Sunday, July 23, 2017

In defense of cultural appropriation

Dear Hannah,

The first thing you've got to know about "cultural appropriation" is that, aside from a slew of top-notch performers and basketball stars, black people have contributed almost nil to American greatness because they weren't allowed to -- and they're painfully aware of it.  They've given us some good soldiers and fathers and occasionally a great writer or an actor.  But when it comes to the kinds of men we really give praise to, the generals and heroes and scientists and tycoons and theorists and spiritual leaders and directors and metaphysicians and literati and top-of-the-line presidents; the things we really take pride in and associate ourselves with when we want to feel good about ourselves as a nation, the truth is that black men have contributed far less to us than we have to them; and when they really have contributed, their contributions have done more to advance black people than Americans in general.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Italy under siege? An exercise in skepticism

Dear Hannah,

"All good things must come to an end."

When you first hear this as a child you think it means your ice cream is going to be finished and the sun's going to go down and you'll have to stop playing with your friend.  They never tell you that what it really means is the first woman you fall desperately in love with is going to stop being in love with you and leave before you know what's going on, or that one day you're going to stop having energy and it's never going to come back, or that the place you grew up is going to become a hell-hole and a wasteland.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

On being your own "yes" man

Dear Hannah,

When I was young I was terrified that people could read my mind.  Nobody had ever taken the time to tell me that 70% of all communication is non-verbal, and when people started reacting to how I was feeling I began to get panicked.  This was because I knew in my mind what they felt with their senses.  Only I knew with total surety what was hinted by my little behaviors; that the sea of feelings and desires and judgments and realizations bubbling and boiling and sometimes spilling beyond my consciousness were being made known by my hands and my eyes and the way I would hold my head; but they could guess it -- it was their business to guess it -- it was their interest to guess it; and this idea that the secret side of me could be made public without my consent led me to wonder if I was a psychic.  I believe this is what they refer to as "anxiety."

Sunday, July 9, 2017

God still speaking through asses: a NYT breaking report

Dear Hannah,

The New York Times ran an article the other day called Does God want you to spend $300,000 on college?  But God couldn't be reached for comment, so the New York Times went to Notre Dame's Father John L Jenkins, and when Father Jenkins' response was unsatisfactory to the reporter the reporter went to himself.  It seems a better question would have been does God want us to pay reporters to look for God when we could just ask The New York Times reporters?  to which the answer would invariably be that He did, because The New York Times paid one.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Sympathy for the pharisee

Dear Hannah,

I have a theory (and it happens to be the theory of the Catholic church) that Christendom would be different if people would just ask questions about the the Bible.  For centuries this had been the rationale for keeping the public from reading it.  The clergy took one look at the average man and then considered that nobody knew Latin or Hebrew or Greek and then hid the Bible in plain sight and that was the end of it.  The argument about the unintelligibility of the words was second to the argument about the imbecility of man.  And the imbecility of man it turns out was less threatening to the church than his genius.  That's why the Catholics have a catechism.