful indiscretion has been long and ardent. I have embraced the soul of the liberal Democratic vision of America–the belief that the government has the responsibility to take care of the marginalized, to stand for racial justice, and to protect the rights of the weak against the tyranny of the majority. However, in recent years I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the excesses of my left-leaning bedfellows and have come to understand that those who lie down with yellow dogs get up with yellow fleas. Continue reading
Posted in current events, education, free speech, history, language, news, politics, sexual harassment
Tagged discrimination, education, First Amendment, free speech, history, identity, politics, religion
The Mering thesis and the roots of consensus history
At the University of Arizona in the mid-1970s, John V. Mering inculcated his disciples with a devotion to the consensus historiography whose bedrock was The American Political Tradition: And the Men Who Made It by Richard Hofstadter (1948). As a reaction against the economic interpretation of progressives Charles and Mary Beard, the consensus school minimized class conflict as a motive force in American history and found in its place a startling lack of any sort of conflict:
The fierceness of the political struggles has often been misleading: for the range of vision embraced by the primary contestants in the major parties has always been bounded by the horizons of property and enterprise. However much at odds on specific issues, the major political traditions have shared a belief in the rights of property, the philosophy of economic individualism, the value of competition; they have accepted the economic virtues of capitalist culture as necessary qualities of man (Hofstadter op. cit., pp. xxxvi-xxxvii).
Posted in books, critical thinking, current events, education, history, politics
Tagged education, history, identity, mentor, Orwell, politics
Photo courtesy of Denzil Walton, “Discovering Belgium”
For the past two years, I have immersed myself in a personal and professional commemoration of the centenary of World War I. For a freshman composition class I designed in writing across the curriculum, I have read extensively in the scholarly and popular literature about shell shock and chemical weapons. I have purchased contemporary magazines and first-edition novels and a French postcard illustrating a scene from one of those novels. I have visited museum exhibits featuring helmets and weapons and love letters. I have watched films and a play and grainy documentaries about the war to end all wars. And I have read the novels and the poetry that bloomed from that barren landscape like the poppies in Flanders Fields. Continue reading
Posted in history, literature, music, peace, World War I
Tagged beauty, fiction, literature, music, poetry, truth, war, World War I
Last year on Palm Sunday, the rector of our large, young, and vibrant Episcopal parish, St. Michael’s in Raleigh, announced–only half in jest–that we might want to consider attending the Easter Vigil on Saturday night rather than trying to find a parking space and a seat for any of the three Easter services. I actually followed his advice and so saw the first lighting of the paschal candle and heard the first alleluias of Easter. However, the experience wasn’t so thrilling as the festival Easter service with brass and harp and choir and hundreds of pastel-clad worshippers proclaiming in unison, “The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!”
This year, I decided on something entirely different. I went to the “find a church” page for the diocese of North Carolina, and I clicked on parish after parish until I found one that seemed small and intimate, reminiscent of my first Episcopal family at St. Christopher’s in Garner. Combining those criteria with a manageable drive for Easter morning, I selected St. John’s in Battleboro. Continue reading
Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona, Arizona
I am writing this post during Holy Week, when Christians worldwide pray and fast and join together in humble worship as they prepare for the annual observation of the Passion, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection. Today is Maundy Thursday, commemorated as the day when Jesus, after having his last supper with his disciples, washed their feet as a symbol of servanthood and enjoined them to follow his example, saying, “A new commandment (mandatum novum) I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34 RSV). Continue reading