This week on Listening to America with Clay Jenkinson, Clay's conversation with his regular guest Professor Lindsay Chervinsky about Ten Historical Counterfactuals. Historians are warned never to indulge in what if history, but we cannot help it, it just such fun. What if the British had won the Revolutionary War? What if Alexander Hamilton had become the President of the United States? What if Jefferson had never owned an enslaved person? What if the South had won the Civil War? What if John F. Kennedy had not been assassinated on November 22, 1963? What if Adolf Hitler had gotten an atomic bomb for use at Moscow or Stalingrad? If some of the pivotal moments in world history had gone the other way, how might things be different?
This week, Clay Jenkinson’s interview with David Nicandri in the aftermath of the disaster of the submersible Titan in the north Atlantic. Nicandi reflects on the spirit of exploration, the risks taken by those who would go where no man has gone before. Were the five men who died when the submersible imploded just billionaire tourists or adventurers in the spirit of Lewis and Clark and Captain James Cook? How can we make sense of the continuing lure of the Titanic? Where does undersea tourism go from here?
This week, Clay Jenkinson’s conversation with his cinephile friend Niles Schwartz of Minneapolis about the summer blockbuster film Oppenheimer. People are already saying it is one of the great films in recent decades, a certain classic like The Sound of Music, Dr. Strangelove, the Deer Hunter, and Citizen Kane. Clay asked Niles to forget about history and the character of Robert Oppenheimer, but simply to respond to the film as film: cinematography, editing, direction, the acting, the score. Niles agreed that Robert Downey, Jr., is headed for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Niles Schwartz is a tough critic, but he loved this film.
This week, Clay Jenkinson interviews Bruce Ledewitz, the author of The Universe is On Our Side: Restoring Faith in American Public Life. Since Nietzsche's famous pronouncement that "God is dead," Euro-American culture has become profoundly secular--and it shows, according to Ledewitz. Without the great tradition of Christian culture, America has descended into radical individualism without any moral anchor for public or private behavior. Ledewitz rejects the Enlightenment's belief that secular culture is a sufficient restraining mechanism for humans who are, in the Enlightenment's formulation, capable of considerable perfectibility. Jefferson's belief in a "moral sense" is not enough to give American culture meaning or restraint. Ledewitz sees little hope for a restoration of a morally grounded American society.