Monday, July 03, 2006

A collection for the 4th

Here's a collection of quotes to ponder as we celebrate Independence Day.
These were a people who believed they were God's chosen, and looking about them, there was every reason that they should so believe. Their waters teemed with fish and their forests with game; there was absolutely nothing to prevent them fulfilling their vision of a new Jerusalem, and they set out with immense vitality to do so, and their successes for two hundred years has been one of the wonders of the modern world. This in spite of occasional wrong-turning and backsliding, and Americans, no matter how aware some of them are - and some of them are not - of their own shortcomings, remain the envy of the rest of the world.
James L. Stokesbury
A Short History of the American Revolution (1991)

In the United States there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is. This is what makes America what it is.
Gertrude Stein
The Geographical History of America (1936)

America is so vast that almost everything said about it is likely to be true; and the opposite is probably equally true.
James T. Farrell
"Introduction" to
Prejudices: A Selection by H.L. Mencken

To be an American has always meant being able, precisely, to exercise one's right to opt out of the continuum of history, choosing isolation over community, and one's desires over one's obligations. In the grand rhetoric of Emerson, it is to be "a seeker with no past at his back." More prosaically, the notion is embodied in the great American expression "Don't fence me in." Inevitably, this model of utopia depends on solitude and space to spare and is as contemptuous of any particular place as it is of the past. Perhaps that is why Americans have been so oddly complacent about the decay of their older cities. If New York or Philadelphia doesn't "work" anymore, it must be time to move on.
David Rieff
Los Angeles: Capital of the Third World (1991)

The American Dream may have succeeded as a means of survival in the wilderness of early America; it allowed us to subdue that wilderness and build our holy cities of materialism. But now ... we live in a new kind of wilderness, a wasteland wilderness, because those cities and the culture that built them are in decay. We need a new American dream to overcome this wasteland.
Patricia S. Warrick
Mind in Motion (1987)

And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
John F. Kennedy
Inaugural address (1/20/61)

Now I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: - 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the people's injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
Martin Luther King
speech at Civil Rights March on Washington (8/28/63)

America is great because she is good and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.
Alexis de Tocqueville (attributed)

An America where people can get rich, but nobody is poor. An America where entrepreneurship is rewarded, but wage work is respected as well. An America that trades fully with the world but empowers its labor force to compete. An America that esteems traditional values but looks with live-and-let-live tolerance upon those with their own codes. An America where choice in the bedroom is paired with choice in schoolroom. An America where the vital idea of communityis adaptive and evolutionary, not static or backward-looking.
James P. Pinkerton
What Comes Next: The End of Big Government and the New Paradigm Ahead (1995)

America has been the world's most successful assimilator of different people. Changing from assimilation to separatism, as seems to be happening now, threatens to fracture the brittle bonds which hold our nation together.
Gregory Benford
"A Scientist's Notebook: America As Rome" in
F&SF magazine (3/96)

It is too simple to say that America is, or ever was, a melting pot. But it is also too simple to say none of it contents ever melted. No single metaphor can do justice to the complexity of cultural crossing and perfusion in America.
Robert Hughes
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

There is no room in this country for hyphenated Amercanism ... The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all the possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities.
Theodore Roosevelt
speech before Knights of Columbus NY (10/12/15)

[There is a] broader culture, the one we all share, regardless of our class, race, religion and place of residence. Despite our much-heralded multiculturalism and our supposed delight in difference, we are subjected to the same set of infomercials in our day-to-day lives, the same pop values and icons, the same predigested versions of public events, and thus are a much more homogenized people than we ever have been.
Russell Banks
"A Whole Lot of Poor Judgment"
New York Times Book Review (8/3/97)

Americans have an extraordinary love-hate relationship with the rich culture they've created. They buy, watch and read it even as they ban, block and condemn it.
Jon Katz
Virtuous Reality (1997)

The fundamental temper of America tends towards an existential ideal which can probably never be reached, but can never be discarded: equal rights to variety, to construct your life as you see fit, to choose your traveling companions. This has always been a heterogeneous country, and its cohesion, whatever cohesion it has, can only be based on mutual respect. There never was a core America in which everyone looked the same, spoke the same language, worshiped the same gods and believed the same things. ... America is a construction of mind, not of race or inherited class or ancestral territory.
Robert Hughes
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

America is the world's living myth. There's no sense of wrong when you kill an American or blame America for some local disaster. This is our function, our character types, to embody recurring themes that people can use to comfort themselves, justify themselves and so on. We're here to accommodate. Whatever people need we provide. A myth is a useful thing. People expect us to absorb the impact of their grievances.
Don DeLillo
The Names (1982)

