"The mechanism seems simple: poor people are forced to share their time and resources more than wealthy people are, and as a result they live in close"The mechanism seems simple: poor people are forced to share their time and resources more than wealthy people are, and as a result they live in closer communities. Inter-reliant poverty comes with its own stresses--and certainly isn't the American ideal--but it's much closer to our evolutionary heritage than affluence. A wealthy person who has never had to rely on help and resources from his community is leading a privileged life that falls way outside more than a million years of human experience. Financial independence can lead to isolation, and isolation can put people at a greatly increased risk of depression and suicide. This might be a fair trade for a generally wealthier society--but a trade it is" (20-21).
"It can be assumed that hunter-gatherers would treat their version of a welfare cheat or a dishonest banker as decisively as they would a coward. They may not kill him, but he would certainly be banished from the community. The fact that a group of people can cost American society several trillion dollars in losses--roughly one-quarter of that year's gross domestic product--and not be tried for high crimes shows how completely de-tribalized the country has become" (30-31).
"I know what coming back to America from a war zone is like because I've done it so many times. First there is a kind of shock at the level of comfort and affluence that we enjoy, but that is followed by the dismal realization that we live in a society that is basically at war with itself. People speak with incredible contempt about--depending on their views--the rich, the poor, the educated, the foreign-born, the president, or the entire US government. It's a level of contempt that is usually reserved for enemies in wartime, except that now it's applied to our fellow citizens. Unlike criticism, contempt is particularly toxic because it assumes a moral superiority in the speaker. Contempt is often directed at people who have been excluded from a group or declared unworthy of its benefits. Contempt is often used by governments to provide rhetorical cover for torture or abuse. Contempt is one of four behaviors that, statistically, can predict divorce in married couples. People who speak with contempt for one another will probably not remain united for long" (125-6).
"The ultimate betrayal of tribe isn't acting competitively--that should be encouraged--but predicating your power on the excommunication of others from the group. That is exactly what politicians of both parties try to do when they spew venomous rhetoric about their rivals. That is exactly what media figures do when they go beyond criticism of their fellow citizens and openly revile them. Reviling people you share a combat outpost with is an incredibly stupid thing to do, and public figures who imagine their nation isn't, potentially, one huge combat post are deluding themselves" (128)....more
"After fourteen minutes in the cook box, I'm sweating lightly. Josh Purvis, on a treadmill behind me, began sweating much sooner than me. The hair on"After fourteen minutes in the cook box, I'm sweating lightly. Josh Purvis, on a treadmill behind me, began sweating much sooner than me. The hair on his forearms is matted to his skin. The dragon on his chest appears to be weeping. I took all this to be an indicator of his inferior heat tolerance, but in fact the opposite is true. People who are heat-acclimated typically, as Dianna Purvis puts it, 'sweat early and copiously.' Their thermoregulatory system takes action swiftly. Mine took ten minutes just to figure out what was happening. Hey, is it hot in here? Should I be doing something? I would enjoy a Popsicle right now" (111).
"Would that wars could be fought and won this way--with weapons that didn't kill or harm. If sacrificing lives for the larger good of nation or cause were not part of the moral equation, imagine the enterprise that would have gone into morale-sapping instead of atom-splitting and armor-piercing" (170).
"If everyone in the world did a stint in the Navy, we wouldn't need a Navy" (238).
"The newly dubbed General Lafayette was only nineteen years old. Considering Independence Hall was also where the founders calculated that a slave equ"The newly dubbed General Lafayette was only nineteen years old. Considering Independence Hall was also where the founders calculated that a slave equals three-fifths of a person and cooked up an electoral college that lets Florida and Ohio pick our presidents, making an adolescent who barely spoke English a major general at the age I got hired to run the cash register at a Portland pizza joint was not the worst decision ever made there" (1-2).
"Elkanah Watson, an employee of the Rhode Island merchant and slave trader John Brown, traveled through the area on business during the revolution. After spending time farther south, he noted in his journal that he preferred Pennsylvania: 'The verdure of the fields, and the neatness and superior tillage of the farms in the rich vales, were so grateful to the eye.' Chalking up the difference to 'but one cause,' an absence of slavery, he wrote, 'Here we witness the impulses and results of honest industry, where freemen labor for themselves.' Watson did, however, note the bad roads" (94).
"While the melodrama of hucking crates of tea into Boston Harbor continues to inspire civic-minded hotheads to this day, it's worth remembering the hordes of stoic colonial women who simply swore off tea and steeped basil leaves in boiling water to make the same point. What's more valiant: littering from a wharf or years of doing chores and looking after children from dawn to dark without caffeine?" (121)
"Steuben sailed from France on September 26, 1777, without a guarantee that the flailing Continentals, recently walloped at Brandywine, would even take him. Night after night he must have stared out at the cold sea with a little hope and a lot of dread, contemplating the mystery fate awaiting him onshore. Which makes the bouncy scene depicting Chicago's annual Von Steuben Day parade in Ferris Bueller's Day Off all the merrier. Who could have predicted that more than two hundred years after this washed-up Teutonic mercenary bummed a ride across the Atlantic because he had nowhere else to go, the director of Pretty in Pink would hire the kid from WarGames to play a high school student who skips school and crashes a German-American celebration in Steuben's honor, commandeering a float of buxom Bavarians to lip-synch Wayne Newton's 'Danke Schoen'" (164).
