Marginalia, no.27

Man’s natural instinct, in fact, is never toward what is sound and true; it is toward what is specious and false…  It is so in politics, which consists wholly of a succession of unintelligent crazes, many of them so idiotic that they exist only as battlecries and shibboleths and are not reducible to logical statement at all… The ideas that conquer the race most rapidly and arouse the wildest enthusiasm and are held most tenaciously are precisely the ideas that are most insane.

~ H.L. Mencken

American democracy, says Mencken, comes to little more than “the worship of Jackals by Jackasses.”  Which hurts a little.  And yet it’s precisely now, during the braying raptures of the campaign season’s endgame, when a friendly face-slap is best taken.  For all his critiques of American society and religion, Mencken displays a pessimism with regard to human reason and the capacity for progress which can only be described as Calvinistic – and so in the end proves himself a true enough American, and a bit of a puritan to boot.

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