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Melvyn D. Magree
Originally published in
July 31, 2003
I apologize to my three fans for not having written for the Reader for several weeks. I haven’t written because of a mix of traveling, yard and trail work, reading, writer’s block, and just plain being disorganized. I do go around writing articles in my head, but since my head is so dense it is impossible for you to read them there. I do have about three or four bouncing around up there, now if I can only…now I forgot how I was going to finish this paragraph.
It is my reading that leads to many of these articles and that ranges over quite a spectrum of material. I try to read the funnies and the editorial pages (some see no difference) and as much more as I have time for in the Duluth News-Tribune, the Star Tribune, and the Budgeteer. I try to read at least half of the Reader every week but I’ve fallen behind. Every so often I read online the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, mostly one or two news stories and an opinion piece or two. Since I’ve started voice lessons I haven’t read many foreign papers, but I liked to skim Smålandsposten (Sweden), Dawn (Pakistan in English), Le Monde (French), The Guardian, Die Zeit, and two Arab papers (one in Lebanon and one in Jordan, both in English. There are also many other newspapers online in English that offer a wide perspective. I also go to the public library once a week and read a magazine or two as well as pick up a book or three.
The magazines I most often read are Atlantic Monthly and The American Spectator. The Atlantic Monthly has mostly “middle-of-the road articles”. I have some interesting thoughts from it buried in my notebook. The American Spectator is as predictably on the right as Progessive Magazine is on the left, but I often find some interesting nuggets that are worth putting up with the diatribes. All of these have web sites on which you can read most of the printed articles for free.
I find The American Spectator almost unbearable in its smugness that it knows what is right for the world and damn anyone who believes differently. The most maddening thing they do is to call “jumk science” any conclusions that don’t match their beliefs but they never use any scientific evidence to refute those conclusions. But I persevere and skim for the gold; here are four ideas or comments that I found worth my efforts.
The most interesting concept was an article exploring why the U.S. has such a powerful military. Victor Davis Hanson, a military historian wrote “Why the West has won and will – Freedom is the ultimate weapon” in the November/December issue. He states that capitalism, science, and rationalism allow the West to produce the most lethal weapons. Religion or court politics do not dictate how weapons will be produced. Also freedom does permit more communication among various levels of government and other interests. Although recent history abounds with examples of “democratic” leaders hearing only what they want to hear, bad news and other opinions do get through at times. In a dictatorship, underlings are afraid to tell leaders anything they think the leaders don’t want to hear. He also points out that, statistically, democracies don’t fight democracies, but he asks, “Has not the real danger to progress and civilization always arisen when the West turns its deadly arsenal upon itself?”
With regard to the infamous $400 toilet seat (or whatever price the gossip-mongers choose, the toilet in question was for a reconnaissance plane that stayed aloft for twelve hours or more. R. P. Charlton wrote in the letters of the March/April 2002 issue, “The toilet assembly costs $400; the toilet seat costs $10. I know – I was there.”
The June/July issue had a very sympathetic obituary of Michael Kelly, the editor of Atlantic Monthly, who was killed in a vehicle accident in Iraq. The author considered him a true liberal (my words) because he sought to look at the bigger picture and how it affected real people.
But the best thing I read in The American Spectator was in the obituary of Dr. Caryl P. Haskins, the biologist who studied ants and wrote “Of Ants and Men”, published in 1938 (my birth year). In the November/December 2001 issue he was quoted – “The man who is too old to learn was probably always too old to learn.”
Although I am rather spasmodic in taking notes of the interesting things I have read, I have several notebooks, backs of envelopes, and other scraps of paper scattered around with interesting quotes and observations. From time to time I might put some of these in a column. One possible column would be social and philosophical observations from science fiction, especially by several women authors. One back-of-the-envelope quote I better save is,
The poor are like foxes; they need intelligence in order to survive.
The rich, however, have power; they don’t need good sense.
- Singer from the Sea, by Sherri S. Tepper.
©2003, 2007 Melvyn D. Magree