Wilfred M. McClay is professor of history at Hillsdale College. His latest book is Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story.
The meaning of performative in contemporary parlance is almost exactly the opposite of the word’s original meaning.
We need more profanity? Aren’t we already being inundated with it?
Belief in the bad behavior and collective arrogance of the nationstate has become an article of faith for baby boomers.
Rule by merit is, after all, no respecter of persons.
It would be absurd, not to say futile, to argue that languages and words should never change. But there is also a great deal to be said for the idea of language as a lamp, an instrument for the promulgation of ideas and ideals, one that does not merely take its bearings from the things it seeks to illuminate, but in fact reverses that set of relations, and brings its light to bear on a world that badly needs its guidance.
Our dignity derives not only from our relentless drive for mastery but also from our graceful acceptance of limits.