Paul Musgrave has decided to fold up his long-running blog and he is posting a final 15 long essays on subjects he feels strongly about. The first two, one on his hometown of Evansville and the other on the nature of patriotism, have been posted. They are well worth reading, if only to remind ourselves of what a loss it is for the blogging world that he will no longer be a part of it. Paul isn’t a good writer, he’s an extraordinary writer, as well as an uncommonly clear thinker. He’s so good that reading him sometimes makes me feel bad that much of what I write is so pedestrian. Only occasionally do I even manage to approach the level of excellence that he displays consistently. An example:
Like any form of real love, patriotism, the belief that one’s country is deserving of one’s loyalty sacrifices, cannot be a mere infatuation, which is the result of seduction or enchantment; it must take account not only of the charms and the virtues of a country, but of its faults and its sins as well. And the greater the power of the country under consideration, and the stronger the identification of the country’s mythology of itself with a certain set of political values, the more stirring will be its accomplishments and the more dismaying its failures…
The United States, of course, has become as much a mythological country as an actual one; its history is invested with a significance rather unlike that of a European country (save perhaps France since the Revolution). If America is embarked on an historical experiment in democratic self-governance, and one which seeks not only to prove that a republic can survive but that it can be virtuous, then every epoch is an interim report on that experiment, every setback a blow to the hypothesis, every advance an indication that the theory is plausible after all. Few other countries are so endowed with an ideological significance; tellingly, the most important other country to so publicly and deeply stake its legitimacy and its identity on an ideological proposition survived not even until its seventy-fifth anniversary, despite its still-impressive power. And even today, there are many throughout the former Soviet Union (although these principally Russians) who believe in the ideology that motivated that short-lived colossus, so attractive – to them, anyway – was the idea of Communism, so strong their will-to-believe.
That’s just great, great writing. Having finished his graduate work in Ireland, Paul has returned to the US and is now working for Foreign Affairs, where he will no doubt continue their fine tradition of first rate scholarship and writing. One can only assume that the rigors of the job have left him with little time for blogging. But we will undoubtedly hear much more from Mr. Musgrave, who I think is destined to become one of America’s finest public intellectuals.