More Letters of Note
February 22, 2010 7:46 PM   Subscribe

In this day of twitters, emails, and SMS messages, there is something suddenly strangely fascinating about reviewing written personal correspondence. For example, consider this this letter from artist Winston Smith to a young fan named Austin Kleon. On the other side of the "inspiration coin" is this letter in which San Francisco's Harvey Milk defends cult leader Jim Jones. But perhaps the most bizarre correspondence to hit the Internet of late is this letter from Supreme Court Justice Scalia to an aspiring screenwriter, in which Justice Scalia declares that the concept of secession is not something he can help the writer understand.
posted by crazyray (18 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Scalia's letter is great. But I think the Letters of Note blog has been posted here before. Also, is there supposed to be a link to the Milk letter?
posted by The World Famous at 7:56 PM on February 22, 2010

Maine seceding from the United States and joining Canada.

Sounds good to me.
posted by dunkadunc at 7:56 PM on February 22, 2010

Scalia's omission of "under God" in his reference to the Pledge of Allegiance is rather interesting.
posted by inconsequentialist at 8:09 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would be cool with Texas' request to secede. No more federal spending their way. We could rebuild our Iraq-like inner cities.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:17 PM on February 22, 2010

Texas could possibly secede if there were enough support here. Not unilaterally, of course, but with the consent of the other states. I think they might just give it. The red states might say yes because they feel the same way, and the blue states might too, just to get rid of 'em.

I guess Austin could just hire some hybrid big rigs, pack up its solar panels, and move to California. Wouldn't be too much of a culture shock, really.
posted by Xezlec at 9:22 PM on February 22, 2010

Scalia's omission of "under God" in his reference to the Pledge of Allegiance is rather interesting.

Perhaps, although that certainly would be the way he had learned it before 1948. Considering he was born in 1936, that's very likely.
posted by Saydur at 10:02 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would be cool with Texas' request to secede. No more federal spending their way. We could rebuild our Iraq-like inner cities.

Oh boy, this again. Texas pays more in taxes than it gets from the feds. So, good luck rebuilding those "Iraq-like" inner cities with the negative net revenue.

You know, why do I even bother. But hell, this wasn't even supposed to be a Texas thread.
posted by kmz at 10:38 PM on February 22, 2010

Yeah, I've been considering that possibility and also that he might just be committed to the original version regardless. But he has a history with the expression that makes me wonder whether and how his attitudes toward it have been affected over time.
posted by inconsequentialist at 10:51 PM on February 22, 2010

kmz, every thread is a Texas thread.
posted by Pendragon at 2:07 AM on February 23, 2010

Wait, is the Pledge in itself *law*?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 4:38 AM on February 23, 2010

My thoughts exactly goodnewsfortheinsane, I was striken more by Scalia citing the Pledge as some sort of primary source than I was by his omitting the controversial bit.

Also, the background story is relevant - the screenwriter with the idea that Maine would secede and then join Canada. I always substituted the "Under God" part with "Under Canada" to be more geographically correct.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 4:54 AM on February 23, 2010

The thing of that Harvey Milk letter is that any politician in San Francisco at the time could have written it. People's Temple was influential enough that there was probably a sense among city officials that you had to stay on their good side. Harvey Milk used to tell his volunteers that the Temple people were "weird" and not to be trusted, but they were enough of a political bloc that they could vote you out if you crossed them.

So yeah, I don't know how much of that letter is sincere and how much of it is just politics; at the time it's not crazy to think Jim Jones could still sway voters in the city, even from the jungle. Either way it's unfortunate and I can see why Milk didn't mention it at all (though I still left that movie wondering how many of those extras in the campaign scenes played people who died in Jonestown).
posted by jackflaps at 7:31 AM on February 23, 2010

Texas could possibly secede if there were enough support . . .

Hmmm, the United States maybe could let the Republic of Texas handle the Mexico problem?

posted by General Tonic at 7:35 AM on February 23, 2010

To continue onto what Jackflaps said, Jones would rent buses with hundreds of people, and tell them how to vote. Milk would not have been supervisor at all if it were not for him. One of the things that is lost when we talk about Milk is his political acumen. Regardless of his utopian rhetoric (and at that time, and at that place utopian rhetoric got one elected), he knew exactly what he needed to say, who he needed to "build communities" with to get elected. He would go to bars, but he would also go to old school union halls--who hated gays, who were profoundly homophobic, and he promised them shit, and as long as those promises were kept, it didn't matter who Milk fucked. It was one of my problems with the movie--it made him look like a saint as opposed to an adept worker of political machines. (as was Fienstein, who has some similar skeletons)

This sounds like I am calling Milk out--and I'm not. I respect that kind of work, that functionalism. The letter is fascinating, because it's really banal. Jones was really good at convincing people that he had the same values as they did. In the 70s, when people were burning out of the talk of revolution, and when people wanted action, Jones came in and filled the gap. His religious talk was not that different from other liberals of the day. This was the man who had meetings with Rosyln Carter w/o having something to offer. Jones integrated his churches, he feed the homeless, he set up a prison ministry. This sounds like I am defending Jones, and of course I'm not--he was evil, profoundly evil, but one does not gain that level of control and power without filling a need that is absent in a larger culture. It also explains why it took so long to get the congressmen and the like to actually go down to Guyana.
posted by PinkMoose at 8:19 AM on February 23, 2010

I'm surprised that Scalia didn't cite Texas v. White, which held that a state cannot unilaterally secede from the United States.
The Union of the States never was a purely artificial and arbitrary relation. It began among the Colonies, and grew out of common origin, mutual sympathies, kindred principles, similar interests, and geographical relations. It was confirmed and strengthened by the necessities of war, and received definite form and character and sanction from the Articles of Confederation. By these, the Union was solemnly declared to "be perpetual."* And when these Articles were found to be inadequate to the exigencies of the country, the Constitution was ordained "to form a more perfect Union." It is difficult to convey the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly than by these words. What can be indissoluble if a perpetual Union, made more perfect, is not?
When, therefore, Texas became one of the United States, she entered into an indissoluble relation. All the obligations of perpetual union, and all the guaranties of republican government in the Union, attached at once to the State. The act which consummated her admission into the Union was something more than a compact; it was the incorporation of a new member into the political body. And it was final. The union between Texas and the other States was as complete, as perpetual, and as indissoluble as the union between the original States. There was no place for reconsideration or revocation, except through revolution or through consent of the States.
* The full title is "Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union."
posted by kirkaracha at 8:53 AM on February 23, 2010

I would be cool with Texas' request to secede.

I will not condone any course of action which impedes the northward flow of delicious, smooth Shiner Bock.

It's Sith Lord approved!
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:37 PM on February 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Awww...the one from a 14 year-old Slash to his girlfriend is really sweet.
posted by futureisunwritten at 4:14 PM on February 25, 2010

Dude, 14-year-old Slash saw Randy Rhoads play a small club in Hollywood and didn't even realize it.
posted by The World Famous at 4:32 PM on February 25, 2010

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