Monday, January 01, 2007

Books! First batch of 2007!


What better place to write of the future than here, at the dawn of a new year?

Not the big, wide-canvas future, mind you. Who of us can know how that will unfold? Certainly our hopes are in place - that somehow, somehow, a way out of the horrific quagmire of Iraq will be found (simply leaving - 'cutting and running,' as the rednecks say - would be base, but the only other alternative, getting Iraq's separate parties to stop killing each other and start talking to each other, seems beyond all hope of happening), that under new management this country will claw its way out of the double-digit depression it's in, claw its way out of the extreme right-wing religious extremism that has gripped it for the last six years, that humankind's new mastery of the dog genome will eventually come up with a cure for, a solution to, at least an arrangement with ... well, with the problem of basset hounds.

Our fears are also in place, naturally. Fear of reading the obituaries of good men, because the ranks are always thin and each loss hurts. Fear of the rising tide, as worldwide climate change accelerates by the day. And of course the biggest American fear of all, the one that's replaced the 'nuclear clock' of the Cold War era: the fear of a large-scale terrorist attack on American soil - a bomb on an LNG tanker in Boston Harbor, a suicide bomber in the Smithsonian, right next to the Declaration of Independence, a small twin-engine craft, loaded with explosives, headed for the Statue of Liberty, and of course worst of all ... something so bad it's entered our collective mytho-consciousness: a suitcase nuke detonated in Times Square.

No, not the wide-canvas future, but rather the much narrower future of books. We've been reading ahead, and it's mostly filled us with hope.

The wonderful thing about reading - the most wonderful thing - is that it somehow supervens fear. It's amazing, and we here at Stevereads, for all that we've taken advantage of it (indeed, taken refuge in it), can't explain it. Perhaps it's that written words contained in a printed text are in and of themselves time capsules, and we, reading them, know that while we read. Or perhaps it's that those of us who read for a living would like that to be so.


So we all hope for it. All us lifetime readers hope for something, some reading experience, that will eventually stand that same test of time .... something that will eventually wait with us in unforseen hours of trial, something that will always smile at us, alive, from our shelves.

Lacking that, short of that, we're always looking for reading experiences that will get our juices flowing for good or ill, reading experiences that aren't just ho-hum.

We here at Stevereads are always looking for such experiences, and more often than not, we're disappointed. We're always reminded of the comments scribbled by a noted physicist in the margin of a young colleague's paper: this isn't right. This isn't even wrong.

But every so often, something strikes our fancy for good or ill, and it's thereby that we arrive at our first book-posting of the new year!

War in Human Civilization by Azar Gat -
Nothing quite like beginning the year with a TOME! As some of you will know, we have a soft spot for tomes here at Stevereads, but it's not a sentimental one: they have to earn their extra-sized keep.

Azar Gat certainly does. This book is immense in far more important ways than its size. It tackles the question of why human beings war on each other from what feels, impossibly, like a fresh and magisterial conception. It's too erudite to be chasingly fast reading, but even so: it's peculiarly satisfying when the first book you read in a year is one you know you'll be re-reading for years to come.

A War for Frontier and Empire by David Silbey - This is by far the best book yet written on America's war in the Philippines; Silbey very carefully (but with a really engaging prose style) threads his way through this halting, half-hearted American attempt at empire-building. It's a complex subject - not least because so many leaders at the time (most certainly including President McKinley) had no clear idea what they were doing.

Silbey's book gives you the whole subject - he's just as good when writing the necessary background exposition as he is at describing individual people or battles. It's unlikely that the war will find a better historian any time soon.

Amazing Grace by Eric Metaxas - The writing of this book tends toward the muddled and the pedestrian, but oh! The subject matter is worthy enough to compensate! Metaxas (whose last name leads one to wonder if he spends his free time fighting the Justice League) tells the story of William Wilberforce and the quest to abolish slavery, and what the author lacks in narrative ability, his subject more than makes up for in zeal and charisma. This book makes a perfect bookend to "All on Fire," Henry Mayer's great work about William Lloyd Garrison, who in the generation after Wilberforce fought for the abolitionist cause in America and lived long enough to see it victorious.

