All posts by history

Long Saturday Walk

Felt the need to break 400 miles for the year so walked 11 today.

Averaging six miles per walk over the last thirty days.
Five-hundred yards from the testing site near Citizens Bank. An impressive operation.
Me and Columbus…
View from Gray’s Ferry…

Tony Judt on the Plague

The entire article is here.

It does not follow from this that the plagues that humankind brings down upon itself are “natural” or unavoidable. But assigning responsibility for them—and thus preventing them in the future—may not be an easy matter. And with Hannah Arendt we have been introduced to a further complication: the notion of the “banality of evil” (a formulation that Camus himself would probably have taken care to avoid), the idea that unspeakable crimes can be committed by very unremarkable men with clear consciences.6

These are now commonplaces of moral and historical debate. But Albert Camus came to them first, in his own words, with an originality of perspective and intuition that eluded almost all his contemporaries. That is what they found so disconcerting in his writing. Camus was a moralist who unhesitatingly distinguished good from evil but abstained from condemning human frailty. He was a student of the “absurd” who refused to give in to necessity.7 He was a public man of action who insisted that all truly important questions came down to individual acts of kindness and goodness. And, like Tarrou, he was a believer in absolute truths who accepted the limits of the possible: “Other men will make history…. All I can say is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims—and as far as possible one must refuse to be on the side of the pestilence.”

Six mile Thursday Walk

Listening to my favorite book from high school: The Plague by Albert Camus.

This quote:

“I’ll ask the government for orders.”
When Rieux next met Castel, the prefect’s remark was still rankling.
Orders!” he said scornfully. “When what’s needed is imagination.”

Albert Camus, The Plague (NY: Modern Library, 1948), 59.

From my usual spot.
South Street Bridge
76 is never this empty at 8:30AM.
30th Street trainyard. Not sure why it’s this packed.

The case for the nation

The book opens with this quote:

Nations reel and stagger on their way; they
make hideous mistakes; the commit frightful
wrongs; they do great and beautiful things.
And shall we not best guide humanity by
telling the truth about all this, so far as the
truth is ascertainable?

—W.E.B. Dubois,
The Propaganda of History, 1935

If I had a class right now, I’d like to argue over this quote from scholar Yael Tamir:

“The liberal tradition, with its respect for personal autonomy, reflection, and choice, and the national tradition, with is emphasis on belonging, loyalty, and solidarity, although generally seen as mutually exclusive, can indeed accommodate one another.” p.130

The second to last paragraph of the book is money, too:

“In a world made up of nations, there is no more powerful way to fight the forces of prejudice, intolerance, and injustice than by a dedication to equality, citizenship, and equal rights, as guaranteed by a nation of laws.” p. 137

Tuesday Primary Source

On Friday, one of my brilliant students noted that were living a primary source document. Of course I had to turn this into an assignment so I had to do the same thing. Below are my notes and observations from a six-mile walk around the city at 6:00 AM this morning.

The South Street Bridge had what appeared to be about a third of the usual traffic. I was struck by the two groups I saw on the walk: one, construction jobs seemed to have continued. Many workers passed me and the job sites in West Philly and Center City were all buzzing with activity. Two, the steady stream of medical professionals on the bridge was less surprising.

Both of those groups have obvious uniforms. Apart from a handful of joggers — impressive in the rain — few other people were on the road.
Both Penn and Drexel’s campuses were empty. No one on Locust Walk except the facilities folks who were mulching the trees. On both campuses, it felt like every single facilities person was hard at work, which I tend to see more of around graduation time.
It’s still too early for the Magnolia Blossoms.