Tuesday, September 28, 2004

1:51PM (central time) – Saturday 25th September, 2004 Bremen, Indiana – The Rogers’ Farm

So check it right… stay with me. The soybeans are being harvested, except that these soybeans here need to die and dry out some more before they can be picked. Apparently, soybeans (and some other types of grain) cannot be picked and stored ‘wet’ because they will spontaneously combust! You actually have to wait for the plant to die before you can harvest!! This season they’ve grown soybeans. Next season, it’ll be corn. They rotate the crop because soybeans put nitrates into the soil and the corn takes it back out. Down to the back of the property, the pond has recently been dredged and deepened (the fram owner, the groom’s step-father, Bruce Rogers, son of the poet Roy Rogers – not that Roy Rogers, but a Roy Rogers nonetheless who wrote poems – took me out there in the middle of the night last night, on a John Deere gator), so now the pond is stocked with bass and a couple other kinds of fish. There is an island in the middle of the pond. From time to time one can row out there, catch fish and release them (though according to Bruce they’ll have to pretty soon start catching and keeping them so it doesn’t get overcrowded). The wedding (Marty’s sister’s wedding) is in about an hour, so I have a lot of time on my hands right now, since we did all the getting ice and beer and setting up stuff between yesterday and this morning.

I flew into Chicago night before last, and the flight was delayed so I had lots of time to get into Cornel West’s “Democracy Matters”. This is his sequel to “Race Matters”; a call-to-arms as it were for intellectuals and philosophers in our midst to do the work necessary to pursue real democracy in America. West has a few major contentions about what is necessary to do this; but his most belabored point is that America has to get honest with itself about its own racist past and present; its own imperialist past and present if it is to be able to genuinely pursue real democracy on its own shores, or have a chance of really being able to foster it in other places. West asserts, through pointing to a rich tradition of democracy in American letters, in Jewish American scholarship, in African American music, in Arab American scholarship, that we must foster and re-examine these traditions in order to wake up a populace that has been lulled pretty much by fear and conned by its uninspired leaders into complacency, and even worse nihilism.
His observations on the Israel/Arab conflicts of the Middle East and the part that must be played, within both the Jewish and Islamic prophetic traditions (which both sides in the conflict seem to have abandoned), are fascinating, and I think present a brilliant philosophical blueprint from which to approach the conflict. Probably, the most difficult thing though, will be our first step; that acknowledgement of America’s troubled past (and present) on the fronts of racism and imperialism; the idea that our experiment with democracy was built on these two foundations, and that they continue to be central to the manner in which the US involves itself with the rest of the world.

Suffice to say, it’s a book I think everyone should read. It is a fascinating discourse (and urgent call) on the state of democracy globally. It’s also an interesting bit of scholarship to be contemplating in the middle of a wedding in the middle of Indiana, amongst many, many, many mid-Western white folks.

The wedding should be a hoot, though. I’ve bought a cd that is the best of the 80s and one that is the 30 best one-hit wonders of all time. That should turn the comic factor up sufficiently. Get Cornel West’s “Democracy Matters”. Tell me what you think.


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