“Mrs. Smith runs out into the street shrieking and screaming, ‘Spare the children, spare the children, dear God in heaven, couldn’t you at least do something to make them stop and spare the children!’ Suddenly there is all of a sudden a bolt of lightning and thundering and here is what God answers the woman. He says to her, ‘Show business is show business.’ “ – Gordon Lish, Extravaganza

“People need rules and boundaries, and if society doesn’t provide them in sufficient measure, the estranged individual may drift into something deeper and more dangerous. Terrorism is built on structure. A terrorist act is a structured narrative played out over days or weeks or even years if there are hostages involved. What we call the shadow life of terrorists or gun runners or double agents is in fact the place where a certain clarity takes effect, where definitions matter, and both sides tend to follow the same set of rules.” – Don DeLillo (interviewed by Adam Begley, The Art of Fiction No. 135)

“One must have heroes, which is to say, one must create them. And they become real through our envy, our devotion. It is we who give them their majesty, their power, which we ourselves could never possess. And in turn, they give us some back. But they are mortal, these heroes, just as we are. They do not last forever. They fade. They vanish. They are surpassed, forgotten—one hears of them no more.” – James Salter, A Sport and a Pastime

“Moral law is an invention of mankind for the disenfranchisement of the powerful in favor of the weak. Historical law subverts it at every turn. A moral view can never be proven right or wrong by any ultimate test. A man falling dead in a duel is not thought thereby to be proven in error as to his views. His very involvement in such a trial gives evidence of a new and broader view. The willingness of the principals to forego further argument as the triviality which it in fact is and to petition directly the chambers of the historical absolute clearly indicated of how little moment are the opinions and what great moment the divergences thereof. For the argument is indeed trivial, but not so the separate wills made manifest. Man’s vanity may well approach the infinite in capacity but his knowledge remains imperfect and howevermuch he comes to value his judgements ultimately he must submit them before a higher court. Here there can be no special pleading. Here are considerations of equity and rectitude and more right rendered void and without warrant and here are the views of the litigants despised. Decisions of life and death, of what shall be and what shall not, beggar all questions of right. In elections of these magnitudes are all lesser ones subsumed, moral, spiritual, natural.” – Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

“Suppose two men at cards with nothing to wager save their lives. Who has not heard such a tale? A turn of the card. The whole universe for such a player has labored clanking to this moment which will tell if he is to die at that man’s hand or that man at his. What more certain validation of a man’s worth could there be? This enhancement of the game to its ultimate state admits no argument concerning the notion of fate. The selection of one man over another is a preference absolute and irrevocable and it is a dull man indeed who could reckon so profound a decision without agency or significance either one. In such games as have for their stake the annihilation of the defeated the decisions are quite clear. This man holding this particular arrangement of cards in his hand is thereby removed from existence. This is the nature of war, whose stake is at once the game and the authority and the justification. Seen so, war is the truest form of divination. It is the testing of one’s will and the will of another within that larger will which because it binds them is therefore forced to select. War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god.” – Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

“The architects that preceded us in ceaseless labor, life after life, built on the inherited acropolis of law a constitutional structure ever-changing, ever enduring, unfinished, in parts neglected and decaying, obdurate yet imagined. Their legacy resides in the methods by which, case by case, generation by generation, the barriers of law channel the tumults of politics and power toward justice and equality, and away from violence and cruel oppression. Their genius was to deliver to us a temple whose innermost chamber contains a question. They could not decide for us, but they could give us the ways our decisions are assessed and explained. Having mastered the ways of the law that they taught us, we must in the end find our own answers to the awesome questions that mastery poses but cannot resolve. Someday, if we’re lucky, our descendants will struggle as we do with such decisions. Will they make them according to law or will they sell, or barter, or give them away to those who are only too happy to decide without having to explain?” – Philip C. Bobbitt, “Impeachment: A Handbook”

“Perhaps a revolution can overthrow autocratic despotism and profiteering or power-grabbing oppression, but it can never truly reform a manner of thinking; instead, new prejudices, just like the old ones they replace, will serve as a leash for the great unthinking mass.” – Immanuel Kant, “An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?” (trans. Ted Humphrey)