Ferocity by Stephen Laws - this is a nifty little novel! It's basically a horror story along the lines of 'Jaws' - set in the moors of Northumberland, it revolves in part around a mysterious, enormous species of big cat which has been terrorizing the countryside and marauding local livestock. Our two human protagonists quite naturally start to fall in love with each other while they're busy studying - and surviving - both these mysery cats and a cadre of vicious drug-runners. As with most examples of this type of novel ('Jurassic Park' comes to mind), it's the evil humans who are the real bad guys - the animals, however huge or mysterious, are just trying to live their lives.

But in any case, Laws knows how to spin out the proceedings without a dull patch or slow passage. And I figure if I'm recommending an 800-page heavily-annotated history of human warfare, it's only fair that I also recommend a good simple page-turner! 'Ferocity' will cost you $7 when it eventually comes out, and it'll be well worth your money.

Enemy at Home by Dinesh D'Souza - Alas, our final entry is not a pleasant one ... in fact, it's one of the most unpleasant reading experiences we've had in a good long time, certainly the first lighthouse-bright unpleasant reading experience of the new year.

D'Souza has always been a bit unhinged - it's what has always given his prose its particular zing. That zing is a pleasure, sure, but it's come every year with more and more ... well, more and more dementia.

This is, to first appearances, a demented book.

This is a fundamentally evil work, building one coarse, untenable association on the last.

The thing that burns about calling it evil is that this is so obviously what the author wants .... but we'll get to that in a bit.

D'Souza's main argument here (to hallow ranting with that old, old term) is that the American left wing, with its peace-mongering and its gay-pandering and its accountability-insisting, actually aids and abets not only the advocates of disorder but the actual members of Al-Qaeda.

You didn't read that wrong. D'Souza's position here (but not really ...) is that the American left is essentially in cahoots with Islamic extremism throughout the world - if not through actual alliance, then certainly through mutual idealogical encouragement. The forces of evil, you see, take their dark encouragement from the fact that the American left wing encourages the destruction of what D'Souza calls, free of all irony, "the traditional patriarchal family." The American left wing, by being all the things Al-Qaeda hates, FUELS that hatred and makes the world the unsafe, chaotic place it currently is.

D'Souza doesn't dwell on all the US occupation forces the Middle East has seen, nor on America's support for Israel - oh no! In his book, those things don't matter. If the American left would just COME AROUND to that 'traditional patriarchal family,' Moslem extremists would stop strapping bombs to their chests.

In other words, D'Souza has actually managed to contort himself into a position where he's basically yelling at American Democrats: 'WHY ARE YOU KILLING OUR SOLDIERS?'

The experience reading the book is that of spending an hour with someone who's seriously, dangerously insane. But a moment's reflection raises a much worse suspicion. It would be bad enough for somebody to write such a book and MEAN it; no pundit has ever gone so far into vicious demagogery. But it would be much, much worse if somebody wrote such a book and DIDN'T mean it. To write such vicious, anti-logical, divisive nonsense specifically BECAUSE nobody had ever gone so far before - not because you believe it - would be a damnable offense. It would render the writer anathema to all society.

It's for this reason that D'Souza's book really ought to be totally ignored by every form of media. He's not the drunken ranter in a bar picking a fight with another drunken ranter: he's the completely sober patron egging them both on, not caring which of them he might agree with, just snickeringly wanting to see the fight.

But I spent time reading the book, and I couldn't resist venting outrage about it (a writer in, I think, current Esquire actually invites D'Souza to a physical fight) - so I doubt the media will greet this thing with the disgusted silence it deserves.

Still, one bad apple in an otherwise pretty promising basket! True, you should all avoid the D'Souza book like the pox (seriously, ALL it will do is make you angry - there's no worth at all in reading it) - but that still leaves you with several GOOD recommendations! A fine way to start the year!

36 comments:

pablo butcher said...

How about some reviews of books in the music or film genre? Roger Ebert has a new book(or is Richard Roper joking when he says that Ebert is on the mend and will return to the TV show)-actually there are two books out by Ebert and only one is the annual review. We have new bios on Mozart(and a relation also), and what's up with Bono?? Is he officially a god yet or just a saint? Was the U-2 book on your standby list for best/worst of 2006?

steve said...

What is this U2 you speak of? Some sort of barbershop group? Minstrels? Help me out here ...

Sam Sacks said...

Was this posting hidden or something? Being cleared by customs? I'm just now seeing it...

