THAT WAS NOW, THIS IS THEN

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself.” –Walt Whitman, American poet
“The more things change, the more they remain the same.” –Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, French writer

The above quotes came to mind as I’m reading a 2006 biography of Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) by Kevin Mattson titled UPTON SINCLAIR AND THE OTHER AMERICAN CENTURY. Sinclair, for those unfamiliar with him, was an American muckraker famous for his 1906 novel THE JUNGLE:

Although muckraker tends to have a negative connotation, Theodore Roosevelt, who coined the term, had a different view: “The men with the muckrakes are often indispensable to the well-being of society.”

Getting back to Mattson’s 2006 biography, it includes these words:

“Recently, history has become more politically charged and polarized. This is a sad reflection of our times. Yes, Sinclair exposed the uglier side of American life and politics. But he also believed that this tale had to be placed squarely at the center of the American story. Sinclair’s goal was not simply to document all the sins of our country but to use them as a means of understanding our society’s possibilities in spite of our reluctance to confront problems of our own making [emphasis mine].”

My point here, should you find it in need of clarification, is that 2006 is now (only more so), and now is then (whether “then” be 1906, 2006, or Nov. 2016): America as both “shining light on the hill” and dark swamp of corruption….not to mention willful ignorance, ignorant will, and violence. As 19th century English poet and wit Charles Calverley said some 150 years ago, ’twas ever thus.

Self-contradiction “Very well?” Well, Walt, as a gathering reality, if that’s not a loaded proposition….

Two days ago, I intended to write a humorous post (if you saw my AUTO DRAFT post of Oct. 2, you know how that turned out)….and after that not-of-my-own-making muddle, humor is the lost thing on my mind. But only for now.