The great literary awakening took place in London in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century. Here, between 1709 and 1713, Richard Steele and Joseph Addison, with the publication of The Tatler and The Spectator, began a tradition of social and political commentary. As John Gay, author of The Beggar’s Opera and member of The Scriblerus Club, states, speaking of The Tatler: “‘Tis incredible to conceive the effect [the] writings have had on the town; How many thousand follies they have either quite banish’d, or given a very great check to.” He goes on “Lastly, [the] writings have set all our wits and men of letters upon a new way of thinking, of which they had little or no notion before…” The ideas of the time were circulated in periodicals and penny papers and broadsides emanating from London’s publishing center, Fleet Street, and, perhaps more colorfully, from the hacks of Grub Street. Intellects of the day, Sam Johnson and the “literary club” and the natural philosophers, the Lunar Men, met in clubs to laugh and drink and debate. English-American wit Thomas Paine was heir to that tradition when, writing Common Sense, he taught the Founding Fathers to rebel from the tyranny of George III.
The wits of that day set the bar high. Today above all, we are much in need of such wits to “banish the thousand follies.” And so, to them, I dedicate this blog.
On that note, I will, in the modern vernacular, “pivot”. Because today, Connecticut’s Governor and Congressional delegation will attend the inauguration of Donald Trump. I have already pointed out the folly, the foolishness, of attending and thereby giving cover and legitimacy to Mr. Trump. To use the language of another era, Trump is a scoundrel through and through. Nothing good will come of him. The only honorable course is to reject him utterly. The actions of the Connecticut delegation, on the other hand, reflect the inherent weakness of our politicians. The mantra of the politician – and they truly live in their own bubble – is “go along to get along.” For the most part, it makes sense. In the normal course, real power devolves on a select few. The rest of them are herded like sheep by border collies – kept in their place – ever compliant lest they be nipped. Still, it is difficult for me to fathom how men and women of honor could attend the seating of Mr. Trump, a man who denigrates the weak, the poor, and the vulnerable, a man whose very being is a slap in the face to American ideals.
I suggested a couple days ago that, if you count Democrats and moderate Republicans, there is a critical mass of representatives in the current Congress sufficient to seize power back from the alt-right extremists. You ask me, can that really happen? My answer is, “Obviously not, if our representatives are to be sheep.” But is there not some disgruntled ram or ornery ewe out there with the moxie to take a risk? Because, one way or the other, if you don’t, we will all be sheared.