And I want the warfare book! I will take your advice, though, and not read D'Souza, but what do we do when he publically changes teams and puts out a tell-all memoir about being an evil hack rightwing attack writer. David Brock is what now, a high-paid Democrat consultant? You're surely right that D'Souza is scaling up his attacks purely for effect - he's got nothing to lose: more publicity, and a more spectacular, open-armed repentance if it comes to that.

Anonymous said...

Bush and company truly are the "lesser breeds without law." They are so in love with their Woodrow Wilsonlike foreign policy (which is hopelessly utopian in its goals, and positively childish in its level of sophistication) that they have completely divorced themselves from reality. It would be comical if not for the thousands of American dead and wounded. The author of this blog has said that to simply abandon the Iraqis to their own savagery would be "base." As usual, the author's womanish belief in putting the interests of foreigners ahead of what is best for our country disgusts me to no end. The U.S. and her citizens should never be held subject to the needs and/or wants of foreigners; these should be of no concern to us. Here is my list of the 'good wars' this country has fought: 1. The Revolution 2. The Mexican/American War These wars served our own selfish interests, therefore they were 'good wars.' And the 'bad wars': EVERY OTHER WAR! NO AMERICAN SHOULD EVER FIGHT AND DIE FOR THE BENEFIT OF FOREIGNERS OR FOREIGN CAUSES. Reichmarshal

Kevin Caron said...

I begining to think that Herr Reichmarshal is Pat Buchanan.

hippolyta said...

Womanish indeed. You'd be lucky if you were able to correctly identify and recognize one woman out of hundreds at the playboy mansion, given the limited experience you've had with women. Your knowledge of women (and of the human race, I might add) is non-existent, probably because you spend so much goddamn time thinking about yourself and your own childish agenda. You'll be lucky if you can ever identify what "womanish" really means, but no doubt you'll find it very very difficult with that napoleonic complex of yours to get close enough to a member of the female gender to be able to learn anything from them (or get anything from them). Rot in hell, Reichmarshal. In your own white male supremicist hell.

steve said...

You hadda mention Pat Buchanan... oh geez...

steve said...

Oh, Reichmarshal, Reichmarshal ... you lovable scamp! What ARE we going to do with you?

First off, I, too, am puzzled by that use of 'womanish' as a pejorative. Especially since I've never advocated putting the interests of foreigners ahead of this country's.

But you can't simply ignore reality, Reichmarshal. You can't un-happen things that have actually happened. The fact is, the US' invasion of Iraq has thrown the country into bloody, violent turmoil. The US CAUSED a lot of it and exacerbated all the rest. That's why I say it would be base to just up and walk away.

I can virtually HEAR your response: So what if we caused it? So what if it's a mess of our making? Tough luck. Too bad. We're leaving. See ya.

That response is barbaric, plain and simple. And I don't think that bothers you - I honestly think you'd PREFER it if the US acted barbarically, all the time, intentionally. What I don't understand is WHY you prefer that - isn't the fate of barbarians well known in history?

The truth is, no nation is or ever could be an island, and your ugly-American zeal would only serve to make us more hated than we already are by what is, whether you like it or not, a community of nations.

steve said...

And as for your list of 'good' wars, Reichmarshal, you simply CAN'T be serious!

We've gone round and round on this before, but I can't help but repeat: the Axis powers wanted WORLD DOMINATION! Do the caps make it clear? They wanted to take over THE WORLD. Whether you like it or not, the United States is part of the world.

Japan attacked us, for pete's sake! Hitler conquered all of Europe and was poised to conquer Britain! What would you have done, with this silly head-in-the-sand policy of yours? Waited until the country was ringed 'round with U-boats and aircraft carriers?

And surely by your own rationale you'd have to include the War of 1812? And I'm assuming you're 100 percent behind the series of wars that extirpated American Indians from all their ancestral lands? What about World War I, when so many Americans had relatives fighting and dying in Europe? Don't all those blood-connections stop it from being a purely 'foreign' war?

At least you're behind the Revolution! I should count my blessings!

hippolyta said...

NOT to mention, If you want to use "womanish" as a deregatory term, run it by your mother first. Those years that she spent being all "womanish" and shit and thinking more about you than about herself...well, maybe the country would be a better place if not for people like you who possess such little compassion (and little other things, I'm sure). Maybe she should have let you perish as an infant. That would have been the manly "foreigers be damned" attitude to take, right...if we're comparing being maternal (womanish) to caring more about foreigners than about one's own country? As the ghost of christmas present says after scrooge talks about decreasing the surplus population..."you'll hold your tongue until you understand exactly who and what the surplus population is. For it may be that in god's eyes, you are more worthless and less deserving to live than MILLIONS of children like this man's son."

