Saint John

The facts of John McCain’s life are not hidden. From his return from Vietnam to his death last Saturday, John McCain was a public man. Nor are those facts inconsistent. McCain’s life had a trajectory, as all ours do, but there are no sudden turns, no Great Awakenings. The man who died was the man who had lived. We knew him. He was familiar.

Yet the moment of his death has, at least for the moment, defined his life. Had he died two years ago, before the current President was chosen by the Electoral College, or had he died three years hence, after the current President was run out of the country by an angry mob, his life would have been evaluated much differently. John McCain’s life would have been evaluated for what it was, not what people wanted it to be.

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Chronicle of Our Death Forestalled

Our story — this one, anyway — begins during that fateful spring of 2010. We, like the rest of the country, were watching the sausage that was the Affordable Care Act being made. The bill, as it had evolved, was not the one we had preferred — can you say Public Option? — but after the compromises that had preceded its introduction, and the politics that had attended its debate, we threw up our hands and were ready to accept a half-measure instead of no measure at all.

Pass. The. Damn. Bill.

So the bill passed, and upon its implementation, we bought health insurance — for the first time in twenty years. This was even more of a novelty than it sounds. For most of our adult life, as a grad student and a freelancer, we’ve gone without. The secret, we learned, was never to get sick.

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In Surgery, No One Can Hear You Scream

Don’t mind us, just getting a sigmoid colectomy this week.

Aretha Franklin, 1942-2018

Aretha Franklin, the ‘Queen of Soul,’ Dies at 76 [NYT]

Party Out of Bounds

Seeing as we have a master’s in philosophy and all that, it’s not like we haven’t given sustained thought to mortality and consciousness.

The two are conjoined, at least as we know it: Life is consciousness, our awareness of ourselves, our world, the continuum of our experience. We may live in an eternal Now, but Now for us includes stories of Then, and dreams of Later. Which is where language comes in, since language is the articulation of our consciousness, our stories, our past participles and future perfects. Without language, our lives are just one damn thing after another. With language, our lives have shape.

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On Legitimacy

In the Declaration, right after the familiar bit about unalienable rights, there’s a passage with more than a little relevance to our travails some 240 years later:

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

This provides a simple, enduring definition of what qualifies as a legitimate government: Lacking the consent of its citizens, no government can claim to rule. Anything less leads to despotism.

The United States is, by the definition of its founders, an illegitimate, despotic government. This was blindingly true at its founding: one race was enslaved, one sex denied the franchise. The high ideals of our founding were not fulfilled by their implementation.

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The T-Word

For a brief moment Monday, we thought something happened.

The President of the United States, on live television, demonstrated fealty to a foreign dictator, a man whose country has been methodically undermining our electoral system, and all hell broke loose. Suddenly that word, the Word That Must Not Be Spoken, the word that best describes what is happening and has been happening, escaped into mainstream discussion.

It didn’t last. Within twenty-four hours, the T-Word had been shoved back into the closet. By Friday, discussion had returned to conventional corruption. But it was too late. The T-Word came out. It’ll come out again.

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