I appreciated Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.
Remember the bleak winter of 2007-2008? That was when Rudy Giuliani, Warlord of the New York Marches, was the party’s crown prince, destined to face off against Her Royal Highness the Queen Consort (also of New York). Barack Obama and John McCain were a couple of no-chance long shots.
It was a grim, joyless time, and Huckabee’s aw-shucks populism, which so plainly got on the nerves of his party’s junta grande, was about the only touch of humanity in the race. My state is both needy and knee-jerk Republican, and I thought Huckabee might at least give us a way to, you know, “send a message.”
And that’s what we did, although by the time we voted, Huckabee was on the way out and Obama was steaming ahead. When I canvassed for the Obama campaign (in Condoleezza Rice’s old neighborhood, as it happened), my canvass partner, an African American soldier just back from Iraq, told me his dream ticket would list Obama for president, with Huckabee as his running mate. Continue reading
Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
Pope: This coxcomb Cock, too tim’rous for true flight,
Flutters, now lands, now looks to left and right,
And, noting no Traffic (save yon venomous Toad),
Steps with a scaly Foot into the Road.
So on Friday my wife and I strolled beside a lake in north Alabama. We admired blue herons and Canada geese, we marveled at a stray sandpiper and a loon from the northern lakes, the way it vanished under water like a thought, and the wild calls it made.
It was a perfect day to be in the Tennessee River valley, car windows down, jackets unzipped, strangers beaming at one another. From a high bluff we gazed down deep into Buck’s Pocket, and even the baying of hounds and the odd gunshot sounded like part of a celebration. Alabama teems with life and beauty, and for all the blundering damage we do, we can’t spoil it all.
Only a German Lit major would think of this, but I just had to track down the devil’s complaint to Faust (in Goethe’s Faust, Part I). It’s about trying to do evil but only contributing to the good:
Was sich dem Nichts entgegenstellt,
Das Etwas, diese plumpe Welt,
So viel als ich schon unternommen,
Ich wußte nicht ihr beizukommen,
Mit Wellen, Stürmen, Schütteln, Brand -
Geruhig bleibt am Ende Meer und Land!
Und dem verdammten Zeug, der Tier- und Menschenbrut,
Dem ist nun gar nichts anzuhaben:
Wie viele hab ich schon begraben!
Und immer zirkuliert ein neues, frisches Blut.
In essence, the devil Mephistopheles is griping that despite all his efforts to trouble the earth and sea, and to wipe out the whole detestable brood of animals and humans, the earth is still serene and there is always “new, fresh blood” out there — always plenty of warm, grubby Something to overwhelm the purity of Nothing. What’s a poor devil to do?
I know cultural pessimism * has a venerable history in Western civilization, but I am inclined not to take part in it. (I guess I can claim Goethe for company in this.) Plodding mankind is not what reality is all about. Even if we succeed in doing ourselves in — and I’m not sure we could if we tried — but even then, life on earth will continue without us, thriving and changing as ever. I haven’t always believed in God, but somehow I’ve always believed in the poem “God’s Grandeur.” Or when I’ve been tempted not to, countless experiences have reminded me that “nature is never spent” and that “there lives the dearest freshness deep down things.”
I guess my gushing optimism is in danger of making nonsense of my title: What day isn’t perfect? Why make comparisons at all? I guess it’s just that some times and places are easier for our self-engrossed selves to appreciate. For me, Friday in north Alabama was among these.
* Vid. the (lost) golden age, original sin, the tragedy of the commons, etc., etc.
For the past few years I’ve thought that one of the most glaring omissions from Wikipedia (that most praised and blamed of websites) was an article on South Carolina bard J. Gordon Coogler, who penned the deathless lines
Alas! for the South, her books have grown fewer—
She never was much given to literature.
Coogler imagined these two lines to be a complete poem. He sent innumerable booklets of his work to literary journals in the 1890s, and before long newspaper editors in the North were quoting his lines with glee. Coogler’s immortality was assured when H.L. Mencken chose this poem as the motto for his gloating essay on southern backwardness, “The Sahara of the Bozart.” *
Coogler’s name still pops up from time to time as the ultimate poetaster. Conservative pundit R. Emmett Tyrell, Jr. has bestowed the Coogler name on an annual booby prize he awards to books he doesn’t like. (The award would be funnier if Tyrell could manage to ridicule his targets without also trying to drown them in buckets of venom. † )
I thought this deficiency at Wikipedia would be remedied in time. But the other day, finding this deplorable gap in knowledge still unfilled, I stole a couple of hours, did some research, and wrote a Coogler article my own self.
* Sadly unavailable online due to copyright.
† In other words, the kind of thing that passes for humor at FreeRepublic.com.