Of The Salvation of America and Other Illusions ...
The note from H-Teach yesterday says that, in 1844, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:"The salvation of America and of the human race depends on the next election, if we believe the newspapers." Maybe he did write it; maybe he didn't. All kinds of things get attributed to poor Ralph that he never said. But, if he wrote it, it puts things in a little historical perspective. You have to wonder at the audacity of the notion that the right outcome of any of its elections would secure the salvation – not only of the United States – but of humanity. If you buy anything in Ron Suskind's"Without a Doubt," you know the president believes it. If you listen to his opponents, you know that we do too.
As Tom Friedman suggests, the problems ahead are so massive that the best we can hope for is a meliorating management of them: a) unfunded entitlement liabilities at $74 trillion far exceed our total national wealth; b) aspiration and improved education in India, China, and eastern Europe guarantee that both low and high-skill jobs will continue to be outsourced from the United States; and c) the Arab middle east has among the highest rates of population growth and unemployment in the world. Do read Friedman's column if you haven't already. His opening and closing warning that American students need to be prepared for rough seas ahead might usefully be read in conjunction with Emory historian Patrick Allitt's new book, I'm the Teacher, You're the Student: A Semester in a University Classroom. Allitt knows that he is working with an elite group of students. They average 1375 on the SAT and have remarkable accomplishments. But they cannot write properly. That sounds familiar.
I also want to recommend also three pieces by Scott McLemee:"Gods and Monsters" on the Gilgamesh epic,"National Insecurity" on the National Book Award nominations, and, especially, the revised and expanded version of his obituary for Jacques Derrida.
Finally, blogging offers all sorts of opportunities. I thought about that when I found that Cliopatria has had its first reader from among the 630 residents of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. You don't know where they are? I didn't either until then, but now you do. More importantly, blogging allows me to work with other historians, including especially David Beito at Liberty and Power, to assist law enforcement authorities' re-opening of the case of Emmett Till's murder. The case is a half century old now and there seems little hope of new indictments, but there is hope of tracking down crucial historical documents so that his violent death can be more fully understood in future generations. The other important opportunity is to work with other historians in holding us responsible. Many thanks again to those of you who have suggested important instances of our plagiarism, beyond those that are already well known. If you know of additional cases, please send them to ralphluker at mindspring.com. You will hear more about this in the near future.