HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

September 1, 2008
From the Editor

John Turner


Pretty soon after I learned of John McCain's appointment of Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate I suspected that it would blow up in his face. And we now seem well along to that's happening. There are issues about Ms. Palin's views, but they are secondary to the process McCain used in selecting her. It seems to have been hardly any process at all. He didn't really know much about her. He had little idea of what the people of Alaska thought of her. And, yet, he recommended her above all other persons in the nation to be closer to exercising presidential authority than anyone other than the president himself. It was a frivolous act and it strengthened Mr. McCain's reputation as being a being a frivolous person. The contrast between his choice and Barack Obama's selection of Joe Biden is glaring.

I've been looking into the relative merits of wood stoves versus pellet stoves, and the evidence is so controversial and conflicting I haven't yet made up my mind. But I have decided that we have to get away from oil as our source of heat, and I only wish I had started my investigation into alternative heating systems earlier. It seems that most people wait too long on issues of this kind.

We're having a very pleasant late summer here in Vermont. It's beguiling and can almost delude you into forgetting what's on the way in a couple months. I think it's going to be hard here this winter for a lot of people, and I just hope it won't involve actual physical suffering.

Charlie Barasch's new book of poems titled Dreams of the Presidents has just been published by North Atlantic Press. The book has one poem for each president, from George Washington to George W. Bush. If you get a chance to look at the collection, I hope you will. Charlie is a friend of mine and a well-known figure here in central Vermont.

I've heard quite a few people say that if John McCain should win the presidency in November, they will have to flee the country. They won't be able to stand it anymore. I understand the sentiment, though I'm probably not in a financial condition to act on it. It would be salutary to get away from nationalistic bombast, to cleanse my system of it. I would enjoy spending a year in the Scilly Islands, off the southwest coast of England. There I might be able to go for months at a time without hearing McCain-like figures pontificate. Right now that sounds about as close to heaven as I can imagine -- no McCain and plenty of cold, hard apple cider. That would be health.

I'm working my way through Curtis Cate's biography of Friedrich Nietzsche, and approaching Nietzsche's sad end. The book, by its wealth of detail, has taught me what a neurotic life Nietzsche lived. He needed somebody to remind him every day that he didn't have to be crazy in order to be brilliant. But he found no one who would do it, no robust friend who understood both his thought and his weakness. I can't be sure, but I think such a friend would have been a boon to Nietzsche, and to the world. He could helped him to live, and Nietzsche living could have conferred even more gifts on himself and humankind than he actually did. His life is both a sad and a triumphant story.

One thing I wish more of you would do is tell us about your reading, and make recommendations about what to take up. And, if you're going to recommend, give reasons. That's what kindly people do for one another.


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