Real True Grit

By: Sunday July 24, 2011 9:40 am

The American myth of the rugged, self-sufficient individual is ever-present in our culture. Think of Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name, a character based on the nameless “Continental Op” of Dashiell Hammett’s noir thriller, Red Harvest. The characters abandon the very concept of community. They no longer even want a name that could be known by others.

The myth, of course, is just a fictionalized reflection of a belief held by many Americans: the self-contained individual is all. The furtherance of individual liberty, with little regard for the fate of the community at large, is the only legitimate role of government. The belief comes with magical thinking (or cynical slight-of-hand) that unrestrained selfishness will produce more for all than selflessness, altruism, or compassion.

Charles Portis’s True Grit and the 2010 film version by the Coen Brothers turn the myth on its head.

Aristotle and the Cyberpoke

By: Sunday January 2, 2011 9:30 am

I’m partial to the desert mountains of West Texas, but on my frequent visits out here I’m always surprised – and touched – by the strong spirit of friendship and community that marks the place. “Friendship holds political communities together,” said Aristotle, and he was on to something. American political culture has deteriorated as the [...]

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