Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Misuses of Emerson

A column by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times includes this:

'In his history of 19th-century America, 'What Hath God Wrought', Daniel Walker Howe quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson as telling a meeting of the Mercantile Library Association in 1844 that 'America is the country of the future. It is a country of beginnings, of projects, of vast designs and expectations.'
'That's the America that got swallowed by the war on terrorism. And it's the America that many people want back.'

Er.... no. Go back eight years and the Emerson quote could have been the rallying cry of the neocons. The country of the future with its beginnings, projects, designs and expectations is precisely the country that thought it had attained the end of history, that democracy could be imposed by force and which felt obliged to convert the world to this view. Emerson was a great writer and, like all great writers, he is a little too casually deployed in inappropriate circumstances. Face it, Thomas, if you really want that country back, vote McCain.


  1. “The American Dream has run out of gas. The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It's over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now: the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, Vietnam...”

    J G Ballard.

  2. Bryan, I see where you are coming from. But by associating Emerson's comments with the Neocon delusion aren't you abusing Emerson. Can you not see 'the audacity of hope' in Emerson's remarks?

    What gets me is that Friedman doesn't understand how much he has in common with the Neocons--in a recent column he near-enough characterised the 2006 Lebanon war as a Hezbollah invasion of Israel. It is Friedman's own delusions that are so disorienting.

  3. But Chris, it "near enough" was a Hizbollah invasion of Israel.

  4. Friedman is an idiot.

    Are you so sure that the neocons have been proven to be delusional? Are you under the delusion that the war in Iraq has been lost? I'd say its a little too early to count chickens.

    You can say what you will about the future of Iraq, but one thing you can't really argue is the fate of Al Quaeda. They are pretty much on their death bed, and the fatal wound was delivered in Iraq and Afghanistan. Does Friedman or anyone seriously think that this could have been accomplished by staying home?