No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as a manor of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
[John Donne, “No Man Is an Island”]
If you are not inspired by what has been presented here for these past few weeks, then you are not likely to be reading this page. The ego transcendence that leads to spirituality demands that we become involved in the public life, not only the lives of a few others. This kind of patriotism has been sorely lacking in the United States since cynicism replaced idealism sometime in the 1970s. I maintain that it must be restored. If all you do is vote, then do it consistently and become informed before you do.
Technical and Analytical Readings
- James Arthur, Kiistján Kristjánsson, Tom Harrison, Wouter Sanderse and Daniel Wright, Teaching Character and Virtue in Schools (Routledge, 2016).
- Richard Dagger, Civic Virtues: Rights, Citizenship, and Republican Liberalism (Oxford University Press, 1997).
- Richard C. Sinopoli, The Foundations of American Citizenship: Liberalism, the Constitution, and Civic Virtue (Oxford University Press, 1992).
- Stephen Macedo, Liberal Virtues: Citizenship, Virtue, and Community in Liberal Constitutionalism (Clarendon Press, 1990).
- David Thunder, Citizenship and the Pursuit of the Worthy Life (Cambridge University Press, 2016).
- Martha Gardner, The Qualities of a Citizen: Education, Immigration, and Citizenship, 1870-1965 (Princeton University Press, 2005).
Among a citizen’s most important roles are speaking out, and taking action. Here are some accounts of people who pushed back against the most nightmarish “presidency” in American history:
- Andrew G. McCabe, The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump (St. Martin’s Press, 2019): “ . . . a concise yet substantive account of how the F.B.I. works, at a moment when its procedures and impartiality are under attack. It’s an unambiguous indictment of Trump’s moral behavior.”
- James Comey, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership (Flatiron Books, 2018): “ . . . former F.B.I. director James B. Comey calls the Trump presidency a ‘forest fire’ that is doing serious damage to the country’s norms and traditions.”
- Bob Woodward, Fear: Trump In the White House (Simon & Schuster, 2018): “We knew things were bad. Woodward is here, like a state trooper knocking on the door at 3 a.m., to update the sorry details.”
- Michael Wolff, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (Henry Holt & Co., 2018): “Wolff is strongest when he’s writing on what he knows best: the insecurities and ambitions of Trump and other media fixtures.”
- Edward Snowden, Permanent Record (Metropolitan Books, 2019): “Snowden, of course, is the former intelligence contractor who, in 2013, leaked documents about the United States government’s surveillance programs, dispelling any notions that the National Security Agency and its allies were playing a quaint game of spy vs. spy, limiting their dragnet to specific persons of interest.”
Film and Stage
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Jean Sibelius’ symphonies are represented throughout these pages. All are works of serious intention, with repeated patriotic references to Sibelius’ native Finland. Because of the use Sibelius makes of solo instruments, coupled with its nationalism, I have chosen his Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 39, as a musical expression of citizenship. Here are links to performances conduted by Bernstein, Järvi, and Ashkenazy.
From the dark side:
- Margaret Atwood, The Testaments: A Novel (Nan A Talese, 2019): “How did the United States of America become the totalitarian state of Gilead — a place where women are treated as ‘two-legged wombs’; where nonwhite residents and unbelievers . . . are resettled, exiled or disappeared; where the leadership deliberately uses gender, race and class to divide the country? It started before ordinary citizens like herself were paying attention, Offred remembers: ‘We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.’”