Lapham’s Quarterly Winter 2015: Foreigners

[CATEGORIES: Literature, Lapham’s Quarterly, Reading, Book Review]
[Click HERE to see my previous posts referencing Lapham’s Quarterly.]
[Some of LQ’s contents are available free.]
[All photos or web clips are of pages in the Foreigners issue of L.Q., except Pogo of course.]

Superb, excellent, outstanding.  These are my most-used adjectives for things that are such (superb when writing, the others when spoken).  So it is with this issue of L.Q. as it has been with the other nineteen Quarterlies I’ve read to date.

This issue’s sections of Voices In Time:
Encounters (Initial essays are superb, dare I say.  Slowed a bit after.)
Customs (Great.  Nearly every extract I asterisked and annotated.)
Hostilities (A mixed bag.  Hostile to be sure.  Still I couldn’t put it down.)

The Further Remarks essays were ‘S’, ‘e’, and ‘o’ also.

The graphic this issue is the first 4-pager I’ve seen in L.Q.  It is produced by the inimitable Haisam Hussein and is about Us (inclusions) and Them (exclusions), sure to be ‘the’ recurring theme.  As noted in my est seminars you can’t have chalk without having no-chalk.  Thus to have Us you must have Them.


Lewis Lapham’s preamble is titled THEM.  He carries us through the vicissitudes of American foreign policy since our beginning.  He notes that both John Quincy Adams, p. 18, and George Washington, p. 157, eschewed political involvement in foreign affairs.

“Adams was reminding the gentlemen in high silk hats that within the American scheme of things the policies of liberty and force have been at each other’s throats ever since the Puritan forefathers landing in Massachusetts Bay in the 1620s fell first on their knees, then on the aborigines.” (p. 19) [Italics his, and touché. –J]

Lapham attributes “hard-line Old Testament thinking” (p. 19) for much of the ‘trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored’.  The Battle Hymn of the Republic analogy is mine, not Lewis’, but doesn’t that old hymn say it all about our European ancestral conquest of the U.S. of A.?  In his book God’s Gold John T. Flynn makes a similar postulate about the Old Testament influencing uber-religious John D. Rockefeller’s severe business acumen. (My review.)  Thank God for religion to guide us.


Lapham takes us through the blending of liberty and force with the Philippines, Cuba, T. Roosevelt, and W. Wilson.  (Goodness!  We’ve been as empire-bound as the Holy Romans or the British at one time or another.  If we had kept Mexico when we had it they wouldn’t have to sneak across the border now.  Hmm.)

In his Preamble in the Revolutions: Spring 2014 issue (p. 22) Lewis alludes to force overtaking liberty: “The fantastic fears of a violent revolt awakened by a news media in search of a profit stimulated the demand for repressive surveillance and heavy law enforcement that over the last fifty years has blossomed into one of the richest and most innovative of the nation’s growth industries.”

He adds to that theme here: “Begin the narrative almost anywhere in the 1950s and for the next half century the practice of democracy comes to be seen by the authorities as both uncivil and unsafe.  Too much freedom wandering around loose in the streets and too many people having thoughts of their own undermine the ambitions of the state; [it’s Us and Them –J] long before the evil date of 9/11, the rapidly metastasizing national security agencies were separating the homegrown damned from the homegrown saved.  The recent and even more rapid technological upgrades attest to the pathology of a government so afraid of its own citizens that it classifies them as probable enemies.” (p. 22)


(Thank you again Pogo and Walt Kelly.)

Who needs foreigners!

The Preamble is available in it’s insightfully eloquent entirety either free online (search you scalawags) or in your personally subscribed issue.

Soooo many fine extracts.  Lampedusa (the island), Flannery O’Connor, Melville: “Better sleep with a sober cannibal than a drunken Christian”, Langston Hughes, Hans Massaquoi (a black German-Liberian youth in WWII Germany), Crevecoeur’s Melting Pot (1782), Mulk Raj Anand on the caste system, terrorist Al-Zawahiri (know your enemies), Hannibal, Tecumseh, Susan B. Anthony, Imad ad-Din on the Battle of Hattin (I spent some time on Wikipedia (donate!) and elsewhere on this episode of the Crusades), Ho Chi Minh (!), Simone de Beauvoir on women as the Other, the full essay Enemy Aliens.

I will take a respite, although reading L.Q. is neither difficult nor unpleasant.  I’ll read Grisham’s new novel Gray Mountain while I work off some of the excess poundage from holiday meals.  Then it is on to L.Q. Crimes and Punishment: Spring 2009.  Sounds devilishly juicy.  Keep reading.

P.S.  Don’t forget that the beautiful and newly formatted L.Q. website offers many portions of each issue for free.  (Free!  FREE!!  FREE!!!)  Those of you who want to ‘own knowledge’ might consider subscribing and buying back issues while they can still be found.  Judging from L.Q. requests for charity donations I suspect they are not making sufficient profit.

8 thoughts on “Lapham’s Quarterly Winter 2015: Foreigners

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