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Life Arts    H4'ed 5/29/16

Sebastian Junger's New Book TRIBE: ON HOMECOMING AND BELONGING (Review Essay)

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Now, at a later time, Ong himself shifted away from his earlier Greek/barbarian terminology in his "Introduction: On Saying 'We' and 'Us' to Literature" in the book Three American Literatures: Essays in Chicano, Native American, and Asian-American Literature for Teachers of American Literature, edited by Houston A. Baker, Jr. (Modern Language Association of America, 1982, pages 3-8). In his introduction, Ong, who served as president of MLA in 1978, says, "All of us want to realize ourselves as distinct person, but we also want others -- lots of others -- to know that we are our own distinct selves. We do not want to be unique all alone. Hence we negotiate. And so do cultures" (pages 3-4).

Perhaps American culture today is still engaged in negotiating with certain other cultures that many Americans previously thought of as outsiders (in Ong's 1962 terminology). In Ong's 1982 terminology, we Americans of European descent may be negotiating our identities of "we" and "us" to integrate pro-social features of American Indian tribes.

Trump has clearly been appealing to white identity politics that does not want to negotiate with the pro-social non-white political and social and cultural traditions also inside American society today. In this respect, white identity politics in American society today resembles the anti-Semitic identity politics of German Nazis.

But those white Americans today are descended from white strangers (outsiders) who were historically strangers in a strange land. Ironically, many white supporters of Trump claim to be Christians. However, like the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Bible contains the injunction to remember that you were once strangers (outsiders) in a strange land. But I guess that Trump's white supporters are Christians in name only (CINOs). In any event, Trump's white supporters do not appear to be ready to negotiate their white political and social and cultural identity with the pro-social features of any non-white traditions.

In conclusion, Monday, May 30, 2016, will be Memorial Day. Surely it is fitting for us to remember those American soldiers who died in combat. But Junger's new book reminds us not to forget the problems of PTSD and suicide among returning veterans of war.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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