Left: John Neagle, The Studious Artist (1836). Collection: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia.
It’s the silly season again in American politics. Wide-ranging intolerable rants, invectives and urgent pleas are being aimed at the most vulnerable members of our community, marginalizing and vilifying many for simply for not being “one of us,” while seemingly animating others to demand accountability for the actions of the “one-percent.” This Age of Exclusion seems to strike a chord with alarmingly large numbers of people on both sides of the aisle—those fed up with the system, with died-in-the-wool politicians and with a feeling of powerlessness—who then, historically, act on a sense of disempowerment and disenfranchisement to take notice, rise up and agitate for change. This particular essay is not a call for some ill-defined new world order, or even for an upending of our historically-stable republican (small-‘r’) system. Yet, this current state of affairs is all too reminiscent of a passage by William Butler Yeats, who fretted in his 1919 post-apocalyptic poem, The Second Coming, “Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer / Things fall apart, the center cannot hold.” xxxxx (more…)