I can see you being silently amused by this reaction of mine, Reichmarshal. Thinking it womanish and emotional. My only comfort is in knowing that when you are an old man sick from disease, lacking companionship, that you will die a very cold and lonely death because everyone around you is, in your mind, a foreigner, and your precious (yes, gollum, preccciiiious) homeland is in fact your sad and lonely self. You will not let anyone in, especially if they will change your warped and detrimental opinions about the world and life in general. What a sad sad existence.

steve said...

She's got you there, Reichmarshal! If anyone equates compassion (which, by the by, was ALL I was advocating regarding Iraq - America DESTROYED the country ... America should probably help to fix it) with being 'womanish' and then dares to phrase it as an insult, they should remember their own long-suffering mother!

Childbirth is, I've been told, extravagantly painful. And the five solid years of sleeplessness that follow are surely no picnic either. Have a heart, Reichmarshal! Think of Frau Reichmarshal all those years ago, swaddling you and comforting you when you were just a little pink blob of crypto-fascism!

Surely, when we think about it that way, we could ALL stand to be a little more 'womanish' ...

Anonymous said...

Where should I begin? I'm guessing hippolyta has a weight problem, fat women(if I correctly guess your sex, something tells me that I would have trouble with that even if I saw you in person) being especially prone to fits of hysterics. And yes, I am laughing at you. As to the War of 1812, are you serious? There is a reason that high school history books devote all of one paragraph to this war: the British kicked our ass! This war was the biggest disaster in U.S. military history. The Warhawks, in a fit of stupidity that almost rivals GW's, decided to take on the British Empire forgetting the fact that we did not have an army or navy at the time. Andrew Jackson's victory at New Orleans did not makeup for the folly of pitting untrained militia against the British Army and the inevitable slaughter that resulted. And as for the World Wars, they were none of our business. I might remind you Steve that the British and the French also dabbled in the conquest game. Our kinsmen in Ireland certainly didn't think much of the English notion of liberty. The Germans were England's enemy, not ours. They posed no threat to the U.S. and could not even if they wished; they had no bluewater navy to attack us. Also, it was FDR's economic warfare that prompted the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor. It is not that I lack compassion, I simply believe compassion begins at home. The idea that some 19 year old kid from Southie or Harlem should get a bullet in the neck to protect, not his own country, but a foreign land is wrong. I do not hate foreigners, I just don't think we should die for them. We have given the Iraqis quite enough already, try over 3000 American dead and thousands more terribly wounded. You have sadly forgotton the premise of the Revolution Steve: Americans should be for America and foreigners have no right to control us in any way whatsoever. You often express that to be American is to be compassionate; what about compassion for our country and countrymen? Oh, hippolyta I'm still laughing. Reichmarshal

steve said...

Oh my gawd.

First, I have no idea what 'economic warfare' means, but Reichmarshal! You've wandered into Gore Vidal-land if you think the US was somehow RESPONSIBLE for Pearl Harbor! The Japanese attacked out of naked ambition - they wanted to control the entire Pacific basin, and were it not for a few fortuitous US ship-placements, they'd have succeeded.

Second, saying that Hitler's Germany was England's enemy, not ours is just purblind lunacy - yes, Germany was England's enemy - as long as there WAS an England. If it were conquered and garrisoned (and would you really want that? Would you really ADVOCATE seeing the birthplace of Chaucer and Shakespeare reduced to a curfewed German protectorate?), THEN what? Like I said, Hitler and the Axis powers wanted to RULE THE WORLD. My caps don't seem to be getting through to you!

And third, I hardly know what to say about your characterization of the War of 1812. I strongly suggest you take time out of your busy schedule and toddle on down to the Charlestown shipyards - take a tour of a beautiful vessel called 'Old Ironsides' and get a refresher on her history. You'll find she was involved in quite a bit of ass-kicking - none of it her own.

p.s. Although I of course have no evidence, I suspect you might be wrong about Hippolyta's girdle-size! She writes with that particular flair and directness that's usually only given to beautiful people (you'll notice it everywhere in my own writing). I bet she's not only pretty but TALL, as befits her namesake.

hippolyta said...

