Nominalism in extremis

These days bring back a memory of the Reagan years, an interval most of which I spent out of the country, disgusted by the beginnings of the legitimation of waste, brutality and greed that have become our new normal. A newspaper at the time reported that in anticipation of an all-out nuclear attack a new airborne command center had just been ordered for the White House: a Boeing jumbo jet with special transmission capacities, hardened against radiation, with room aboard for the President and a few dozen of his close collaborators. On the sides of this expensive new plane were painted the words, THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. It immediately occurred to me that in the event of its use, the meaning of those words would no longer be, as it usually is, “This airplane represents (belongs to and bears the livery of) that federation of fifty states and three hundred million individuals that goes by the name of ‘The United States of America’”; rather it would be “The United States of America,” or all that would be left of them. 

I’m usually no enemy of nominalism, but wouldn’t like it to prevail on these terms.

One thought on “Nominalism in extremis

  1. Last year, our beloved president announced that the airplane you reference was at the end of its working life, and that he was commissioning a new plane (from Boeing, of course), which together with its Vice Presidential counterpart, will cost us $4 billion and change. That means $6 billion. The delivery date of the first of these planes is in the inaugural year of the second Trump administration. I hope that it is fitted out with the same avionics (or at least avionics of the same level of quality control) as the 737 MAX.

    But the craziness of all this planning has not occurred to the planners. The planes can be refueled from the air indefinitely, and I am sure there is food for banquet on banquet, but eventually the perpetrators will have to come down and face the lifeless world they left behind.

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