I've made a couple of recent changes in my life recently. One important change is my current vow of frugality. I don't know that I've really stuck to it all that well. I've bought a lot of Starbucks and terrain-making materials for my Lewis and Clark game, but I haven't invested much money in my two biggest black holes, books and miniatures.
In fact I've gone so far as to get a library card. Yes, I'm shocked too. I stopped by the South Hill Branch of the Pierce County Library in February and got a card. I waited until May to actually check out my first books. They are "The Language of God," by Francis Collins, and "The Wordy Shipmates," by Sarah Vowell.
I'm reading "The Wordy Shipmates" first. I was intrigued with the subject, the Puritan settlers of Massachussetts, as well as Vowell's unique writing style and observation of her subject. I heard Ms. Sarah speak on CSPAN-2, my weekend station of choice. In her Betty Boop-like voice she was discussing one of her previous books, "Assassination Vacation," on presidential assassinations. Though the subject wasn't my gig, her approach to the topic, her tart wit, interesting observations was intriguing and refreshing.
I've begun reading Shipmates, and am about 80 pages or a third of the way through the book. I must say that my instincts were correct. Thus far, Vowell has focused mainly John Winthrop's amazing "A Model of Christian Charity," in which the Puritan founder of Massachussetts Colony likens the new colony to "a city on a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us . . ." which is the model for the time-held view of American exceptionalism. Vowell explores the historical and biblical roots for these ideas, which seem to originate from Christ's Sermon on the Mount.
What follows, however, is an application of these rules for Christian Charity as they apply to the recent past and present. First, Vowell compares the sentiment of Winthrop's writing to its appropriation of the "city on a hill" metaphor by Ronald Reagan. She also applies this to 9/11 and our recent actions in Iraq. What the reader gets is an interesting, sometimes moving, sometimes angering perspective of the words of this early American writer juxtaposed against the often inspiring, sometimes repulsive actions of our leaders and our nation.
Thus far Vowell comes across as a person who believes that America is exceptional, imperfect, but with the correct instincts to do the right thing a great deal of the time. Her writing does not proceed in a straight line, but is filled with interjection, sometimes amusing, sometimes ironic, sometimes tragic.