Category: Perspective

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The Dangerous Myth of Human Rights
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The Dangerous Myth of Human Rights

Even if I had done all the things the prosecution says I did, I would still not be guilty of any crime, because I am fighting against colonialism. We have heard such arguments in recent years from a variety of

Traveler’s Tales
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Traveler’s Tales

Coelum, non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt was Horace’s observation on the narrowing effects of travel: “Those who go across the sea change their weather but not their mind.” It is the rare tourist who gets more out of

Diplomats, Dupes, and Traitors
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Diplomats, Dupes, and Traitors

Election ’88 has been so far a political flea circus in which the issues are as microscopic as the candidates. The one interesting candidate has been the Rev. Jesse Jackson. If you have seen his very effective commercials, you will

Rights of Clergy
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Rights of Clergy

I saw my old friend Browne recently. The subject eventually turned to the politics of religion and the religion of politics. I asked him what he thought about the current Anglican debate over homosexuality, and I wondered aloud if it

Citizens of the Welfare State
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Citizens of the Welfare State

Like most Americans of my generation, my experience of poverty has been self-inflicted. “Twenty years of schooling and they put you on the day shift.” Dylan’s little fantasy of “Maggie’s Farm’ takes on grim reality when the scholar-gypsy turns

Still Crazy After All These Years
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Still Crazy After All These Years

After the 1987 convention of the National Organization for Women, USA Today published the results of an “informal survey” of 703 NOW members. Forty-seven percent of the respondents said that “women are doing worse in 1987 than in 1980.” Twenty-four

Freedom of Opinion and Democracy
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Freedom of Opinion and Democracy

“I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America. In America, the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion: within these barriers, an author may

Avoiding Democracy
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Avoiding Democracy

Does America exist anymore, or is the nation only a fantasy concocted out of old Frank Capra movies, civics classes, and pamphlets from the Department of Education? The weight of the evidence suggests the latter. Twenty years ago—ancient history by

Homage To T.S. Eliot
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Homage To T.S. Eliot

Nineteen eighty-eight is the centennial year of T.S. Eliot’s birth, and there is sure to be a flood of tributes to a writer that has changed the course of poetry and criticism and whose reactionary pronouncements on politics and religion

The Statecraft of Stooges
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The Statecraft of Stooges

The speaker of the House of Representatives negotiates cordially with a Marxist dictator at the very time when the American government is sending aid to an armed resistance movement fighting to overthrow his regime; a political preacher flies to the

A Time to Reap
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A Time to Reap

I do not know what the city-bred recollect of childhood, but one of my earliest memories is of a sunny Easter morning, when I was no more than three or four years old, standing in an unpaved lane that

Place of Asylum
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Place of Asylum

The theater is dead, the novel dying, poetry extinct; biography is the province of graveyard ghouls, and history a battleground on which disheveled armies of academic theorists contend with hucksters and prostitutes for the fate of an entire civilization.

Tyranny In a Good Cause
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Tyranny In a Good Cause

Democracy or Republic? might well be the title of the D debate between liberals and conservatives on the nature of the American political system. (In the view of some liberals, the easiest way to spot a conservative is the habit

On Might
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On Might

“I chant the new empire . . . “
—Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman sang what he saw—in 1860, he gave a name to Madison’s and Jefferson’s vision of the new commonwealth. “[Our success],” Jefferson had said in 1801, “furnishes

The Pterodactyls of Lima
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The Pterodactyls of Lima

“Whitman can sing confidently and in blithe
innocence about democracy militant because
American Utopia is confused with and
indistinguishable from American reality.”

—Octavio Paz, Walt Whitman

As we left for Ayacucho, Lucho Monasi Cockburn took out his machete from

Cultural Conservation
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Cultural Conservation

A few years back, when the air was fresh and the world was new, some of us thought that the election of Ronald Reagan was only the beginning of the beginning of “morning in America.” It is a common mistake.

Arms and The Man
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Arms and The Man

I must have been 11 or 12 years old before my father put a gun into my hands and told me to shoot. By then, I had been out hunting with him several times a year but I had not

Thrice-Told Tales
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Thrice-Told Tales

Politics and tale-telling are virtually inseparable activities. Great political events—wars, rebellions, social crusades—do not exert their full measure of influence until they are whittled into legends. More than one British statesman has derived his understanding of the Wars of the

Literacy Before the Revolution
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Literacy Before the Revolution

Publishers Weekly must be the most depressing magazine published in the United States. Oh, there are others like Esquire that make us despair for the affluent numskulls who swap life-styles as if they were wives, or The New Yorker that

No Latin, Much Less Greek
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No Latin, Much Less Greek

In pondering where the modern age went wrong, writers have pointed to as many answers as there are systems of thought. For conservative editorialists, the problem is Marxism or its lifeless reflection, liberalism. Irving Babbitt blamed the Romantics, while Richard

