Mark Lilla is always worth reading, even if he is not always convincing. His latest book makes a straightforward argument that can be reproduced in a syllogism: The Democratic Party is the only hope for America; identity politics is tearing the Democratic Party apart; therefore the country is imperiled by identity politics.
The first person I ever knew who wanted to tear down a statue of Christopher Columbus was my mother. It was 1986 and my father, an editor at National Geographic, had erected a 10-foot statue to the explorer in the small backyard of our suburban Maryland home. Mom didn’t like the way Columbus dominated the half-acre, even if the basin at the foot of the statue attracted some nice birds.
During the torture session in Nineteen Eighty-Four, Winston Smith, mere minutes away from the horrors of Room 101, states through cracked lips that Big Brother can’t last. Telling the Inner Party Member O’Brien that he doesn’t believe in God, Smith also expresses a metaphysical faith that the regime would collapse: I know that you will fail. There is something in the universe—I don’t know, some spirit, some principle—that you will never overcome. Smith named this “something “the “Spirit of Man.” Such a moment flies in the face of George Orwell’s reputation as a rock-solid empiricist. That his creation, Winston Smith, would rely on gut feelings over fact, about…
In a New York Times op-ed a week ago, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) lauded the recently deceased Delmer Berg and other Americans who volunteered to fight on the Loyalist side during the Spanish Civil War, which began 80 years ago. Berg was thought to be the last living veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a unit of American volunteers who fought in that storied but oft-mischaracterized conflict that took place from 1936 to 1939.
When the Great Terror, Robert Conquest’s documented expose of Stalin’s Purge Trials, was published in 1968, the response from the Kremlin was predictable. Conquest, who died last week, was denounced as peddling fascist propaganda by Leonid Brezhnev, the hardline replacement for the thaw-attempting Nikita Khruschev when the latter was toppled in 1964. But in private, the truthfulness of Conquest’s account was validated by the KGB, who consulted it to see what their predecessors had been up to.