Category archives for Logos/Ethos

Searching for the thing with feathers

 February 3, 2020  I’m not a glass half-full guy, not by a long shot. In the face of certain grim realities, I’m not likely to conjure hope, what Emily Dickinson called “the thing with feathers”. My glass half-empty bona fides are evidenced by the fact that my journalistic hero is not the courageous Edward R. […]

The useful, the pleasurable, and the good

 January 6, 2021       I was struck recently by a piece by Nate White, a British writer trying to uncover why so many Britons dislike Donald Trump. Among other equally serious characteristics, he observed that Trump is utterly without humor. “He has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing – not […]

The last and greatest of all human dreams

 December, 2020 The election has left very few of us in a state we can call deeply satisfying. Seventy-four million Americans saw their preferred candidate defeated, with 50 million of them believing it was done illegally; and nearly 80 million got to say they won behind a candidate whose most appealing virtue seems to be […]

The autumn of our discontent

 November 4, 2020                                             Here we are, the morning after. Deadlines being what they are, you know the results of the election and I don’t. Nevertheless, it’s a safe bet the country hasn’t been transformed […]

Losing the invisible, collateral education

 October, 2020  Some kids have been back to school for a few weeks now, some haven’t. I can’t help but worry for those at home, for what they are missing. I worry for us as well. If education were the sum total of information transferred from one source or person to another, then online instruction […]

The cowboy, freedom, and American exceptionalism

Sept. 2020                               Over the past six months I’ve seen hundreds of TV images of ordinary Americans trying to live their lives in the midst of a pandemic. One of the most memorable clips was a street scene in Texas in which […]

Losing the immeasurable, collateral education

Some kids have been back to school for a few weeks now, some haven’t. I can’t help but worry for those at home, for what they are missing. I worry for us as well. If education were the sum total of information transferred from one source or person to another, then online instruction might be […]

Betsy DeVos: The Fox and the Hen House

They say the opera isn’t over until the fat lady sings. For today, we might say the schoolhouse doesn’t open until the school marm rings the bell. Our national school marm, Betsy DeVos, is lifting the bell as parents and teachers all over the country cry, “No, not with my kids you don’t! Not until […]

In search of social trust and new habits of thinking

 July, 2020    For many of us, 1968 was the most chaotic and divisive year of our civic lives. Assassinations, police brutality, race riots, violent anti-war protests, military assaults on American citizens, ineffectual political leadership, class hatreds, and corporate predation driven by an unnecessary war. All that was needed to make it worse than 2020 […]

Tara Reade, Joe Biden, and #MeToo: Showdown in Philosophy 101

June, 2020 Tara Reade’s claim that Joe Biden sexually assaulted her in 1993 puts Democrats and the #MeToo movement in a dilemma. Having taken the stance that Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against nominee Brett Kavanaugh was sufficient to stop his Supreme Court nomination, what are they to do with Tara Reade’s claim? Should Biden be […]

This American moment: Philip Roth shows us how to mine the dark truths

May, 2020  How do we make sense of these times? In one moment we’re inspired by the spirit of cooperation and sacrifice that we’re witnessing across the country. In the next we watch in stunned disbelief as an elected official suggests “lots of grandparents” have lived long enough and ought to step aside for the […]

Catastrophe: Where does it come from? What can be done?

April, 2020          I’m writing this a week before publication. I’m not privy to the totality of facts that you now hold on the pandemic that is altering our lives. I’m going to write the column anyway because it’s not the facts of the catastrophe that interest me. It’s what we continue […]

Wanted ASAP: Someone to save the Democratic Party from itself

March, 2020   When asked what organized political party he belonged to, Will Rogers famously responded, “I don’t belong to an organized political party. I’m a Democrat.” Mr. Rogers should be around in 2020. He’d really see something.   The Republican Party, craven as they can be, decided in the 1980’s to develop a strategy […]

What’s wrong with being elite? In search of our natural aristocracy

February, 2020 On the political/cultural fronts, we’ve been hearing the word “elite” quite a bit recently and it seems to have become a condition to be avoided (if you’re a candidate with hopes of being elected) or condemned (if you’re a non-coastal voter). This is truly unfortunate. There was once a time when people strove […]

Attorney General Barr speaks on religion and social dysfunction in America

    Attorney General William Barr spoke on religious liberty in America this fall at the University of Notre Dame. He said, “In short, in the Framers’ view, free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people – a people who recognized that there was a transcendent moral order antecedent to both the […]

When the center cannot hold, things fall apart

Dec. 4, 2019 Turning and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. […]

China vs. the NBA: Values on display for the world to see

Written in 1835 when America was in its infancy, Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America may still be the most insightful analysis of American values ever written. His observations on the behaviors and aspirations of the broad spectrum of Americans is remarkably precise. So much so, that we can use his observations about America circa […]

Museums and cemeteries in an age of narcissism

In 1979 cultural historian Christopher Lasch wrote an important book entitled “The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations”. As I recall, it was a difficult read for me back then because I lacked the perception necessary to appreciate his nuanced observations and warnings. Forty years later I’m bit more perceptive, […]

Thirty-five years later we’re still amusing ourselves to death

September 4, 2019 Sitting in a doctor’s waiting room recently, I couldn’t ignore the TV tuned to a game show. Witnessing the loud tawdriness of it all, I was struck by the possibility that this was part of my doctor’s master plan. Instead of having his patients stand by in a state of low-level anxiety, […]

A night at the movies: finding the common ground of art and religion

August 7, 2019 An article appeared last December in New York Magazine which created a stir in the marketplace of ideas. Its author is Andrew Sullivan and it’s called “America’s New Religions”.  In it, Sullivan defines religion as “a way of life that gives meaning, a meaning that cannot be defended without recourse to some […]

The 4th of July: The Enlightenment gives birth to a new nation

July 3, 2019 The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence begins with the most consequential single sentence in American history and perhaps in all the world’s democracies.  (begin ITAL) We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that […]

The life of leisure; everybody wants it but what is it?

It’s interesting how one word can conjure radically different meanings. One of those words is leisure. We may think the word is universally understood, but at least two famous thinkers had entirely different views of it. Prior to the 20th Century, leisure was nothing more than a fantasy for most people. It was a condition […]

The prisoner’s right to vote: Bernie has a bad day

 May 1, 2019  With his claim last week that prisoners have the right to vote, Bernie Sanders is guilty of one of two things: either he has demonstrated a stunning ignorance of rights and their origins, or he has made a cynical calculation to skew a fundamental ethical principle to separate himself from his progressive […]

The college admissions scandal and the search for a good life

This hasn’t been a good year for colleges. Small private schools are dropping like flies, unable to find enough applicants to sustain themselves. Elite universities are thriving, with an applicant pool so deep that wealthy parents are paying millions for illicit life jackets to float their children safely to the top. In between are universities […]

Super Bowl champions: Looking for lessons in unexpected places

March, 2019 It’s been a month since the Patriots’ Super Bowl victory and not much has happened. Oh well, except for THAT … Notwithstanding the owner’s personal transgressions, I’d like to return to the team’s on-field achievement if I may, because I think it may be instructive. The sustained excellence of the New England Patriots […]