Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Where Are We Headed?

Conservatives thought that when the nation elected Barack Obama it was the final surrender to the New Left ethos that emerged during the 1960s. But what if we are seeing the re-institutionalization of liberalism instead? What if--because of a decline in religious practice--people instead begin to adopt the Kantian ideology of duty-for-duty's sake? What if we are seeing a retread of Victorianism (though it be altered by history)?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On Whitman and America

I wanted to put out a few thoughts on Walt Whitman which will, hopefully, give way to a more expansive post on the subject.

For years, I had no idea precisely how to characterize my feelings about Whitman. In high school, I always disliked his verse and I ignored it for most of my college years; it was not until the end of my sophomore year and the beginning of my junior year that I read him again and, based on this second look, began to see what it was the people see in him.

There is still not a single line of Whitman's poetry which I find to be particularly memorable--with the exception of a few lines perhaps from his contemplations on "The Learned Astronomer" or "O Captain, my Captain". Nonetheless, while Whitman is not the greatest of American poets, he is certainly the most American of great poets. No poet in the American canon captures the spiritual biography of the union--before, during and after the Civil War--with the verve and feeling of Walt Whitman.

From Whitman, one gets the sense of the young optimist looking out upon an illimitable frontier, the soldier whose only music is the drum and the fief, the mourner who can only find meaning in General Sherman's phrase--both cynical and poignant--that "War is hell", the elder bard seeking redemption through the creeds and incantations that his younger heart once found to be so much foolishness.

Who can not read Whitman's work without thinking that this is not only the work of a man, but also a nation?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Congratulations Graduates (Again)!

I went to the UI graduation ceremony earlier this morning. Of course, I'm proud of all of the graduates who I have known as friends and had as classmates or students at one point or another, and, since no one really reads this blog, I say specifically that some of them have names that rhyme with Joe Roberts, Will Rannals, Jenna Leeds, Jordan Greene, Lauren McConnell and Brian Fletcher. As for the ceremony itself, I thought that Congressman Minnick's speech was a little bit dull and sounded somewhat like it was read by a Kindle, but at the very least there was no "Little you, Big you!" Anyway, congratulations to everyone moving on to bigger and better things and best wishes from the Jungle Cat.