The author of the article that was the subject of my previous post took the time to email me regarding my little commentary. Here's our exchange:
From: Philip L Kennicott Sent: 8/1/2006 11:57:36 AM To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: your blog
Just thought I'd send a note to say I think you may have read more of a "swerve to the left" in my architecture review of the Marine Corps museum than I intended. I put "the dangers of empire" in parentheses, and didn't necessarily mean it as you've read it, ie. that the US is an empire, or imperialistic. The previous sentence mentioned democracy and "the vulnerabilities of democracy" and the temptation to empire is definitely one of those vulnerabilities, don't you think? No sooner had the Athenians established the preeminence of their democratic system than they were tempted by the dangers of the Delian league. I hoped that the "dangers of empire" would be read as I wrote it, generically. The Marines know these dangers because they've fought empires, the Japanese included.
Philip KennicottCulture CriticThe Washington Post1150 Fifteenth St. NWWashington, DC 20071.
From: michael fay Sent: 8/1/2006 12:31:48 PM To: email@example.com Subject: Re: your blog
I appreciate that you took time to email me. My reading of your final "dangers of empire" did not, nor does it now come across as generic. I think you made a very good point with regards to the failure of our system to educate folks on most things historic. The temptation to empire is a legitimate course of thought, but adding it to the end of piece (even in paranthesis) did not cap off your reporting, but rather came across as a raised eyebrow, and re-cast everything you wrote in a questionable light. Garnishing your piece about The National Museum of the Marine Corps with it was in my opinion unnecessary at best, and politically motivated at worst. I do not personally know you, but I'm well aware of the left leaning drift of The Washington Post. As I said in my blog, this type of rhetorical flourish is completely appropriate within the context of a op-ed piece, but within a journalistic, or even a critical review such as yours, it spices up the content beyond mere analysis or reporting. None-the-less, I really appreciate your explanation. I hope you will entertain my opinion that it is a far more loaded phrase, especially during our current historical unfoldings, than you intended.
Best Regards, Mike Fay
With further reading of Mr. Kennicott's explanation to me I found myself taken aback more and more by his references to the Athenians and the Delian League, and Marines fighting the Empire of Japan. The reference to Japan, the sole empire Marines ever engaged in combat with, unless you include the British in both the Revolution and the War of 1812, struck me as grasping at straws. Marines have been historically engaged in "small wars". Last time I read about WWII I don't think the "vulnerabilities of democracy" pushed Japan (or either Germany or Italy) to attack Pearl Harbor. Temptation to empire wouldn't exactly top my list of the vulnerablities of democracy. Do you think Attila the Hun was a closet Patrick Henry? Perhaps I missed this in college history class.....Ward Churchill no doubt covers this sort of thing in his lectures.
The reference to the Athenians strikes me as particularly elitist. Then again, The Washington Post is probably not aiming for a blue collar Nascar guy readership. I don't know why the Delian League thing didn't just jump out at me when I read the paranthetical "dangers of empire". National Museum of the Marine Corps.....Delian League.....man do I feel dumb, how could I have missed that one!
How in the world can Mr. Kennicott believe this sort of subtle and inflammatory manipulation is generic? It's not generic.....it's elitist. Capping his article with "dangers of empire" was anything but a broad, vague or general tossing out of a neutral idea. It was specific and targeted. If anything, it made it seem as if the entire preceeding article was an excuse to give his "vulnerabilities of democracy"/"temptation to empire" thesis a forum.
Do you think if Mr. Kennicott ever reviewed The National Museum of Women in the Arts he'd end it with a paranthetical musing on PMS? Now that would be something!