HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

June 18, 2007
From the Editor

John Turner


One of the two major candidates for the presidency in 2000 has now written a book which the other is intellectually incapable of understanding. The one who can't read is the president. The one who wrote is not. This, in a nutshell, is the problem with the American democracy right now. Al Gore describes it as the nation being shockingly vulnerable to crass manipulation and that's why he has fallen out of love with politics. It's the age old problem of government: make politics a sewer and only certain sorts of guys will want to wade in it.

If you're fed up with humans you may want to retreat on Sunday evenings to the PBS program Nature, which almost always maintains a high quality. The episode this week was about snow leopards in the mountains of northern India. It has been hard to catch these hundred pound cats on camera, and it took the crew of Hugh Miles and Mitchell Kelly four seasons to get enough material to make a program. But what they managed is magnificent. For me, the most interesting thing about cats is that regardless of their size or where they live they all demonstrate the mannerisms of the tabby sitting on the sofa beside you.  Catness  is clearly a powerful force -- for cats, that is.

At the Starbucks in Williston last week I found that Number 210 in "The Way I See It" series, which comes from Raymond Lawson of Aurora, Illinois, says that "people should get out of their comfort zones on a daily basis. Take up knitting and boxing. It will make you so much more interesting." I guess that's true, even though Raymond's examples don't inspire me.

On 60 Minutes, they repeated the episode in which Steve Kroft revealed that 800 million dollars has been stolen by corrupt politicians in Iraq since the United States took over the country. And American officials don't seem much interested in doing anything about it. The program didn't get into what Americans may have stolen. But you would have to have religious faith in the moral power of Americanness to believe that our fellow countrymen weren't just as eager to get in on the heist as the Iraqis were.

I was reminded by watching the Bill Moyers's program that when Martin Luther King went to preach at the Riverside Church in New York in 1967, he told Americans there were three toxic dangers they needed to confront: racism, consumerism, and militarism. There's a decent argument to be made that we've made progress on the first, but, here, forty years later it's clear that the second and third have got worse. The sad thing is there are few indications that many Americans see either consumerism or militarism as anything to worry about.

Summer has arrived, even in Vermont. That doesn't mean it's hot here but it does mean that the sun shines and the grass is growing (wildly in my backyard).  I hope it's just as pleasant where you are.


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