Steve. This is why I love you. Responding to the hissy fit of a small minded man with such eloquence sends my heart aflutter. And to take a swipe at him for my honor, well...sigh.

By the way, reichmarshall. I am not fat, and steve's moniker for me in fact does seem to be a statement on my height, fitness, and battle-readiness, does it not? Oh, sorry, you don't care about women, so how would you know who hippolyta was? You have no idea who I am, and this amuses me no end, because if you did you'd be shocked out of your tiny little stereotyping gourd by how much thought I in fact do give to world events. Heh. You ass.

Anonymous said...

"Eloquence." Is that how you describe all your misspellings and shrill, crude remarks? As for you Steve, it is clear that you and I will never see eye to eye on the subject of war and peace. I only believe in wars of practical necessity or those that advance our country's vital interests. The survival of other nations is not a vital interest. It would have been a sad day for the world if England fell to the Nazis, but it would not have harm the survival of the United States. You[Steve] have cast the U.S. in a role we were never ment to play: the role of policeman and social worker to the world. This is a role to which we are illsuited and are terrible at playing. The only question that should be asked when this country ponders whether or not to go to war is this: Does this benefit our country? If the answer is no and we go to war anyway, we do a great disservice to all those 19 year old kids, both men and women, that actually do all the fighting. p.s. You cannot break something that never worked to begin with. Iraq was, is, and always will be a barbaric chamber pot of a country. Insisting that our military stays in Iraq and repairs what cannot be repaired illustrates the amount of thought you give to our military and nation as a whole. Reichmarshal

locke said...

"We have given the Iraqis quite enough already, try over 3000 American dead and thousands more terribly wounded."

Actually, I don't think they get to keep them...

hippolyta said...

Wait, did I misspell anything (like you did several times, Reich..."but it would not have harm the survival of the United States"...oh, you mean "harmed"?) And how were my remarks crude? By calling you names? Next time you call someone fat you should expect that, jerkoff. By the way, the term "womanish" is the next best thing to clubbing a woman over the head and dragging her into your cave. Crude, indeed. Third, I was referring to Steve's eloquence, not my own. Way to pay attention, dumbass. And if it's shrill to defend what one believes in (for me, gender equality) then you, my friend, also qualify for that ignorant and oversimplified personality sum-up. Go find a bridge to crawl under, Reich. The stench of chauvinism is becoming too much to tolerate.

locke said...

"Childbirth is, I've been told, extravagantly painful. And the five solid years of sleeplessness that follow are surely no picnic either."

uh, "five solid years of sleeplessness"? I was about to scoff at that overstatement, keeping in mind that Steve has only ever encountered babies or small children when trying to push them into the duck ponds at various public parks... but then I realized we might be getting a rare, and somewhat disturbing, peek into Steve's OWN childhood...

locke said...

"As usual, the author's womanish belief in putting the interests of foreigners ahead of what is best for our country disgusts me to no end."

Actually, I think it was that Jesus freak who really pushed the "womanish belief in putting the interests of foreigners ahead" -- something about Samaritans and helping others -- which was in direct contrast with the good Ol' Testament, which was all about laying down a mighty smitin' on anyone from any other tribe who wandered over the hill. But then again, Jesus WAS kinda "womanish" -- all that hair, those sandals, no pants...

I gotta admit, though I'm a very content athiest, it amuses me to think of what the Religious Right, the Culture Warriors, and the Family Values Republican Chickenhawks would do to Jesus if he wandered back onto the Earthly Plane today. The verbal and physical beatdown they'd lay on such a bleeding-heart, gay-loving, soft-on-crime-and-immigration, squat-and-piss, socialist, liberal would make Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor look like Phil Donohue...

locke said...

"I only believe in wars of practical necessity or those that advance our country's vital interests. The survival of other nations is not a vital interest."

But the Iraq War 2.0 was sold to the 9-11-dazed American Public AS a war of "practical necessity" and "vital interests" -- not to mention, good old fashioned revenge (and, in true bully fashion, the BEST kind of revenge -- the kind where someone throws a rock through your window, so you storm out into the street, take a look around, and find the smallest, weakest, easiest mark and punch 'em in the nose so you feel better).