“The Chicago accent was most widespread during the city’s industrial heyday. Blue-collar work and strong regional speech are closely connected: if you graduated from high school in the 1960s, you didn’t need to go to college, or even leave your neighborhood, to get a good job, and once you got that job, you didn’t have to talk to anyone outside your house, your factory, your tavern, or your parish. A regular Joe accent was a sign of masculinity and local cred, bonding forces important for the teamwork of industrial labor. A 1970s study of steelworker families on Chicago’s East Side by linguist Robin Herndobler found that women were less likely than their husbands to say ‘dese, dem, and dose,’ because they dealt with doctors, teachers, and other professionals. After the mills closed, kids went to college, where they learned not to say ’dat,’ and took office jobs requiring interaction with people outside the neighborhood.” – Edward McClelland, How to Speak Midwestern

“In one’s dealings with the young it behoves one to display the scientific spirit, to exhibit the principles of enlightenment—not only for purposes of mental discipline, but on the human and individual side, in order not to wound them or indirectly offend their political sensibilities; particularly in these days, when there is so much tinder in the air, opinions are so frightfully split up and chaotic, and you may so easily incur attacks from one party or the other, or even give rise to scandal, by taking sides on a point of history.” – Thomas Mann, Disorder and Early Sorrow (trans. H. T. Lowe-Porter)

“The capacity for self-surrender . . . for becoming a tool, for the most unconditional and utter self-abnegation, was but the reverse side of that other power to will and to command. Commanding and obeying formed together one single principle, one indissoluble unity; he who knew how to obey knew also how to command, and conversely; the one idea was comprehended in the other, as people and leader were comprehended in one another.” – Thomas Mann, Mario and the Magician (trans. H. T. Lowe-Porter)

“When a democracy sends riot police to beat old ladies over the head with batons and stop them from voting, something has gone badly wrong. . . . A well-run democracy must abide by the rule of law. That is what protects democratic liberties, not least the freedom of minorities to express discontent. . . . Democracy rests on the consent of the governed.” – “How to Save Spain,” The Economist, October 7th, 2017

“Even the intelligent and educated layman has small and sometimes no skill in the science of law. If charged with crime, he is incapable, generally, of determining for himself whether the indictment is good or bad. He is unfamiliar with the rules of evidence. Left without the aid of counsel he may be put on trial without a proper charge, and convicted upon incompetent evidence, or evidence irrelevant to the issue or otherwise inadmissible. He lacks both the skill and knowledge adequately to prepare his defense, even though he have a perfect one. He requires the guiding hand of counsel at every step in the proceedings against him. Without it, though he be not guilty, he faces the danger of conviction because he does not know how to establish his innocence. If that be true of men of intelligence, how much more true is it of the ignorant and illiterate, or those of feeble intellect.” – Justice George Sutherland, Powell v. Alabama, 1932

“The plaintiff was incarcerated with the Department of Corrections beginning in 1982. Upon admission, he was given a medical examination. The examination revealed the plaintiff was in good health and had no communicable diseases or infections. In March of 1989, the plaintiff was diagnosed with hepatitis B. One year later, he tested positive for tuberculosis.” – McNeil v. Carter, Appellate Court of Illinois, 2001

“We may rest assured that it is the nature of truth to force its way to recognition when the time comes, and that it only appears when its time has come, and hence never appears too soon, and never finds a public that is not ripe to receive it.” – Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit (trans. J. B. Baillie)

“There is only one word for a woman who has sex without belonging to a man or without acquiescing to the burden of motherhood, and that word is witch. Or perhaps it is slut. Either way, it is terrifying, for it means that perhaps women don’t need men; and if we merely choose them, they might just owe their existence not to necessity or fate, but to the will of a woman. Suddenly there is nothing more lethal in the world, nothing as unbearable as the black flame of women’s desire. No, you were not meant to be; yes, your mother could just as well have dispensed with you—she could have simply not felt like it. Now do you see why we are hated so? Do you understand the smell of singed flesh burning at the stake, the breaking voice of the lawmaker as he screams out what our bodies should and should not do? The hatred of women for themselves, for others? Now do you see why we so fear the free? Yet rambunctious, light-headed sex alone does not a witch make. Where the traditional slut inspires hate and pity, the witch shines by eliciting fear and rage. One becomes a witch by way of discovering, inside herself, a thing that wants independence and freedom more than it wants water or air, a thing that wants to tell the world: ‘look at me, it is I, the self.’ ” – Marie Baleo, “Desert Animals” (emphasis in original)