ricardienne: (tacitus)
Am I overreading, or is David Brooks saying in pretty clear terms: "Poor George Zimmerman! Back in the good old days, there was a place for manly white men and their vigilante justice protected white women from scary brown men. But now the world is feminized and all about *feelings* and there's no place for them anymore. Don't you feel the moment of manly tragedy?"
But there's no need to even call Brooks a racist sexist chauvinist pig. He basically does it himself.
rage-making racism, gender essentialism, misogyny, violence )
ricardienne: (Default)
Last night's Colbert Report was super classical! (I watch on the internet, a day or so behind and especially when I'm grading) Oh, and it also had Anthony Everett, noted popularizing historian of Ancient Rome on it.

The contrast was interesting! Colbert's opening segment was an incredibly tasteless routine about Donald Trump. Seriously problematic jokes about coerced pathic homosexuality --- oh, hey Catullus/Martial/Juvenal/... But really. There's an interesting point of continuity with the ancient world, there: male identity, power, authority, who gets to speak, sexual domination. But elderly (white, male) professorial types waxing fondly in British accents about the Empire, mostly in terms of its military and its exciting imperial personalities? Not so much.

I'm not bothered by the gross generalizations, the really bizarre statements about Romanization (straight out of the 19th century), the reduction of Rome to a homogenous machine enlivened with a few salacious anecdotes. (I'm a pedant and I have a field of expertise: of course I think he said everything wrong!) I'm just a little annoyed that this is what history, and especially Roman history apparently means. When there are so many more interesting things being done, and so many more interesting people doing them (plenty of whom are popularizing personalities, I might add), why is it still comforting traditional authorities and Great Man history?
ricardienne: (tacitus)
Vergil quote on the 9/11 memorial is the line about glorifying the deaths of rash passionate young men who launch a brutal sneak attack and get killed in the process.
ricardienne: (Default)
Today's recipe from the NY Times food section: "Decadent Quiche"; today's food headline from the Arizona Republic (ie dumb local paper): "5 Meals Under 500 Calories."

(disclosure: I don't particularly like the faux-liberalism of the NY Times, though I find their "lifestyle" sections hilarious; I really don't like the down-home Americana of the AZ Rep, but though I find their periodic attempts to ape the high style of, well, high style, pretty hilarious, too, there's something a little bit sad about it all.)

I'm sure there's something to be said about the privilege of being able to eat whatever you want when you decide you want it because you generally can afford fresh vegetables and a balanced diet and the time to prepare them nicely and have access to gyms and exercise classes, in contrast to the needing to control and plan for everything that you eat. Something about food as a source of pleasure and enjoyment vs. food as a fraught source of anxiety that is out to get you. Something about how if obesity and health problems that are popularly related to food consumption are the Evil That Afflicts The Less Fortunate Classes in this country (as we are often told they are), there's a telling difference between the class that says "look how close I can come to those supposedly "dangerous" behaviors (because I'm not really under threat from them)" and the class that is supposed to be desperately fighting off the looming threat of -- oh noes -- being fat.
ricardienne: (tacitus)
Insofar as I've been aware of politics, I don't think I would have cared very much for/about Robert Byrd: a conservative southern Democrat, albeit one who drifted toward the more progressive end of things as times changed and he got older. (Did he remakes himself, or did he remake himself because it was politically expedient? There are some very disgusting letters from the '40's...)

Senator Byrd was also known, of course, for his great knowledge of and interest in American (congressional) history -- and, where I know him, in its Roman precedents. I'm leery of that, too. American History as "traditional American history" and veneration for the Founders and their "original intent" makes me uncomfortable; it may be a profitable study, but I don't think that that sort of thing should guide policy. As for the Roman Republic as a model...we're talking about at least a second-order idealization (us thinking about The Founding Fathers thinking about [s]Cincinnatus et al.[/s] Livy thinking about Cincinnatus et al. et cet.). Actually, I don't think it's healthy, and the implications of The (western, European) Classics/Ancient history (of the Mediterranean) as the guiding principle for how we should conduct our public business simply by virtue of having been the Roman Way of the Good Old Days are very bothersome.

But, speaking as someone who does classics, I admired Senator Byrd's interest in the Roman origins of the United States (and I wonder if going via Rome was a way of reconciling his southern states' rights origins to the federalism of the national Democratic platform). It was a stupid sentimental ideal that was inculcated by St. Nicholas Magazine and that I perpetuated myself, the ideal of the learned senator who reads his Plutarch and Cicero before bed, and who tries to be a statesman after the examples he finds there. But that was the place Robert Byrd occupied for me.

It is not likely that that conception had very much to do with reality, but -- and I am not sure how I can actually be typing this, spending as much time thinking about biographical reality vs. idealization and examples, particularly since I am going to stick my Tacitus and Agricola icon on this post -- some part of me is always going to maintain it.

Oh, okay. The thing about Robert Byrd that most endeared me to him was his citation, while speaking against the passage of the Patriot Act in 2002, of Epictetus 1.19, which is a little dialogue between Helvidius Priscus and the Emperor Vespasian in which the former refuses to back down from either his principles or his traditional prerogatives. In one way, it's the best use of the ancient world that I think can happen in modern US politics: the exemplum serving its purpose as the encapsulation of principle for us to see and imitate. The rhetoric of using the Romans is still powerful, and I cannot say, of course, whether Byrd believed in Helvidius Priscus as a good model of oppositional senatorial behavior or constant dedication to virtue (this is not the place to worry about the fact the people who like individual Romans as political models tend to be people whose contemporary politics I find abhorrent). But. Helvidius Priscus. In the Senate of my country. Still an exemplum, after all these centuries. quo magis socordiam eorum inridere libet qui praesenti potentia credunt extingui posse etiam sequentis aevi memoriam indeed.

And that is why I have always had a great deal of affection for Robert Byrd, and why I am personally sad that he has died.
ricardienne: (Default)
I thought lat month's half-dozen letters about Scott McClellan and Judas (digression: are comparisons to Judas the Godwin's Law of the Middle Ages?) were the all-time low of local opinion. But from today's letters to the editor:

"Could Osama bin Laden be behind high gas prices? Maybe he became the principal speculator in order to wreak economic havoc on the U.S."

Really, people?

ricardienne: (library)
I encountered the story as a by-reference in a NYT article this morning. It seemed almost Bartleby-esque: the dehumanizing stresses of union/management wrangling are just too much, and a person cracks and can't be part of it anymore.

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