Robert Geroux is a political theorist and assistant professor of political science at DePauw University.
By this author
I’m at work now on the early stages of a longer piece that promises to revisit the arguments leading up to (and following) the invasion of Iraq in 2003. I’m especially interested in evaluating arguments that attempted to interpret American actions using the framework of just war theory. From everything I’ve read recently on the sad and untimely passing of Jean Elshtain (RIP), it would seem that for many of us such questions have been settled, at least in a temporary and contingent way. It has been ten years since 2003, though, and I think it’s time to go back and “unsettle” some things.
I only just now got around to reading a Thomas Friedman column in the New York Times that has received a lot of (mostly negative) attention back in May. The piece, titled "How to Get a Job," is written in the typically forthright and optimistic/naïve style I've come to associate with Friedman. One has to assume that there's no irony involved, that he means what he says, and that everything here is in earnest.
As I write this, most of us have heard the latest iteration of the George Zimmerman saga. Just when we thought that he was destined to become a troubled footnote in the annals of American history, George Zimmerman pops back up into popular consciousness. This time the story has a happy ending. Or does it?
George Zimmerman, who has not been seen publicly since his acquittal in the murder of Trayvon Martin earlier this month, surfaced last week to rescue an unidentified family trapped in an overturned vehicle on a Florida highway, police said Monday.
Sanford Police Department Capt. Jim McAuliffe told Fox News that Zimmerman, 29, was identified by a crash victim as the man who pulled him from the mangled vehicle.
“George Zimmerman pulled me out,” firefighters were told by the unidentified driver, according to McAuliffe.
The work of uncovering the truth or falsity of this story is an important job for the fact-checkers. What I want to do instead is examine its place in a larger narrative about heroism and redemptive action, especially as it is situated in the contemporary conservative imagination. To do this, I have to shift gears and talk about a different (but not unrelated) story.
My friends at the academic journal Theory and Event have re-issued a symposium of articles they released last year. This isn't for everyone: T&E is a journal of political theory, which can try the patience of some readers. But if you're interested in provocative and insightful early readings of this highly controversial case, you may want to check it out. Here's the link.
My contribution to the debate surrounding the Zimmerman verdict will be short and (one hopes) sweet. It isn’t grounded in any particular expertise in case law. It’s just meant to be a pessimstic observation about the loss of (a) common sense.
New York Times columnist David Brooks is taking a lot of heat for a recent column on race. And rightly so. Even worse, or at least equally bad, is a recent column he wrote on class. I don’t have the time or patience to unpack every single error in this piece, but I wanted to spend a few short minutes examining one major point.
Disgust is powerful, and powerfully negative. And I agree with Leon Kass that we should listen to our emotions when we analyze our moral vocabulary. My sense is, however, that even the most apparently unconditioned, natural, visceral reactions are shaped in part by cultural (and moral) expectations. In other words, it's not a one-way street from biology/nature/evolutionary adaption to culture and morality. We feel disgusted at least in part because of prohibitions and proscriptions.
Thanks again for the great comments. Thanks especially to Michael Bayer, who asked me about Leon Kass, who is indeed one of my major interlocutors in this project.
I'm working now on a longer piece that examines disgust.
Last summer I came across a brilliant new term whose origins I've been searching for as part of my recent obsession with/analysis of libertarian conservatives. The term is "randsplaining," which is defined in the following way (and which can be accessed via twitter, here: https://twitter.com/MotherJones/status/241318627326980096):
randsplaining. verb. the act of a rich person confidently telling the poor what's wrong with them.