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Unarmed but Dangerous: A Withering Attack on All Things Phony, Foolish, and Fundamentally Wrong With America Today
Excerpt from “Swan Song”

Nearly 22 centuries have passed since the Roman dramatist Terence wrote “Nothing human is alien to me”—a bold and generous statement, much quoted and cribbed, that lighted the way for all the humanist philosophy to follow. I doubt that the varieties of human behavior have increased significantly since the days of the Roman republic. But I find it more difficult, with every year that passes, to extend my sympathy as far as Terence recommends.

Much that is nominally human seems alien to me. I don’t mean only the horrors, the crimes of deranged ghouls and cannibals like Jeffrey Dahmer who must be tried and executed in public, like ordinary criminals because the public hungers for the details.

Actually, I was thinking of the swans. The worst story in the morning paper isn’t the one that makes you groan or gag. Life invites us to a lavish smorgasbord of horrors. Sometimes there’s a story that stays with you, quietly and stubbornly, because it leaves an image you can’t manage to erase.

I have this image of 12 dead swans, enormous white birds soiled with blood and clay and piled in the trunk of a Cadillac. Tied together at the throat, I guess, the way game birds appear in those Flemish paintings. White feathers everywhere.


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