Law in Contemporary Society
I'm curious about what other people made of Robinson's enigmatic response. In class, Mohit suggested it was an attempt to dissociate himself from his actions in Vietnam. I'm assuming in this view, he saw "reconciliation" as the direct subjugation of Robinson's freedoms to the "needs" (or more accurately power) of the state - and was placing the burden of his actions on the State. In my own view, I saw it as the reconciliation of the ideals. Robinson isn't an anarchist, he seems to feel a need for a state. But in war, he had to come to terms with the inconsistencies between his ideal of freedom and his ideal of state. Similar to Arnold's Folklore, Robinson previously viewed States as actors themselves. But in war, he fully realized that a state can only act through its individuals. Rather than dissociating himself from his actions, he recognizes the essential incongruity and disconnect in those concepts and "reconciled" them. His ideals didn't match reality, but he accepts the moral consequences of his actions. Part of my belief that he isn't dissociative comes from the quickfollowing anecdote about "C. Robinson". C as in "See what you have done".

-- StephenSevero - 17 Feb 2010

I too have been mulling that over. I tend to agree with the dissociation argument, not because of the meaning of the phrase, but because the phrase, in and of itself, means so little. Robinson doesn't just deliver a terse "reconciliation of freedom and the state" - he "lectures" the narrator at length. He responds to an intimate question about his personal experience with a monologue about abstract ideas. It's a diversionary tactic, a means of shielding oneself from a harrowing experience by translating it into a safe(r) academic theory. But the truth seeps out anyway, filtered but no less potent: the narrator remembers those words verbatim. The phrase is powerful not because of what it says, but because of what it doesn't say.

The C.C Rider moment underscores Robinson's tendency to protect his inner self by sleight of hand (or in his case, sleight of phrase). Rather than reveal what the C. really stands for, he cracks a joke, referencing the old blues song about an "easy rider" woman (you made me love you, now your man done come). I like your reading of that moment, though, Stephen: it ties in well with the weight of his unspoken experience in Vietnam.

-- CarolineFerrisWhite - 17 Feb 2010

My initial thought was that you can accept a truth without wanting to talk about it. But going back over it, I think you're right. Robinson "lectured" him on the phrase, he didn't rant and explode like he did talking about the legal system. Robinson's inability to shut up about his work - Joseph is almost unable to get in a word edgewise - supports the idea that he really loves what he's doing now, despite how messed up it all is. When he spoke about war, it's in the clipped, academic voice. When he speaks about his job, he's the "fucking vulgar guy" he really is. Of course, it could also be just a general product of aging and getting more comfortable speaking about things. I wonder what Robinson would say now if asked about Vietnam.

-- StephenSevero - 17 Feb 2010

According to, the first definition of "reconcile" is "to cause (a person) to accept or be resigned to something not desired."

Accepting this definition, while different from the one Eben gave in class, it is possible that Robinson meant that he resigned his freedom to the state. One of the justifications for the necessity of the United States' entry into the Vietnam War was that the U.S. needed to contain the spread of communism in order to preserve its own freedom. However, the soldiers, who were supposedly fighting for their freedom, did not have the freedom to choose to not fight. To Robinson and others who were drafted, their freedom was whatever the state said it was. This conception fits in with Robinson's generally realist view of the world.

-- JohnAlbanese - 18 Feb 2010

Eben mentioned in class today that individuals possess multiple personalities, and the same diversity of personalities is reflected in social institutions, with the State being one of them. I wonder maybe the “reconciliation” is more of a transformation than disassociation. Like how we go through our daily lives, unconscious of the roles that we are constantly switching back and forth, one second we can be a student, a son, a daughter, a colleague, a spouse or a friend. As mentioned in Arnold’s paper, it is inevitable that people rely on their social institutions as a source of faith because they would not know how to function without one. I feel Robinson must have transformed himself to one of his personalities during the war and his blind faith in his institution causes everything to make sense. This transformation happens not just out of the necessity of self-justification, but it is what we do, it is part of being human. I feel that maybe one of the reasons that veterans don’t like to talk about war is because of the realization of this separate “personality.” It must be quite unsettling to recognize that one is not a unity, but made up of multiple personalities.

-- RyanSong - 18 Feb 2010



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r6 - 17 Apr 2010 - 19:03:56 - NonaFarahnik
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