I believe that, for the rest of the world, contemporary America is an almost symbolic concentration of all the best and the worst of our civilization. On the one hand, there are its profound commitments to enhancing civil liberty and to maintaining the strength of its democratic institutions, and the fantastic developments in science and technology which have contributed so much to out well-being; on the other, there is the blind worship of perpetual economic growth and consumption, regardless of their destructive impact on the environment, or how subject they are to the dictates of materialism and consumerism, or how they, through the omnipresence of television and advertising, promote uniformity and banality instead of a respect for human uniqueness.
Vaclav Havel
address in Washington, D.C. after receiving
the Fulbright Prize (10/3/97)

[The United States] has always been an oligarchy of money.
Gore Vidal
interviewed by Andrew Solomon
"Gore Vidal Receives A Visitor"
New York Times Magazine (10/15/95)

The moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess SUCCESS. That -- with the squalid cash interpretation put on the word success -- is our national disease.
William James
letter to H.G. Wells (9/11/06)

The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western World. No first world country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity -- much less dissent.
Gore Vidal
"Cue the Green God, Ted" in
A View from the Diner's Club (1991)

[T]he problem with the corporate control of America is that it is so completely undemocratic. ... Why on earth should Americans be willing to allow the same people who have brought us rampant downsizing, widespread union-busting, wholesale exportation of industrial jobs to sweatshops, and the greatest division between wealth and poverty in the nation's history to increase their presence in our lives? ... Our political system is based on the concept of one person/one vote, but our capitalist economy is strictly and clearly dedicated to the concept of one dollar/one vote. ... To turn over public policy issues to private decision making is not merely a question of efficiency or economics. It is a profound choice about how decisions are made, who makes them, and what kind of society we live in.
Raven B. Earlygrow
letter to the editor
Wired magazine (4/96)

We'll never live in a true democracy until we have an economic democracy.
Michael Moore
Downsize This! (1997)

This is a great country. Know what makes it great? Because you don't have to be witty or smart as long as you can hire someone who is.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show (TV series)
"Murray Ghosts for Ted" (episode #164, 2/14/1977)
written by David Lloyd
directed by Jay Sandrich
spoken by the character "Ted Baxter",
played by Ted Knight

We're three-quarters grizzly bear and two-thirds car wreck and descended from a stock-market crash on our mother's side. You take your Germany, France and Spain, and roll them all together and it wouldn't give us room to park our cars. We're the big boys, Jack, the original giant economy-sized, new and improved butt kickers of all time. When we snort coke in Houston, people lose their hats in Cap d'Antibes.. .we drink napalm to get our hearts started in the morning. A rape and a mugging is our way of saying cheerio. Hell can't hold our sock hops. We walk taller, talk louder, spit farther and buy more things than you know the names of. I'd rather be a junkie in a New York jail than king, queen and jack of all you Europeans. We eat little countries like this for breakfast and shit them out before lunch.
P.J. O'Rourke
Holiday in Hell

The pure products of America go crazy.
William Carlos Williams
"To Elsie" (poem) from
Spring and All (1923)

We Americans are a very strange nation. When you stay a while in Europe, or even in Russia, you can glance back and you can see that there's a strange, scalped quality about the US. There's a creepiness about us, a blankness, a darkness. Behind all the glitzy military-entertainment video product, our satellite rock and roll, our disposable diapers, and our racks of shiny flouride-straightened teeth, there's a gum-popping Whore of America, who can be led to culture but can't be made to think. We're a facile, careless culture, so mired in Babbitesque philistinism that savaging the NEA is our national sport.
Bruce Sterling
"Art and Corruption"
Wired magazine (1/98)

The USA is the world headquarters of moral pretension.
Paul Fussell
BAD or, The Dumbing of America (1991)

In America sex is an obsession, in other parts of the world it is a fact.
Marlene Dietrich (attributed)

[Americans] are a very decent, generous lot of people out here, and they don't expect you to listen. Always remember that... It's the secret of social ease in this country. They talk entirely for their own pleasure. Nothing they say is designed to be heard.
Evelyn Waugh
The Loved One (1948)

The case of America is ... not to be fairly understood without making due allowance for a certain prevalent imbalance and derangement of mentality. ... Perhaps the commonest and plainest evidence of this unbalanced mentality is to be seen in a certain fearsome and feverish credulity with which a large proportion of the Americans are affected.
Thorstein Veblen
“Dementia Praecox” in
The Freeman (6/21/1922)

America is the only nation in history which, miraculously, has gone directly from barbarism to degeneracy without the usual interval of civilization.
Georges Clemenceau
quoted in Saturday Review of Literature (12/1/45)

America is the only country to pass from childhood to senility without ever becoming adult.
Winston Churchill (attributed)

The youth of America is their oldest tradition. It has been going on now for three hundred years.
Oscar Wilde
A Woman of No Importance (play) (1893)

