A lot of stuff is happening this summer. In the news, as I write
this, there are eight or nine stories that, in a slower news cycle,
might easily dominate the headlines to the exclusion of all else:
the Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage and the Voting Rights
Act, the trial of George Zimmerman, the continuing saga of Edward
Snowden, the murder(s) allegedly committed by the Patriots' Aaron
Hernandez, Texas Senate Bill Five and Wendy Davis's marathon
filibuster, Paula Deen's racism scandal . . . and probably some
international stuff in places like Syria and Turkey that's actually
more important than any of these other things.
As it happens, most of these (domestic) stories aren't all that
fun to have opinions on, in the sense that the "correct" position
is kind of too obvious (marriage equality is good, murder and
racism are bad).
I guess, for the average liberal, the Snowden story contains the
largest gray area. My own (probably dumb) instinctive reaction was
a somewhat unsympathetic one, even as Snowden's central premise -
that we deserve at least to know the extent to which the government
is spying on us - seemed to me correct: yet here was a vainglorious
Ron Paul supporter who, by releasing hard evidence of (legal, if
not necessarily "right") government surveillance that we all sort
of vaguely knew was happening anyway, had maybe just empowered a
preexisting current of American paranoia toward our "foreign,"
"socialist" president and his "invasive," "overreaching"
It's difficult to tell, though, how much harm or good Snowden's
whistleblowing has done, and for that reason (and because of his
obviously basically good intentions) it's hard to really want to
see him spend the rest of his life in prison, for instance. One
thing that's kind of weird (and totally predictable) is how the
media has come to focus on Snowden's personal story - his flight to
Hong Kong, and then to Moscow, and will the U.S. ever nab him? -
Rather than the NSA's privacy violations, which of course is the
main issue here.
After the initial outrage, I haven't heard much about what, if
we're truly about to enter "1984," we should do about it.
Moving on to some other food for thought for this holiday week:
1. Now that the Paul Pierce era has finally ended in Boston,
Celtics fans can debate where he ranks among the franchise's
all-time greats. My guess: well below Russell and Bird (obviously),
slightly below McHale and Havlicek, slightly above Sam Jones and
Tommy Heinsohn, well above Dennis Johnson - maybe on the level of
Robert Parish? I dunno. It occurs to me that, if Ainge hadn't
brought in Garnett and Allen, Pierce's career might have been
ultimately seen as no more significant than Antoine Walker's. It
also occurs to me that pretty soon there will be, in the NBA's
history, so many great players to account for that this sort of
debate will basically be impossible to have, and perhaps we'll all
be better off.
2. Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and Daft Punk's "Get Lucky"
are squaring off for this year's "summer anthem" title, insofar as
our fractured culture still has an overarching "summer anthem."
"Get Lucky" is the better choice, I think, because Daft Punk is
more important musically than Robin Thicke, but "Blurred Lines" is
more fun - and currently in the lead, it seems.
3. When Nadal lost in the first round of Wimbledon, I finally
realized that the primary reason I'm still rooting for him to win
every major after all these years is that I'm still angry about how
dumb David Foster Wallace's typically overzealous "Roger Federer as
Religious Experience" article was - which cast Federer as so
divinely talented as to inspire belief in God, and Nadal as some
pedestrian muscle-man - back in 2006. I want Nadal's career to
overtake Federer's not so much for tennis reasons as for literary
4. Hey, look, it's the 4th of July! Happy America, everyone. On
a related note, I recently fulfilled my once-in-a-lifetime
patriotic duty to visit Colonial Williamsburg, having found myself
in Virginia for other reasons.
Williamsburg - whose real, functional downtown was restored in
the 20th century to a lovely, green approximation of its colonial
state and populated with historical interpreters, actors, and
craftsmen - is sort of an amazing project but a confusing
experience, occupying, as it does, some uneasy territory between
museum and amusement park and Medieval Times.
On a Monday, it was so overrun by tourists that I didn't see all
that much opportunity to wrest the interpreters from their
rehearsed speeches and performances, and the craftsmen were
particularly hard to interact with: it seemed that some were
playing 18th-century artisans and wanted to talk about the
practices of, say, colonial tailors, while others seemed to view
themselves basically as modern-day skilled laborers who just
happened, irrelevantly, to be dressed in old-timey garb, and they
wanted to talk about their trade from a modern perspective (that is
to say, about the trade itself, not about its past) - or to be left
alone to work.
It was weird.