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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

So Long . . . and Thank You

My last few posts clearly hit a nerve, which suggests to me that tempers are frayed on the left.  No surprise when recent poll numbers (this from the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll) tell us that 51% of Americans think our government has handled enemy detainees in a perfectly acceptable manner, while 30% think the government has “gone too far.” (Details over at my blog, Public Intelligence.) Small “d” democrats haven’t got the luxury of being Straussians like the neo-cons or Leninists like the Old Left; we can’t work behind the populace’s back and still retain any semblance of good faith with our fundamental commitments. Yet the actions of our government around the globe belie any easy retreat to “all politics is local.”

But, really, I was getting to the local.  The posts were meant to work by an inclusive logic, moving through various sites of political engagement in order to find one where the “fit” felt satisfying, felt “organic.” I guess, instead, the posts came across as too abstract and too wistful (if the responses were a fair indication of the general sentiment out there.) In any case, the plan was to end with a tribute to and meditation on the work of my ex-student and friend Paul Castelloe, co-founder of the Center for Participatory Change, a community organizing effort in the mountains of western North Carolina.

I will talk about Paul over at Public Intelligence within the next week.  But, for right now, I will, by way of farewell, just recall that Hannah Arendt would have loved to mix it up with Bobby Orr and Rod Gilbert because she was fully convinced that politics is a contact sport.  And she was equally convinced that politics wasn’t worth a candle if it didn’t deliver a “public happiness” whose source was the quality of the interactions with one’s fellow citizens in a public, non-domestic, space.  She was fond of recalling Socrates’ delightful image of the afterworld as one giant Greek agora, where he would be able to question and converse with all the great thinkers, politicians, and heroes of history. 

Michael’s blog has created its own version of that dialogic community and it has been a great privilege to be able to try out some of my ideas in front of this demanding, intelligent, and passionate audience.  I thank you for your patience—and even more for your impatience.  And I thank Michael for having given me the chance to hang around for so long.

Posted by John McGowan on 11/23 at 11:16 AM
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