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A Civic War July 28, 2008

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My column last week tried to tie some of themes of Why We Hate Us to the 35th anniversary of the end of the Watergate hearings in the summer of 1973. It was the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of high school and I watched the hearings every chance I got. I was already a political junkie; that happened in 1968.

In the chapter called “A Civic War,” I discussed in some detail how Watergate was followed by a weakening of political parties, a rise in political consulting and marketing, and perpetual series of feckless pseudo-reforms. In this piece, I talk more about the civic distrust fostered by Watergate, distrust which hasn’t lifted more than three decades later. Admittedly, it was a stretch to hang that on Watergate, but I do think it is interesting how little change there has been in the basic civic mood since the 1970s.

The Anchoress on Dick Meyer July 12, 2008

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One of the most unpredictable, thoughtful and hilarious bloggers I have ever come across is a conservative Catholic who writes as The Anchoress. She wrote a post about my column this week that was fascinating. Whenever The Anchoress tackles a topic, she will say something you’ve never thought of before.

Full disclosure: thanks to a mutual friend, The Anchoress and I became pen pals. She helped with the manuscript of Why We Hate Us and was the muse for the title. Browse her blog and you’ll be delighted. If you tend to lean left and east, and tend to seek out opinion writing you agree with, get unanchored from old intellectual habits with The Anchoress can be quite fun.

A Note from Dick Meyer, Author of Why We Hate Us July 9, 2008

Posted by shawnnicholls in Uncategorized.
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Thanks for checking out this little Author’s Notes part of the site Crown have kindly built to pull together some of  the activity around my book, Why We Hate Us. As I have written an online column for many years, have lots of relatives and more than seven close personal friends, there are a few people mildly interested in this project. That’s not even the counting the people how always hated my column and put me on their enemies list.

Today I just want to share that I have resumed my column. I wrote it for CBSNews.com for many years. Some of those columns can be found here. Search and ye shall find many more, however.

The debut column at NPR.org is here. I called it “Consuming the 2008 Campaign.” It’s sort of a recovering cynic’s guide to what to be grateful for in this long campaign. A good blog called The Moderate Voice kindly linked to it.
As it was on CBS, the column is called “Against the Grain.” It’s actually a tribute to Sir Isaiah Berlin, the British historian of ideas who published a wonder collection of essays called Against the Current.  I had a chance to study with Berlin and as a graduate student and actually wrote my unreadable thesis about his political philosophy. Berlin came back to my life in a big way this past year as I worked on my book.

The last chapter of the book is the result of thinking about Berlin’s ideas for 25 years and coming back to them as a father, journalist and citizen, not just as a student. Berlin understood the anthropology of philosophy without degrading philosophy. He could empathize with why people believed what they did; he understood the questions they sought to answer and the inherited ideas they wanted to reject. All this made ideas more interesting to Berlin, not less. He believed in measuring a philosophy by its utility and honesty, not its internal coherence or grandiosity.

I’ve perpetrated enough grandiosity here.  I expect my columns will now run regularly on Thursdays on NPR.org. Check them out if you’re bored at work.