A Wandering Mind: Thoughts on Language

My mind wandered during Monday’s debate, as I grew weary of listening to one man’s rambling refusal to recognize any source of knowledge or wisdom beyond his “gut.” Doing so is the purpose of education – and Donald Trump seems to have missed a few classes. A friend of mine believes that this election is […]

Reclaiming our Country

Like many others, I experience the tension that Welsh poet Edward Thomas noted between the desire to ‘go on and on over the earth’ and the desire ‘to settle for ever in one place,’ words I recently came across in Landmarks, Robert Macfarlane’s extraordinary book about the intimate connections between language and place. The words […]

The Language of Thugs

For someone who deals in words, one of the most disheartening aspects of current politics is the demise of language as a tool for inspiring – or even communicating with – people. And it’s not just the candidates. The president of the Philippines and the governor of Maine talk dirty; and someone should take away […]

Colin Kaepernick and Me

Colin Kaepernick didn’t stand up for the national anthem Friday. Now he’s told to find another country. I was teaching middle school when I stopped pledging allegiance to the flag. I didn’t make a scene. I stood up straight and faced the flag, for I have nothing against the flag (except when worn mindlessly on politicians’ […]

Instead of blowing it up, Let’s fix it

In his epilogue to “Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart,” Scott Anderson writes: “On a more philosophical level, this journey has served to remind me again of how terribly delicate is the fabric of civilization, of the vigilance required to protect it and of the slow and painstaking work of mending it once […]

The Gerrymander and Other Embarrassments: Readers Respond

The word “gerrymander” has been around for over two centuries. It entered the language in 1812, after Governor Elbridge Gerry’s Democratic-Republican Party (yes, that was one party – Jefferson’s – in those days) redrew the electoral map to ensure its continued dominance in the Massachusetts senate. That effort took such creative mapmaking that one district […]