Incomparable Power and Wealth (415/455)

This is a good example of the sort of imperial self-mythologizing that characterizes late-stage American Exceptionalism. These remarks come from newly-minted member of the hashtag resistance John McCain on the occasion of his receipt of the Liberty Medal.

“We are blessed, and we have been a blessing to humanity in turn. The international order we helped build from the ashes of world war, and that we defend to this day, has liberated more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history. This wondrous land has shared its treasures and ideals and shed the blood of its finest patriots to help make another, better world. And as we did so, we made our own civilization more just, freer, more accomplished and prosperous than the America that existed when I watched my father go off to war on December 7, 1941.

“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.

“We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did. We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.

A Question

I’m thinking of teaching The Clansman by Thomas Dixon next semester. Dixon was a white supremacist, an admirer of the Confederacy, and a staunch supporter of Jim Crow. The Clansman, the second installment of a trilogy about the post-Civil War South, became the basis of one of the most influential films in cinema history, D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation. The novel is replete with racist invective and celebrates the KKK. It is also a historically significant text that provides insight into the ideology of white supremacy and the political uses of the genre of historical romance. Do you think this kind of fiction belongs in the classroom? Would you be interested in reading such a book in one of your courses? If you have any thoughts on this matter please share them, either in the comments field of this post or via email. I appreciate your feedback.

Aesthetics of Power (425)

An excerpt from Corey Robin’s new edition of The Reactionary Mind. 

When it comes to saying something with buildings, Trump is less concerned with size and scale than with surfaces. This is a man incapable of reading a summary of a briefing paper. But show him a window treatment, mention a slab of stone or pane of burnished glass, and his attention is rapt. Suddenly he becomes the most observant diarist, recording detail after loving detail of the beauty he sees and its effects on him:

Der, Ivana, and I looked at hundreds of marble samples. Finally, we came upon something called Breccia Perniche, a rare marble in a color none of us had ever seen before — an exquisite blend of rose, peach, and pink that literally took our breath away. . . . It created a very luxurious and a very exciting feeling.

Amid a complex account of the financial challenges of retail, Trump can’t help noting that one of his atrium’s tenants sells leather pants that are “soft and buttery.”

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