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What People are Saying About This
Jim Sleeper courageously writes about what can only be whispered in the Academy and in the bowels of bureaucracy: an identity politics that refuses to identify itself.
[Sleeper] challenges liberals, who once fought to help America rise above color, to get back to their abandoned program of a transracial civic faith. Read Liberal Racism and then, if you dare, take a long look in the mirror.
Before the live bn.com chat, Jim Sleeper agreed to answer some of our questions.Q: Who do you think is the most important historical figure in United States history?
A: I've never been fond of "great man" (or "great woman") theories, and if I were, it would be hard to choose. But I'm awestruck by Abe Lincoln's ability to wrest, from the bloody depths of a crisis that nearly almost ended America's promise, a nobler, broader sense of what we needed to be. Lincoln knew how chancy, circumscribed, and absurd his options were, yet he took them and brought to them a bit of saving drollery as well as true grace. He and many who followed in his footsteps made being an ordinary American citizen a more fateful, inspiring challenge for the rest of us.
Q: Have you read any author lately that just blew you away?
A: No, but one really did uplift me. Last spring I reread Alan Paton's novel Cry, the Beloved Country, which anticipates, with biblical beauty and an uncanny prescience, the tragic fate of Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin's son Jonathan, who was murdered last summer by an aspiring gangsta rapper who'd been weaned on music that Gerald's corporation was pumping into the Bronx, where his son taught. Of course, there's no legal or journalistic causal connection between the music and the murder, but reading Paton's novel prepared me to understand that there is a moral and cultural connection, so I wrote a column about it that ran in the Chicago Tribune on June 10, The Boston Globe on June 11, and the Los Angeles Daily News on June 13. It said something no one else had said and prompted a lot of comment. I owe that to Paton, and so do those who benefited from the piece.
Q: Which form of media do you get most of your news from? Why?
A: As a writer and journalist, naturally it's print for me, but I'm also a C-SPAN junkie, and I get a lot out of National Public Radio. I respect the free market, but the profit motive really can screw up and degrade public discourse, while these media, at their best, nourish it. But even the interactive pluses of the best talk shows and interviews can't substitute for reading and thinking at your own pace, not just the producer's and/or advertiser's. Media moguls should recognize that the best editors are curators and nurturers of civic culture, not just hawkers of the latest "hot" trends. I really have no use for magazines like The New Yorker when they abandon that mission in order to crash in, on deadline, whatever they think might goose or tickle a body politic that is being left more dispirited and inert by all the shouting.