This is brilliant — kudos!

The problem with Stoicism is that its idea of freedom is ineluctably abstract — the freedom to greet the day with indifference as to whether it will bring warm sunshine or cold rain. It can get things done, but isn’t overly rattled when it doesn’t, and it usually doesn’t. Hegel was right about that in the Phenomenology: Stoic freedom is worldless. It interprets the world to death and does not change it, at least not enough. “Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage.” Bullshit: of course they do.

The stone walls and iron bars constitute the American polity, and the bullshit they encircle is the standard-brand rhetoric of the exceptionalism that is currently killing the US empire. Americans damn well deserve it too. Citizens who can elect a soul as sick as our current president have lost all claim to seriousness, not to mention moral probity. For 400 years the American Cults of Wealth and Whiteness and Self-Righteousness destroyed whatever resistance the body politic had, and now COVID-19 is finishing the job. Requiescat in tormenum.

Obama did manage to embody a kind of Marcus-like Stoic dignity and decency — such as it was — and his interregnum was, at least for this citizen of the USA, a welcome relief from the acquisitive barbarism of Clinton and the bellocose idiocy of Bush. But the departure was only in style and not substance. And the style too had its Stoic defects: the USA needed an FDR and got Adlai Stevenson. Obama, Myshkin-like, believed in the American project and the American people, and both wound up sucking his soul out. Dementor nation.

Once again, thank you for this article. — Laura Nelson

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Writer, philosopher, information technologist,guitarist, neurotic, polite radical, avid and indiscriminate reader, Episcopalian, trans woman.

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