The warping night air having brought the boom
Of an owl’s voice into her darkened room,
We tell the wakened child that all she heard
Was an odd question from a forest bird,
Asking of us, if rightly listened to,
“Who cooks for you?” and then “Who cooks for you?”
Words, which can make our terrors bravely clear,
Can also thus domesticate a fear,
And send a small child back to sleep at night
Not listening for the sound of stealthy flight
Or dreaming of some small thing in a claw
Borne up to some dark branch and eaten raw.
March 1, 1921 – October 14, 2017
More poetry by Richard Wilbur
The First Amendment has been in the news quite a bit this week, from the president’s bizarre idea to revoke NBC’s broadcasting license because he didn’t like what they said about him, to an Indiana legislator who actually proposed a bill to license journalists, to the president’s claim that we would all be saying “Merry Christmas” again because of his devotion to religious liberty.
So here are five books that have illuminated my thinking about the First Amendment:
Whatever the balance, every marriage is based upon some understanding, articulated or not, about the relative importance, the priority of desires, between its two partners. Marriages go bad not when love fades—love can modulate into affection without driving two people apart—but when this understanding about the balance of power breaks down, when the weaker member feels exploited or the stronger feels unrewarded for his or her strength.
Phyllis Rose, Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages
There has been a great deal of saber-rattling about North Korea lately, and the presidential Twitter account certainly seems to be encouraging it. If you’re looking for resources to better understand the current crisis, here are some suggestions:
- Brothers at War, by Sheila Miyoshi Jager, is a readable, comprehensive history of the conflict between North and South Korea, as well as the involvement of the United States.
- Nothing to Envy, by Barbara Demick, describes life in North Korea today. It’s drawn from interviews with defectors, and it is unputdownable. Fascinating and heartbreaking.
- The Orphan-Master’s Son, by Adam Johnson, is a fictional look at North Korea. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 2012. It’s important to keep in mind that this book is fiction; you can’t assume it’s an accurate portrayal of life in North Korea. But it’s one of the best books I know for helping me think about what life in a totalitarian regime really feels like.
- Black Flags, by Joby Warrick, is about the rise of ISIS and may seem like an odd choice for a list of books about the crisis in North Korea. But since the president does seem to be enthusiastically sounding the trumpets of war, I think it’s important to look back at the mistakes that the U. S. government made in the Middle East under Bush and Obama that led to the emergence of ISIS. A second ISIS arising out of the ashes of Korea is something we should want to avoid at all costs.
- Thirteen Days, by Robert F. Kennedy, is the classic insider’s account of what happened when the Kennedy administration faced a potential nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union in 1962. Of course there is not a one-to-one relationship between the Cuban Missile Crisis and today’s North Korean situation, but I think it’s instructive to look back and consider how and why the Kennedy administration responded as it did.