In “So Proudly We Fail,” James Agee looked at war films to explain the “unutterable dislocation” between soldiers and civilians, what he described–in 1943–as a destructive “chasm” that veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan describe with equal anger today even as the nation goes through the motions of marking its Veteran and Memorial days.
Voices From the Grave
Maj. Sullivan Ballou’s letter to his wife, written a week before he was killed at Bull Run in 1861, is one of the great eulogies of sorrow and divided duty to nation and family. As a memorial to the victims of war, who include survivors, especially civilians, the letter has few equals.
Ernie Pyle on Omaha Beach after the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944 describes a wreckage “vast and startling” along “this shoreline museum of carnage” even as he anticipates inevitable victory for the Allies.
Fulton J. Sheen was that rarity of Catholic sermonizers: he was witty, earthy and unfriendly to religion’s two heels : dogma and doctrine. “How to Have a Good Time” is one of his most celebrated sermons from his “Life Is Worth Living” series, from 1957.
Reagan’s speech at Normandy’s Pointe du Hoc on June 6, 1984, commemorating the 40th anniversary of D-Day, is one of his noblest, especially in retrospect, for what he said about the cold war, the Soviet Union and nuclear weapons.
Jimmy Carter’s malaise speech is revisited in the more positive context in which it was initially received, when the nation faced an energy and self-confidence crisis. Barack Obama is not in Carter territory yet.
Full text and audio of John F. Kennedy’s Amherst College speech on the arts in 1963, one of the most eloquent defenses of the artist and art’s role in American civilization by an American president.
In a 1950 piece for Cosmopolitan that could have been written today, Eleanor Roosevelt sees through the vacuous sloganeering of the Republican opposition, though she’s not much kinder to Democrats.
Sanity is not the natural condition of the human mind, Bertrand Russell argued in this 1934 column, but a product of social life. It is a form of politeness, generated by the pressure of other personalities, which makes us know that we are not omnipotent.