Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Now reading de Tocqueville

It rankles me to see people, starting with Bill Clinton, quoting de Tocqueville, to wit:  "America is great, because America is good."  This saccharine statement would never come from a Frenchman, especially one as discerning and intelligent as Count Charles Alexis Henri Maurice Clerel de Tocqueville.  It sounds more like something a pitchman selling a baldness cure would say on paid television programming.

So I have taken it upon myself to read his masterwork, "Democracy in America," in full.  I have in my hand the Complete and Unabridged Volumes I and II.  Unfortunately I neglected to read it in college, not even the Cliff Notes which were undoubtedly consulted by Bill Clinton, because I was so busy thinking about boys and fixing my hair in the latest styles. By the way, this work is far harder and less fun than "Michelangelo and the Pope's ceiling." Just so you know.

I dug in to the first few chapters and found myself reviewing the material I learned in the compulsory civics class  I took in eighth grade in Columbus, Ohio.   Talk about deja vu!  To be fair, French children don't have to take the course, so de Tocqueville clued them in.  Now any French person interested in American municipal government can learn all about it in the original French.

I don't think Americans are any better than anyone else, or greater. We have a better system of government, and that is what deTocqueville is trying to explain, but it takes two volumes to do it.
By the way, someone got snarky with me because I mis-spelled exhilerating. Or, er, ex--oh, the hell with it! It never looks right no matter how you spell it, so I am going to leave it alone in the future.

1 comment:

Dick Stanley said...

I just hate the human spell checkers. Maybe inhuman, after all. De T. is one of those authors that pols like Slick Willie twist around to suit their needs of the moment. Altho it's easier to check them with the Internet, they seem to do it now more than ever.