"But before we cue the brass section to blare 'The Stars and Stripes Forever,' it might be worth taking another moment of melancholy silence to mourn the thwarted reconciliation with the mother country and what might have been. Anyone who accepts the patriots' premise that all men are created equal must come to terms with the fact that the most obvious threat to equality in eighteenth-century North America was not taxation without representation but slavery. Parliament would abolish slavery in the British Empire in 1833, thirty years before President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. A return to the British fold in 1778 might have freed American slaves three decades sooner, which is what, an entire generation and a half? Was independence for some of us more valuable than freedom for all of us? As the former slave Frederick Douglass put it in an Independence Day speech in 1852, 'This is your Fourth of July, not mine.' You know your country has a checkered past when you find yourself sitting around pondering the humanitarian upside of sticking with the British Empire" (178-9).
"Of all the rallies, sit-ins, and acts of civil disobedience at Lafayette Square over the decades, perhaps the one that Americans should be the most proud is the gathering the Ku Klux Klan convened there in 1982. The three dozen or so white supremacist dunderheads who showed up to demonstrate were provided police protection against the hordes of agitated counterprotesters pouring into the capital to demonstrate against their demonstration. Freedom of expression truly exists only when a society's most repugnant nitwits are allowed to spew their nonsense in public. In Lafayette Park distasteful speech is literally permitted, with permits issued by the National Park Service, the federal agency managing the site" (264)....more
North Brooklin, ME 30 March 1973 Dear Mr. Nadeau: As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may sprNorth Brooklin, ME 30 March 1973 Dear Mr. Nadeau: As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the thing that is left to us, in a bad time. I shall get up Sunday morning and wind the clock, as a contribution to order and steadfastness. Sailors have an expression about the weather: they say, the weather is a great bluffer. I guess the same is true of our human society--things can look dark, then a break shows in the clouds, and all is changed, sometimes rather suddenly. It is quite obvious that the human race has made a queer mess of life on this planet. But as a people we probably harbor seeds of goodness that have lain for a long time waiting to sprout when the conditions are right. Man's curiosity, his relentlessness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out. Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day. Sincerely, E. B. White (10)...more
Really wonderful history of the United States of America, and a fabulous idea on how to go about framing it--without all the usual bluster and self-coReally wonderful history of the United States of America, and a fabulous idea on how to go about framing it--without all the usual bluster and self-congratulation of so many other stamp histories. Stamps are fun!
"Stamps, even when trying to revisit history, can't help reflecting their own era" (236).
"(This story suggests an idea for a stamp issue: men who have prevented Armageddon. Colonel Petrov would be on it, as would the officers of submarine B-59 at the time of the Cuban crisis. Two other candidates for inclusion are Russian president Boris Yeltsin, who decided to ignore an off-track meteorological research rocket in 1995, and British singer James Blunt, who, as a young army officer, disobeyed an order to attack Russian troops during the 1999 Kosovo crisis.)" (257)...more
"Columbus's real achievement was managing to cross the ocean successfully in both directions. Though an accomplished enough mariner, he was not terrib"Columbus's real achievement was managing to cross the ocean successfully in both directions. Though an accomplished enough mariner, he was not terribly good at a great deal else, especially geography, the skill that would seem most vital in an explorer. It would be hard to name any figure in history who has achieved more lasting fame with less competence. He spent large parts of eight years bouncing around Caribbean islands and coastal South America convinced that he was in the heart of the Orient and that Japan and China were at the edge of every sunset. He never worked out that Cuba is an island and never once set foot on, or even suspected the existence of, the landmass to the north that everyone thinks he discovered: the United States. He filled his holds with valueless iron pyrite (thinking it was gold) and with what he confidently believed to be cinnamon and pepper. The first was actually a worthless tree bark, and the second were not true peppers but chili peppers--excellent when you have grasped the general idea of them, but a little eye-wateringly astonishing on first hearty chomp" (173-4)....more
It's a really great collection of women on stamps (complete up to when the book was published), but while there's a biographical or informational sketIt's a really great collection of women on stamps (complete up to when the book was published), but while there's a biographical or informational sketch of each stamp subject, there's nothing particularly thrilling about why each was chosen or why it may or may not have been controversial or even who was lobbying for some of the more intriguing stamps, etc. In short, all the sorts of contextual information that makes philately (and women's history!) so fascinating is missing. But still. Astoundingly comprehensive otherwise....more
"I dream of creating a space every day where we write with pen on paper, whether for ourselves of to communicate with other people. I think we would f"I dream of creating a space every day where we write with pen on paper, whether for ourselves of to communicate with other people. I think we would feel happier about ourselves, and I think we would feel more secure in our relationships with those around us" (246)....more