To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi. William Faulkner
So both candidates have now confirmed they will be at tonight’s debate, which means that all eyes will be on Oxford, Mississippi. I am hoping that each of the candidates will take photographs of themselves sitting on the bench next to William Faulkner. I also think that the candidates could bring the house down if they write and present their opening remarks in Faulknerian style. Or at the very least they can acknowledge his importance to Ole Miss and pay tribute to his birthday, which was yesterday Sep. 25, by quoting Faulkner in one of their answers.

When discussing his experience as a POW, Senator McCain:

“Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.” (from Light in August)

When discussing HOPE, Senator Obama:

“They endured.” (from “Appendix” to The Sound and the Fury)
“I believe that man will not merely endure. He will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.” (from Nobel Acceptance Speech)

When discussing the War on Terror, either Senator:

“Perhaps it is upon the instant that we realize, admit, that there is a logical pattern to evil, that we die, he thought, thinking of the expression he had once seen in the eyes of a dead child, and of other dead: the cooling indignation, the shocked despair fading, leaving two empty globes in which the motionless world lurked profoundly in miniature.” (from Sanctuary)

When discussing their plan for the Economy, a joint statement:

I made it on the bevel.
1. There is more surface for the nails to grip.
2. There is twice the gripping-surface to each seam.
3. The water will have to seep into it on a slant. Water moves easiest up and down or straight across.
4. In a house people are upright two thirds of the time. So the seams and joints are made up-and-down.
5. In a bed where people lie down all the time, the joints and seams are made sideways, because the stress is sideways.
6. Except.
7. A body is not square like a crosstie.
8. Animal magnetism.
9. The animal magnetism of a dead body makes the stress come slanting, so the seams and joints of a coffin are made on the bevel.
10. You can see by an old grave that the earth sinks down on the bevel.
11. While in a natural hole it sinks by the center, the stress being up-and-down.
12. So I made it on the bevel.
13. It makes a neater job. (from As I Lay Dying)

In their concluding remarks, a shout out to the South:

I don’t. I don’t! I don’t hate it! I don’t hate it! from Absalom, Absalom)

(I decided that I could post on Faulkner on Harriet because Faulkner did write poetry. He identifies himself as a failed poet. In his estimation, the most accomplished form of literary writing is the poem; the short story comes in second; he ranks the novel third because it is large enough for one’s mistakes to get lost. “Failure” for Faulkner must mean something extremely complex. He calls The Sound and the Fury a splendid failure. If only our failures could be as splendid.)
(For another take on the location of tonight’s debate, see this piece on segregation and Obama.)

Originally Published: September 26th, 2008

Javier O. Huerta's debut collection Some Clarifications y otros poemas (Arte Publico 2007) received the 31st Chicano/Latino Literary Prize from UC Irvine. He is also the author of American Copia (2012). A graduate of the Bilingual MFA Program at UT El Paso, Huerta is currently a PhD student in the...

  1. September 29, 2008
     Alicia (AE)

    Thank you for this post.
    And maybe my favorite (if I am quoting correctly)--always topical:
    The past isn't dead; it isn't even past.