Today’s Quote

July 3, 2007

Novelist E.L. Doctorow spoke at the Library of Congress this past April, during a joint meeting of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, on the theme of “The Public Good: Knowledge as the Foundation of a Democratic Society”:

From those fundamentalist leaders who proclaimed 9/11 as our just deserts for our secular humanism, our civil libertarianism, our feminists, our gay and lesbian citizens, our abortion providers, and in so doing honored the foreign killers of nearly three thousand Americans as agents of God’s justice … to the creationists, the biblical literalists, the anti-Darwinian school boards, the right-to-lifer anti-abortionist activists, the shrill media ideologues whose jingoist patriotism and ad hominem ranting serves for public discourse — all of it in degradation of the thinking mind, all of it in fear of what it knows — these phenomena are summoned up, and enshrined by the policies of this president. At the same time, he has set the national legislative program to run in reverse as he rescinds, deregulates, dismantles or otherwise degrades enlightened legislation in the public interest, so that in sum we find ourselves living in a social and psychic structure of the ghostly past, with our great national needs — health care, public education, disaster relief — going unmet. The president may speak of the nation in idealistic terms but his actions demonstrate that he has no real concept of national community. His America, like that of his sponsors, is a population to be manipulated for the power to be had for the money to be made. He is the subject of jokes and he jokes himself about his clumsiness with words, but his mispronunciations and malapropisms suggest a mind of half-learned language that is eerily compatible with his indifference to truth, his disdain for knowledge as a foundation of a democratic society.

There’s plenty more to read. Doctorow even throws in a reference to Moby-Dick, which always earns bonus points around here.

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One Response to “Today’s Quote”

  1. Alison Says:

    It’s a wonderful, scholarly essay. But we need someone who knows how to talk to the stupid people. PZ Myers may object vehemently to framing (IMO, because the frame is “keep quiet, nod a lot, pretend to agree”) but if all the rational talk is coming from educated people, the stupid ones who are making all the noise and the even stupider ones who are making all the rules will continue to argue from ignorance that their view is the correct one. The only way we’ll win the war against theocracy is with a large and vocal group of rational, public high school graduates willing to take a stand against the religious right. I’m not holding my breath.


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