Still, yours is a pretty neat and pat (whooeee, NO pun intended there!) response to a world that, sorry to say, is a bit more complex and nuanced than such a simplistic "I got mine" approach can handle. I'm no fan of silly geopolitical adventurism, as Bush and the AFI neo-cons went galloping off on, but building a giant fence along the Mexican and Canadian borders and then mining every foot of the coastal waters -- which is, by the way, the natural and inevitable endpoint for Riechmarshal's particular brand of Buchananism -- is just silly. The minute you could sail from America to Europe or Asia in less than a week, let along fly there in less than a day, you lost the ability to keep thinking of America and the world as tiny, separate islands. And now with these high-speed interwebs all over the damn place.... I know "globalism" is a nasty, nasty Clintonian word, but it's not only a reality, but a welcome one -- one world, one peace, brother-man! I give you a testimonial-- the MC5!!!

... oops, sorry, got carried away there for a moment...

point is, you can hide your pointy head and shiny eagle collar tabs in the sand all you like, but the fact is that if a global power like the United States turns its eye from the squirming spiderholes of the world, it can't go whining and complaining when some of those spiders wander over here and bite us in the ass... unless, of course, we build a giant spider-proof wall... hmmm... with anti-spider guns...

Somalia matters. Sudan matters. Nigeria matters. Iraq now matters. Afghanistan matters. Pakistan and India matter. Not in a soft "it's a small world after all, kumbaya" way, but in a "ignore the problems there and they WILL come back to bite you in the ass."

I was and am against invading Iraq, for all the obvious lefty, liberal reasons -- Saddam was contained, we didn't have a good enough reason, Bush and company wanted it for all the wrong political (Rove), military (Rummy), ideological (the AFI), and greedy (CheneyCorp) reasons (and really, that's the problem the left has with making it's case against the War in Iraq -- it keeps trying to smear ONE reason, when in fact it was a whole NEST of snakes, each dragging us down the path for its own screwheadery).

But my BIGGEST problem with Bush and Iraq is that if you're going to fuck a wild boar, you'd better do it RIGHT. We can, and will, argue geo-political ideologies all day and night, but in the end, what counts is RESULTS. I didn't want us in Iraq -- if protecting our vital interests and keeping us safe in the Fox News War on Terror was the goal, then all those troops, all that money, and all that international trust and cooperation could have been MUCH better and more smartly spent in other places and in other ways. (Hi there, Iran!) But if you insist on cleaning up an inhabited building infested with rats, you'd better have a more workable plan than just blowing it up and then pouring gasoline on the fire. And so, if you are an amateur exterminator and HAVE blown up the building and poured gas on the fire, then it is now YOUR responsibility to put it out. Or, to return to my original mixed metaphor -- your dick is now firmly buried in the wild boar's hindquarters. You are very close to having it torn off as you try to remove yourself from this highly ill-advised romantic coupling.

Okay, I think I might have wandered a bit afield from my point, if I ever had one. I always say -- once you start ruminating on pig-fucking, you may have lost your audience...

Point is, it's a global world, we live in it, we get our oil, our t-shirts, and our iPods from it. We also have the biggest guns on the block. We have to be a part of it, and that means stepping up when necessary, and it also means taking responsibility when we cock up mightily.

The whole hatin' on foreigners schtick is nothing more than small-minded racism. Are some foreigners out to do you harm? Absolutely. You know why? Because they're HUMANS -- sadly, despite the best efforts of Hippie Jesus, that's what humans do -- they try to hurt each other in order to get one another's things. But you know what we learned from the Cold War? (it was that deal where, for about 45 years, we just KNEW that there was this whole GANG of bald-headed villains living in hollowed-out volcanoes, trying to kill our American God, destroy our Apple Pie, and rape our American Women by taking over small Southeast Asian nations.) We learned that in the end, if you give them Bon Jovi records and blue jeans and freemarkets that can be easily corrupted and taken over by organized crime, they are PERFECTLY happy hanging out with us.

So, just stop hatin' and start participatin', Reichmarshal! And don't worry -- your precious bodily fluids, swarming as I'm sure they are with little jack-booted midiclorians, will be safe...

locke said...

"It is not that I lack compassion, I simply believe compassion begins at home. The idea that some 19 year old kid from Southie or Harlem should get a bullet in the neck to protect, not his own country, but a foreign land is wrong. I do not hate foreigners, I just don't think we should die for them."

