Kipling’s line was: “What do they know of England who only England know?” Mine is: “What beyond blogging do we bloggers care to talk about?” Presumably: everything.
Here’s a start with a little light summer conversation on a gap in American defenses that the 9.11 attack revealed. It’s the matter of homeland security, seriously, without the capital letters.
Elaine Scarry is the author of the startling little essay, Who Defended the Country? I have admired Elaine Scarry from a distance as a completely original literary critic. Our last conversation on the air was about her book, On Beauty and Being Just, on the mental pictures that enliven the novels and poems we remember, from Achilles’ helmet in The Iliad to Levin mowing with his scythe in Anna Karenina. Her theory stretched comparative literature in the direction of cognitive science, how the mind actually works as we read. In the meantime, Elaine Scarry has become a prolific expert on the fate of TWA Flight 800 and other mysterious plane crashes. And now she is speaking out–not as an expert but as a citizen who senses that there is no security in our security policy. “One key fact, ” she writes, “needs to be held on to and stated in a clear sentence: on September 11, the Pentagon could not defend the Pentagon, let alone the rest of the country.” The passengers on United Airlines Flight 93, who stormed their hijackers and brought their plane down in a field in Pennsylvania, managed by contrast in only 23 minutes to “gather information, deliberate, vote and act”–knowingly, selflessly, in the public interest, after many loving farewells by cell phone. So Elaine Scarry’s not entirely rhetorical question, late in the age of nuclear terror, is whether and how we might agree to “restore within our own country a democratic form of self-defense.” Listen up, think it through, and comment, please, as the spirit moves you.