"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
About a decade ago, one of the Smithsonian museums here in Washington had an exhibit on the history of human civilization, or something along those lines. I didn't see it, but a friend of mine went and his description always stuck with me. One of the displays was a comparative timeline of different cultures. At, say, 1250 you'd see what the British, the Japanese, the Chinese, or the Arabs had come up with. The sight that really struck home for my friend was a beautiful Renaissance Italian clock, with movable gears and a stunning hand-painted face with a sun and moon alternating for AM and PM. The clock came from the 15th or 16th century, I think. But that's not really important. On the same timeline for African culture there was a wood mask with eye- and mouth-holes cut out in some "novel" way. The little explanatory card on the wall tried to make it sound, somehow, as though the handcrafted clock and the mask were similarly impressive accomplishments. To which my friend responded, roughly, "Are you high?"
I may have gotten the details a bit off here, but the substance is obviously true. Some things are better than other things. Some cultures are better than other cultures. Some things are more worth studying, celebrating, and emulating than other things. Or as the late William Henry III put it in his wonderful book, In Defense of Elitism, "It is scarcely the same thing to put a man on the moon as to put a bone in your nose."