Paradise Enow: A Midwestern Perspective
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Paradise Enow: A Midwestern Perspective

This is not an invitation. Frankly, if you don’t live here already, most of us would rather you stay where you are, although we can’t blame you for wanting to come. Oh, some of our businessmen and bankers and ministers

The Business of Business
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The Business of Business

Jefferson was of the opinion that the tree of liberty was not a hardy perennial that could be safely neglected. Once planted by a revolution, it needed to be periodically “refreshed by the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Jefferson’s radical

Speak the Word Only
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Speak the Word Only

Modern man often seems ill at ease. It is as if the world has been broken and the human community shattered into millions of charged particles, attracting or repelling each other in their chance meetings. Some such notion has

Plain People
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Plain People

The Century of the Common Man. That was the phrase Henry Wallace used to describe the world emerging out of the Second World War. Wars do have a way of leveling society into the great democracy of the dead and

Short Views
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Short Views

Some people love to go to Washington. The sight of so much power and wealth is exhilarating, especially for young conservative writers who discover that their names are recognized on the Hill. For many, however, the reaction is just the

Journalists and Other Anthropoids
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Journalists and Other Anthropoids

It is over 60 years since the Scopes Trial attracted journalists like Henry Mencken and Joseph Wood Krutch to Dayton, Tennessee, and yet the teaching of evolution is once again as controversial as—it was in 1925. Most of the debate

Fruitless Grain
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Fruitless Grain

The great American story for at least 100 years has been a tale like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or Hawthorne’s “My Kinsman Major Molineux”: the rube who comes to the city and loses his innocence. Like Jack in the

Old Adam, New Eve
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Old Adam, New Eve

Feminist writers sometimes give us the impression that the nonworking mother is a rare bird like the Bach man’s Warbler—sighted (not very reliably) once a decade or so in a corner of I’on Swamp in the South Carolina low country.

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Conspiracies Against the Nation

The Reagan Administration’s Baby Doe policy is finally being tested in the Supreme Court. Supporters see the law as a necessary guarantee of the rights of handicapped infants whose lives are threatened by selfish parents and amoral physicians. The Federal

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Successful Crimes

Crime is big business in the U.S. It is bigger than the billions of dollars that are made in the drug traffic every year and the astronomical revenues from prostitution, gambling, and armed robbery. (Robbers alone are estimated to cost

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Between the Lines

“He whom nature has made weak and idleness
keeps ignorant may yet support his vanity by the
name of a critic.”

—Samuel Johnson

Not too long ago we devoted an issue to the death of serious art. While there may

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Shelter From the Storm

The trial of 12 sanctuary workers in Tucson has heated up an issue which is being hailed in many quarters as the great moral issue of the 1980’s. The movement, whose members provide protection to illegal immigrants from Central America,

All Gone in Search of America
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All Gone in Search of America

What does it mean to be an American? Major debates over legislation and proposed constitutional amendments raise the question. Without stretching a point too much, it is easy to see the American identity as the underlying question on the immigration

La Vie en Rouge
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La Vie en Rouge

The sins of South Africa are once again heavy on the American conscience. The flaws and contradictions built into her multiracial social organization are subjected to the most minute scrutiny and the imperfections in her “human rights” record are held

Waiting For the End
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Waiting For the End

In the Gilbert and Sullivan series running currently on PBS, many American television viewers were treated for the first time to a performance of Patience, a masterful satire on the pretensions of aesthetes-the crowd George I described as “boets

Leave the Kids Alone
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Leave the Kids Alone

The recent Supreme Court decision striking down a Silent Prayer Law in Alabama came as a shock to many people. What harm could be done by a moment of silence that the students were free to dedicate—or not dedicate—to a

Man and Nature
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Man and Nature

Is mankind no more than a part of nature, subject to her laws like every other species? Or has the human race transcended natural limits and set itself apart as master of creation?

Since the dawn of the 19th century,

Friends of the Family
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Friends of the Family

Everyone wants to save the American family. Not a day goes by, it seems, without some politician or professor issuing a call to arms or an invitation to a congressional hearing. For a long time the family had been a

Shine, Perishing Republic
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Shine, Perishing Republic

Murray Rothbard recently described American conservatism as “chaos and old night.” Apart from the nasty implication that we are all dunces, there is something to what he says. It is getting harder every year to figure out just what it

Saving the Humanities
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Saving the Humanities

While political battles rage over why Johnny cannot read, the teachers of Johnny’s teachers enjoy virtual immunity from public scrutiny. Their intellectual profile remains invisible to the public eye. In a sense, this is understandable. They were educated in the

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Private Faith & Public Schools

A Martian attending Inauguration Day ceremonies might be curious about the book upon which the President lays his hand as he takes the oath of office. “That,” we would tell him, “is the Bible, a book of Scripture sacred to