reprinting this 2013 classic because can’t find my copy of this book, wondering if I loaned it to one of you.
Nice work boys.
Wilson got his start doing a survey of all the ants in Alabama.
There’s the question of, why did I pick ants, you know? Why not butterflies or whatever? And the answer is that they’re so abundant, they’re easy to find, and they’re easy to study, and they’re so interesting. They have social habits that differ from one kind of ant to the next. You know, each kind of ant has almost the equivalent of a different human culture. So each species is a wonderful object to study in itself. In fact, I honestly can’t…cannot understand why most people don’t study ants.
Somewhere else I think I heard Wilson say something like “once you start to study ants it’s hard to be interested in anything else.”
Look at the wild coolness on Bert Hölldobler:
Check out this letter Abigail Adams sent to her son, John Quincy Adams, when he was ELEVEN:
(Funny to read that as I sit here at what could be described as a literal Pacific station)
That is from:
which is a collection of David McCullough’s speeches.
Many of the speeches were given in the triumphant mid-late-1990s, when History was ending and it was easy to be fooled into thinking it was one long hike to the sunny meadows where we would now reside forever.
In that context this book can be almost painful to read.
Here, for example, McCullough talks about the history of the White House:
If there’s a single American out there who wants to claim the current occupant is either wise or honest, would love to have you on Great Debates.
After McCullough wrote a book about the Johnstown Flood, it was suggested he write about other disasters. He didn’t. He didn’t want to be “bad news McCullough,” he says.
We need more McCulloughism.
Unless you’re a McCullough completist I’d suggest bypassing The American Spirit and going instead to:
Because people were talking about Baby Driver, I started singing it in my head to the tune of Bob Marley’s Slave Driver.
What a song. So then I went looking for Slave Driver on Spotify. I found a recording of Bob Marley and The Wailers, Live At The Music Hall, Boston, 1978. “Easy Skanking In Boston ’78” is the title, which I don’t love saying. “Bob Marley and The Wailers Live At The Music Hall – Boston – 1978” seems like it gives you what you need?
Somehow shocking that Boston would be the scene of a legendary Marley concert. Who was in the crowd?!
Steve Morse wrote about this recording for The Boston Globe when the album was released in 2015:
My one meeting with Bob Marley was memorable. I was sent by the Globe to interview him at the Essex Hotel in New York before his show at Boston’s Music Hall in 1978. I walked in to Marley’s room, which looked out over Central Park, at 11 a.m. It was a chaotic scene. Four or five members of his entourage were kicking a soccer ball that banged off the picture windows. Two king-size joints were being passed around. Bob sat on a couch, reading aloud from the Book of Revelation.
Realizing I was in over my head, I waited a while before daring to ask Marley about his music. He agreed to talk, shut the Bible, quelled the soccer noise, and stated his worldview: “Everything is going to be united now. Everything is going to be cool. Forget the past and unite.”
Marley’s response to a country politically divided and stricken with gun violence was notably cooler and more Christian than the NRA’s response.
Two months later he’d be in Boston.
(Minute 34-38 or so a good sample)
June 8, 1978 was a Thursday, a hot night, 89 degrees. The Red Sox had an off day, but that weekend they’d start a ten game win streak on the road in the West Coast.
The Sox would win 99 games that year, but lose a one game playoff to the Yankees at home in Fenway Park.
Ned Martin would call the game for WITS radio.
Years later he’d die of a heart attack in a shuttle bus at the Raleigh airport on his way home from Ted Williams’ memorial.
This NRA ad is so twisted and vicious that I hate to sully Helytimes with it. You don’t have to watch it, I will tell you the key parts.
From the woman’s tone to the images it is so intense, so designed to provoke fear and anger.
Imagine something less helpful than showing this to a fearful person or a deranged person who also owned a gun.
I learned a tiny bit about the woman in the ad and I don’t want to ever think about her again.
I do want to examine the use of the words “us” and “them” in the ad.
Sometimes I felt frustrated by the attempt to over-explain Trump’s popularity as just racism because I felt that like while racism was absolutely in the mix, that wasn’t a big enough word. What I really heard was something like “themism.”
It was obvious to anyone I talked to at Trump’s rally or the RNC that I was a “them” even though I felt like we were and could be and should be an “us.”
Who is them and who is us?
In the first twenty seconds of this ad, you hear about how “they use”:
- “their media”
- “their schools”
- “their movies stars
- their singers
- their comedy shows
- their awards shows”
(with lots of exterior shots of LA, by the way, including Disney Hall)
- “their ex-president”
As a media-working school-liking person who works on a comedy show in LA who loves and gave money to my ex-president, I am obviously a them.
What the hell? I want to be an us!
I am an us!
Who is the us, according to the ad?
Well, against the them is:
- “the law-abiding”
Me, definitely, I love the law, some of the people closest to me are professional law enforcers.
- “the police”
Same, I love one police in my own life and like the police in general.
So, I am also an us.
Can I be an us and a them?
What kind of wicked, nasty person would try and drive us apart like that? What sinister agenda would be behind that?
Anyone trying to divide us is wicked.
Which is better: united or divided?
Uniter or divider?
Everyone knows the answer to that. This is the United States.
If you are trying to divide, if you are sowing division, you doing wickedness. This is simple.
This ad is some kind of vicious dog-whistle designed make some loose category of people who feel angry and put upon and threatened feel more angry, put upon, and threatened. This ad uses the language of violence to suggest channeling those feelings into violence.
In this world you will see so much wickedness that you can’t possibly handle it all but somehow this one got to me.
Part of what makes me made is that a club for people who like shooting guns could be so positive. Lots of people in this country have guns because they like hunting or because guns are exciting. What if they were in a club that made them feel proud and noble instead of vicious and afraid?
The language about the “well-regulated militia” in the Second Amendment is so important. Adding those words was not an accident. The Founders didn’t want every gun-haver running around on his own kick deciding who to blast away. Read
A militia was a community. It brought people together. And it was a responsibility. To call this NRA video irresponsible is a wild understatement.
I suspect I have no more than two Helytimes readers who are in the NRA. There has to be a faction of the NRA that can see how wrong this ad is, how destructive. I could be wrong but my guess is this strategy of marketing for the NRA will not be successful.
My purpose in writing this was just to bore down and clarify mostly for myself what is so wrong and wicked about this ad and what larger principle that leads us to.
Also to shine a light on why the message is not just wicked but un-American.
A Smaller Thing That Made Me Mad From This Ad
“make them march, make them protest”
let’s pause here and remember you can say whatever the hell you want about movie stars and comedy shows but marching and protesting in American history is maybe not all the time but by an overwhelming margin a pretty darn heroic and positive thing in American history.
the ad is ignorant as well as wicked, the two often go hand in hand.