From the first publication in the 1890’s to the present, Emily Dickinson’s poems have been read and edited as though her stylistic innovations were imperfect attempts to convey the thoughts and feelings of speakers with fixed, unified identities.

Paul Crumbly, in “Dickinson’s Dashes and the Limits of Discourse”

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Such a good and useful observation: our understanding is most often, it not always, self-referential.

What Professor Crumbly is saying is that those who receive the words of another convert those words to their own thoughts and feelings  … (their own) fixed, unified identities.  In short, we hear narrowly.  We hear what we are groomed to hear by the language and text of the culture we occupy and, as to today, the ideological disposition we carry.

What is the significance of this?

Well to begin, cultures are bounded by the perimeters of existing dialogue.  At any given moment we are anchored in “what is,” that is – what we think “is” and what is so defined by the culture’s common language.

Case in point: in present day discourse, stemming from the Franklin Roosevelt “New Deal” to today, we have come to think that virtually all sovereign power belongs to the federal government and that its power and role is supreme and exclusive.  In this context, the power and authority of states and the liberty of the individual citizen has been diminished.

Any present day conversation or action taken by the newly elected President, to the extent that they are understood at all, are thought (like the readers and editors of Dickinson) to be legitimate only if they conform to the existing boundaries of the culture.  Hence by implication, his “nonconforming” words and text on their face are errant in some fundamental way  – considered illegitimate.

The irony is, of course, that President Trump’s words and actions are first of all – not apt to be comprehended effectively by his culture-bound critics and hence his words and actions, rather than being errant, might well be restorative, i.e., bringing the nation back to its intended norms politically and constitutionally.

Yes, like Dickinson, Mr. Trump may be speaking and acting beyond the existing narrow confines of present culture and its embedded and destructive dialogue.

Next time you hear a Trump critic ask yourself: are they only conveying their own thoughts and feelings as narrowly fixed in their own identity???

I suspect you will realize that they are; and, I also suspect that if you do not so determine then you are most likely fixed in your own narrow identity … 

The question follows: who says the critic warrants your attention?  In mass culture, what you do not listen to is often a huge plus if truth, wisdom and sanity are your objective.

Shalom.

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