When I was a young man, words poured from my pen like a torrent of water from a fire hose. I published my first book in 1963. By the time I left Columbia, eight years later, my thirteenth book was in press. The flood slowed to a stream, and then a trickle, as the years went by. Books on Kant’s ethics, on John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice, several edited books, then the long, deep investigation of the thought of Karl Marx, which yielded two books and a series of long articles. In 1992, I transferred to Afro-American Studies, and other than a memoir of that extraordinary experience, the periodic editions of a textbook, and two volumes about my parents and grandparents never intended for publication, my pen fell silent. For eight wonderful years I even made a serious study of the viola and played string quartets with three friends, until retirement brought that to a close.
Through the many years of silence, words had accumulated unheeded in my mind, and when I launched this blog on the last day of June in 2009, a dam broke. Over the next few years, I wrote on-line a three volume autobiography, a book about the use of formal methods in political philosophy, and countless “tutorials,” some of them twenty or thirty thousand words long. In all, I wrote more than 500,000 words, the equivalent of six or seven books. And all the while, silently, for the most part unnoticed, I grew older, until, when I looked up from the keyboard, it seemed I was eighty-three years old.
Slowly, my blog acquired a small, rather distinguished circle of regular readers and commentators, a grand unending seminar in which I was as much tutee as tutor. Somehow, after a lifetime of teaching and writing, I had found the ideal intellectual community, an international friendship of minds and voices which, or so it seemed, would sustain me for the rest of my life.
And then Trump happened. At first, I found words to express my dismay and horror, words to encourage others to take action, to resist, words to articulate some understanding of the sheer evil that Trump and his entourage visited thoughtlessly, carelessly, on any too weak to defend themselves. But little by little, the words grew banal, feeble, inconsequent. The words that had been my life stilled.
Trump has made me stupid.