But what good is that compassion that begins at home, if it never LEAVES the home? Sure, if you are one person, living on your block, then go down and volunteer at a homeless shelter. Tutor inner-city kids. If you are a state, then you can do MORE to help out the needy statewide. And if you are a NATION, then you do whatever you can to help your citizens when they're in need. Unless of course, they're black and are living below the flood plain when a hurricane hits. See, THAT'S why the Spike Lees and Bruce Springsteens and the rest of us were so upset about the response to Katrina: levels of government EXIST so that they can address problems and crises that are LARGER then individuals or church groups can handle. The Republican Wingnut response to Katrina was "well, people need to learn to take care of themselves, and charitable orgainzations can help -- government has no business bothering in it." Except MOST church groups (I'm not sure about the Mormons) don't HAVE hundreds of rescue helicopters and boats. That's WHY you have a NATIONAL guard.

Ah, but what's this have to do with all this, you ask? Well, the same is true of the United States on the global stage. When millions are dying in Darfur or anywhere else in Africa and the United States has the ABILITY (and the international standing, which, alas, we lost when we went "all in" on Iraq) to help, then it SHOULD. But it should do so in an intelligent and SENSITIVE manner that helps without making things worse. Yep, I said "sensitive" -- I know that firmly places me in the "womanish" category.

Iraq WAS our business -- no, it wasn't a terrorism hotbed as Bush et al wanted us to believe so they could play out their sandbox fantasies, but it wasn't Disneyland, either. Saddam DID have a major role to play in the Middle East balance of power, even with his wings fully clipped, as they were after 1991. But that doesn't mean we should have BLOWN the place up. We have to be engaged and participate in the WORLD, but we have to be SMART about it and how we engage with other nations and cultures. Just remember, Reichmarshal -- a stranger is just a friend you haven't made yet!

Which brings me to one of Steve's comments, which I think gets to the heart of "all this" -- of the War in Iraq (and On Terrorism), of the Immigration Debate, and of your pardoxical assertation, Reichmarshal, that you're full of compassion for foreigners as long as you never ever have to deal with them.

Steve said:

"That response is barbaric, plain and simple. And I don't think that bothers you - I honestly think you'd PREFER it if the US acted barbarically, all the time, intentionally. What I don't understand is WHY you prefer that - isn't the fate of barbarians well known in history?"

This is what we ALL know is REALLY at the heart of it all. Meanness, hatred, bullying. The testicular, eveolutionary biological "umph" that drives humans, male and female to seek the blood of the "other" in order to both protect what they have, gain more, and mostly just let everyone else know who's Top Kong on Skull Island. I know I felt it -- at 11 am on 9-11-06, my thoughts were "just pave the fuckin' Middle East." But if you're going to evolve as a civilization, you can't build foreign policy on gut reactions (sorry, Stephen Colbert!), just like you can't run your judicial system based on vicitims' desire to see criminals hang/fry/melt.

Too often these days, when you really push on immigration and War on Terror issues, what you eventually hear from the Right is something along the lines of the Kurtzian "exterminate the brutes." Why don't we do more about Africa? (really, people -- it's an entire CONTINENT -- one that Europe and America ASS-raped for about 100 years and then pulled out, wiped our dick off on its back, and swaggered off -- up to the Middle East -- to find a new paramour, leaving Africa naked and starving to fend for itself). You know why we don't? Because DEEP down, a frightenly LARGE number of us not only don't CARE, but are kinda HAPPY about the idea of Africa rotting under a vicious mortality rate. You know? Better them than us, and better FOR us if they go -- they breed too fast, anyway, right?

Wanna talk anti-Semitism? You know, that disease that we supposedly eradicated in the late 20th century, along with racism, sexism, and polio? You DON'T want to know how many VETERANS of WWII privately, secretly, only not so private or secret in closed company, say someting along the lines of "eh, Hitler was a fuckhead and he got carried away, but you know he had SOME good ideas..."

Point is, Steve is right -- it's plain old barbarism -- the old "crush your enemies, drive them before you, and hear the lamentations of their women." Far too many Americans -- or humans -- WANT to fight and kill and carpet their yards in the blood of their enemies. They don't want to "solve" the terrorism problem or the immigration problem -- "solving" is for "womanish" weaklings. The only "solution" too many of them--deep down, in their dark, dark heart of hearts, the one they only let out to breath late at night when alone under the covers--is the "final" kind.

