Oregon 2005 (15)


20. Jefferson and slavery

Wednesday Sept. 28, 2005. Chalk it up to Powell’s in the Portland Airport, which was a great breath of fresh air: When have you ever seen an airport bookstore selling things much different than the usual run of interchangeable thrillers and topical best-sellers? When have you ever seen one selling used books?

I need to buy another book like the government needs to hire (or elect) another incompetent but we both keep doing it. I stopped in just to look around, and walked out with Negro President: Jefferson and the Slave Power by Garry Wills, and unfortunately that purchase will mark a major milestone in my intellectual life. I say “unfortunately” because I don’t like the things it suddenly brought into clear relief. Adding a few simple facts to things I had known and half-known and should have known, it made me realize things I should have realized years ago. By the time I got off the airplane in San Francisco, I was a somewhat different person, intellectually, than I had been before I opened the book.

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