Lorraine Berry in Literary Hub:
If your Facebook feed looks anything like mine, the comparisons between Donald Trump and Adolf Hitler appear like surreal dreams, with Trump’s face Photoshopped so he’s standing in front of a rally at Nuremberg. It doesn’t take too many comments before someone invokes Godwin’s Law and the conversation shuts down. Donald Trump is many things; Adolf Hitler, he is not.
On February 19th, the public intellectual, novelist, essayist, and semiotician, Umberto Eco died in Milan. While the rest of the world has mourned the loss of rock star David Bowie, Eco’s death meant the loss of one of our intellectual rock stars, a man who was as comfortable discussing Barbie as he was explaining the aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas. It was Eco who insisted that a “fundamental” reading of a text—an approach espoused by Antonin Scalia, for example—was of little use when trying to understand books. “Books are not made to be believed, but to be subjected to inquiry. When we consider a book, we mustn’t ask ourselves what it says but what it means.” (How different Italy’s intellectual giant from the man who insisted the Constitution means exactly what it meant when it was first written—by rich, white slave-owners).