Think I overstate it? Go to Townhall.com. Read the columns. Then read the comments. Then shower and burn your clothes. Then see what's REALLY being said by these "fringe dwellers", what's behind their "patriotism" and their need to "protect the American Family Culture and Way of Life".

locke said...

oh god. I just realized that in my ranting and raving, I gave Steve a perfect opportunity to chime in with some story about the time he actually DID engage in carnal relations with a wild boar...

locke said...

"I know I felt it -- at 11 am on 9-11-06"

um, of course, I meant to say "9-11-01" -- at 11 am on 9-1--06" I was probably thinking "hmmm, lunch... pizza or cheeseburger?"

locke said...

to be fair, I realize I did a lot of huffing and puffing in Reichmarshal's general direction, not all of it really relevant to his political stances as stated -- I cop to getting a bit off on a rail, tilting toward some sort of composite, speculative Straw Man pasted with Reichmarshal's "face."

but on the other hand, Reichmarshal, care to guess MY weight?

Beepy said...

Whew... I spend one evening calmly reading in bed and look what I come back to. Just when I thought it couldn't get any dirtier, Reichmarshall posted again. I must have gasped so many times that I'm now hyperventilating. (The first time the Reichmarshall has ever caused a woman to change the tempo of her breathing, I'm guessing.)

You know, it's bad enough to be so politically in the wrong but to call the lovely Hippolyta "fat" is beyond belief. Has he never watched "Xena, Warrior Princess"? (probably not, seeing that all the characters are "foreigners") Amazons are not fat, ugly nor untalented.

Hippolyta - if the Reichmarshall is not deterred by Locke's eloquent words, I'm willing to hold him down while you knock him sillier. In a totally womanish way, of course

Hippolyta said...

YES! Beepy! My partner in crime....er...mercy.

steve said...

Her name was Lola ... she was a Kentucky razorback, 400 pounds of pure porcine pulchritude ... I loved the way the full moon's light glowed on her face-bristles ...

Sniffle ... sorry ... I seem to have something in my eye ...

steve said...

Reichmarshal, I'm NOT saying the U.S. should be policeman and social worker to the world! I was only saying that since the U.S. pretty much destroyed Iraq, the U.S. is morally obligated to at least try to fix the damage we did.

You say Iraq wasn't working before the invasion, and certainly there's a case to be made for that - but I'm talking about tangible, everyday realities. The Iraqi people have rubble instead of homes, rampant shortages and profiteering in all areas of basic necessities (food, medicine, etc), and, last but not least, several tens of thousands of casualties - and ALL of that was DONE by America.

We can argue about whether or not America should have invaded in the first place (you obviously come down against the invasion, one of the few points on which we entirely agree, although our reasons are wildly different), but either way, a gigantic amount of damage was done to a helpless people who never attacked this country. Simply leaving, after all this country as done to WORSEN those people's lives, seems untenable on so many levels ...

Jeff E. said...

So, this is how all blogs become political blogs, huh? Too bad.

Anyone besides me interested in what Steve's been reading lately? Or shall we all just keep screaming at the one person who has utterly undermined this blog by holding a boringly extreme political position?

I suspect everyone wants to just keep screaming (Oh! How could he!?), so I should probably just shut up.

Kevin Caron said...

I think I'm with Jeff - arguing with RM's childishly oversimplified world view/rampant sexism is about as interesting as yelling at my cat when he pees on the bathmat. Sure, it's cathartic; sure, I feel pretty confident I'm in the right; sure, he has it coming; but I can't really claim I gained anything from it as a person, and neither Fry or the Reichmarshal are going to change their ways anytime soon.

Hippolyta said...

Gentlemen...in Steve's defense, this is a post that is at least 3 posts deep into his blog, all of the newer posts (actually, this one included) being about what he's read. Don't forget, you're in the comments section, not the blog itself! Let's not accuse our host of losing his blogging integrity.

steve said...

Yeah, what she said! NONE of you wanted to talk about huge myster-cats!

Kevin Caron said...

I stand by my cat-pee metaphor.

Sam Sacks said...

Aw come one--Locke just gave us an unpaid, unsolicited editorial that's better than anything we'd find reading Thomas Friedman, Christopher Hitchens, Maureen Dowd, George Will, or Frank Rich every morning for a year. Free of subscription, people.

steve said...

Well, of course I agree - Locke at length is a delight and wonder!

Anonymous said...

Well...one doesn't really expect much from any of those columnists . Maybe Hitchens ten years ago. But, yes! Kudos to Locke!

Now where is Herr Marshall?