“The emigrants felt a violent prejudice against the French Indians, as they called the trappers and traders. They thought, and with some justice, that these men bore them no good will. Many of them were firmly persuaded that the French were instigating the Indians to attack and cut them off. On visiting the encampment we were at once struck with the extraordinary perplexity and indecision that prevailed among the emigrants. They seemed like men totally out of their element; bewildered and amazed, like a troop of schoolboys lost in the woods. It was impossible to be long among them without being conscious of the high and bold spirit with which most of them were animated. But the forest is the home of the backwoodsman. On the remote prairie he is totally at a loss. He differs as much from the genuine ‘mountain-man,’ the wild prairie hunter, as a Canadian voyageur, paddling his canoe on the rapids of the Ottawa, differs from an American sailor among the storms of Cape Horn. Still my companion and I were somewhat at a loss to account for this perturbed state of mind. It could not be cowardice: these men were of the same stock with the volunteers of Monterey and Buena Vista. Yet for the most part, they were the rudest and most ignorant of the frontier population; they knew absolutely nothing of the country and its inhabitants; they had already experienced much misfortune, and apprehended more; they had seen nothing of mankind, and had never put their own resources to the test.” – Francis Parkman, The Oregon Trail (emphasis in original)

“The didactic mission of preserving the past as an object for the future, narrated by the stark finality of ‘never again,’ renders the structural violence of the present illegible while monetizing the promises of witnessing, thus profiting from the illusion that it is possible to coexist with the past.” – Julia Michiko Hori, “Berthing Violent Nostalgia: Restored Slave Ports and the Royal Caribbean Historic Falmouth Cruise Terminal”

“The past is neither inert nor given. The stories we tell about what happened then, the correspondences we discern between today and times past, and the ethical and political stakes of those stories redound in the present. If slavery feels proximate rather than remote and freedom seems increasingly elusive, this has everything to do with our own dark times. If the ghost of slavery still haunts our present, it is because we are still looking for an exit from the prison.” – Saidiyah V. Hartman, Love Your Mother: A Journey along the Atlantic Slave Route

“The cease of majesty dies not alone but like a gulf doth draw what’s near it with it: it is a massy wheel, fix’d on the summit of the highest mount, to whose huge spokes ten thousand lesser things are mortis’d and adjoin’d; which, when it falls, each small annexment, petty consequence, attends the boisterous ruin.” – William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

“How many concerns there are in the world, of which there’s no making head or tail, mostly because what persons do without any design is construed by such designing people, as chance to have their notice attracted to it, as having been designedly accomplished, and go on talking and talking till, instead of mending matters, they make them worse!” – Cao Xueqin, The Dream of the Red Chamber (trans. H. Bencraft Joly)

“The poorer people of the backcountry everywhere suffer because of the harsh and improper laws of debt. In practice, these laws have resulted in establishing a system of peonage, such as has grown up here and there in our own nation. A radical change is needed in this matter; and [Colonel Rondon] is fighting for the change. In school matters, the colonel has precisely the ideas of our wisest and most advanced men and women in the United States … [We] talked over school matters at length and were in hearty accord as to the vital educational needs of both Brazil and the United States: the need of combining industrial with purely mental training, and the need of having the widespread popular education, which is and must be supported and paid for by the government, made a purely governmental and absolutely nonsectarian function, administered by the state alone, without interference with, not furtherance of, the beliefs of any reputable church.” – Theodore Roosevelt, Through the Brazilian Wilderness (ed. Dain Borges)

“There can be no safe place, because the world does not consist of the good, the wise, and the generous taking on the wicked, the unreasonable, and the selfish. The world consists of dense psychologies of desire, fear, and resentment in a state of constant explosion. The world is not safe, because people are dangerous. Not only crooks and loonies but all people. A mother can be dangerous.” – Ethan Mordden, Medium Cool

“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