[I]t is worth remembering that although we tend to think of America as perpetually new, the fall of despotisms leave its form of government older and more continuous that any in Europe, older than the French revolution...
Robert Hughes
The Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America (1993)

[In Achieving Our Country, Richard] Rorty thinks that national pride is the political equivalent of individual self-respect. Without it, nothing can be achieved. The obvious corruption of national pride occurs when it turns into national self-aggrandizement or into a brutal enthusiasm for simple military might. A proper love of country is entirely consistent with wanting a more effective United Nations to preserve world peace, and with regarding the Vietnam War as an unmitigated disaster -- and Rorty is indeed an internationalist who regards the Vietnam War as an unmitigated disaster. It is also consistent with being entirely unforgiving about the atrocities that besmirch the history of the United States, as they do the history of every country. The conservative wish to take our eyes off our country's shortcomings is not one that Rorty shares.
Alan Ryan
"The New New Left"
New York Times Book Review (5/17/98)
citing Richard Rorty
Achieving Our Country (1998)

If the American Revolution had produced nothing but the Declaration of Independence, it would have been worthwhile.
Samuel Eliot Morison
The Oxford History of the American People (1965)

If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other, it is the principle of free thought -- not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the though tthat we hate.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
United States v. Schwimmer (1928)

Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among people, who have a right ... and a desire to know; but besides this they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean of the characters and conduct of their rulers.
John Adams
"A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law" (1765)

One of our defects as a nation is a tendency to use what have been called 'weasel words'. When a weasel sucks eggs the meat is sucked out of the egg. If you use a 'weasel word' after another there is nothing left of the other.
Theodore Roosevelt
speech at St. Louis (5/31/16)

America is a country where they have freedom of speech but everyone says the same thing.
Alexis de Tocqueville
Democracy in America (1835)

In America, through pressure of conformity, there is freedom of choice, but nothing to choose from.
Peter Ustinov (attributed)

The idea that men are created free and equal is both true and misleading: men are created different; they lose their social freedom and their individual autonomy in seeking to become like each other.
David Riesman
The Lonely Crowd (1950)

[O]f course the United States is special. So is France. So is India. So is Norway. All countries are, in their various ways, special. All are, as Ranke would put it, "immediate to God." But when their inhabitants start boasting about being "special," it is time to be disturbed, because it usually indicates a profound contempt for other peoples who are not so special.
Paul Kennedy
reply to Norman Podhertz (c. 2/26/88)

There is a sense in which all Americans are liberals, not excluding the neocons who use that word as a curse, but this is not the usual journalistic sense of the word. That's to say, Americans believe instinctively in a pluralistic, individualistic, open society. ... American culture has always stressed individual fulfillment over duty owed to the state; the nation's very founding creed was "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Geoffrey Wheatcroft
"The Big Kibbutz" in
New York Times Books Review (3/2/97)

Americans have always been besotted with the power of the individual.
Caroline Fraser
"Mrs. Eddy Builds Her Empire" in
New York Review of Books (7/11/96)

I believe that we are lost here in America, but I believe that we shall be found.
Thomas Wolfe
You Can't Go Home Again (1940)

[Originally collected by me and posted to a private e-mail group on July 3, 2000]

Ed Fitzgerald | 7/03/2006 12:17:00 AM | | | | GO: TOP OF HOME PAGE


Ed Fitzgerald

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Bullshit, trolling, unthinking knee-jerk dogmatism and the drivel of idiots will be ruthlessly deleted and the posters banned.

Entertaining, interesting, intelligent, informed and informative comments will always be welcome, even when I disagree with them.

I am the sole judge of which of these qualities pertains.

All e-mail received is subject to being published on unfutz without identifying names or addresses.

I correct typos and other simple errors of grammar, syntax, style and presentation in my posts after the fact without necessarily posting notification of the change.

Substantive textual changes, especially reversals or major corrections, will be noted in an "Update" or a footnote.

Also, illustrations may be added to entries after their initial publication.
the story so far
unfutz: toiling in almost complete obscurity for almost 1500 days
2005 koufax awards


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2003 koufax award
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the proud unfutz guarantee
If you read unfutz at least once a week, without fail, your teeth will be whiter and your love life more satisfying.

If you read it daily, I will come to your house, kiss you on the forehead, bathe your feet, and cook pancakes for you, with yummy syrup and everything.

(You might want to keep a watch on me, though, just to avoid the syrup ending up on your feet and the pancakes on your forehead.)

Finally, on a more mundane level, since I don't believe that anyone actually reads this stuff, I make this offer: I'll give five bucks to the first person who contacts me and asks for it -- and, believe me, right now five bucks might as well be five hundred, so this is no trivial offer.

original content
© 2003-2008
Ed Fitzgerald


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but credit all you take.

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