How many members of Congress have read Profiles in Courage?

Originally published at Unrhetorical.

This is an unfortunately timeless paragraph from John F. Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize winning Profiles in Courage:

“Today the challenge of political courage looms larger than ever before. For our everyday life is becoming so saturated with the tremendous power of mass communications that any unpopular or unorthodox course arouses a storm of protests such as John Quincy Adams—under attack in 1807—could never have envisioned. Our political life is becoming so expensive, so mechanized and so dominated by professional politicians and public relations men that the idealist who dreams of independent statesmanship is rudely awakened by the necessities of election and accomplishment.” (Introduction)

The very next sentence could be similarly descriptive of the situation immediately following 9/11, i.e. our war with the epithet “on Terror”:

“And our public life is becoming so increasingly centered upon that seemingly unending war to which we have given the curious epithet “cold” that we tend to encourage rigid ideological unity and orthodox patterns of thought.” (Introduction)

Do Different Generational Perspectives on Patriotism and War Line Up?

Originally published at Unrhetorical.

I’m curious about how well Remarque’s perspective in All Quiet on the Western Front resonates with today’s soldiers as they think about the teachers, mentors, and media that encourage us to fight. Seems like a timeless observation:

“While they continued to write and talk, we saw the wounded and dying. While they taught that duty to one’s country is the greatest thing, we already knew that death-throes are stronger. But for all that we were no mutineers, no deserters, no cowards–they were very free with all these expressions. We loved our country as much as they; we went courageously into every action; but also we distinguished the false from true, we had suddenly learned to see. And we saw that there was nothing of their world left. We were all at once terribly alone; and alone we must see it through.” (Chapter 1)