Tuesday, December 11, 2012

     That prison is ourselves that we have built,
     And, being so, its loneliness is just,
     And, being so, its loneliness endures.
     But, if another came,
                          What would we say?
     What can the blind say, given back their eyes?
     No, it must be as it has always been.
     We are all prisoners in that degree
     And will remain so, but I think I know
     This - God is not a jailor....

-Steven Vincent Benet, excerpt from John Brown's Body, Book 5

Lincoln really was a Hebraic saint, for the mid-century American modernists - a beau ideal for the Ugly American - not smart, not beautiful, not quick, but making a virtue of stubbornness and essential honesty. When did we lose our way? Was it when the Ugly American became a taunt and an accusation, rather than a quiet, self-effacing assertion of battered virtue? When the Quiet American replaced it in the hearts of the wise? When the educated and would-be elite spat scorn at the "middle-brow" staring back at them in the mirror?

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