Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Star Gazing

To write anything at this late stage about the new Star Wars movie is to confront the mathematical certainty that any observation one can make has already been done to death somewhere else, and probably made into a GIF. Let’s just say that, thanks to a half-beer drunk with dinner before the movie and my Jawa-sized alcohol tolerance, I was utterly defenseless against the torrent of nostalgia-mongering that was unleashed inside that theater. “Look! It’s Chewy!” “Look, it’s C-3PO!” “Are they really going to pack a confrontation with the new Death Star into the remaining fifteen minutes? Yes they are!” – I was ravished. On the way out the door I hung on the necks of my family members like a dead thing, saying: “I’ll never experience anything like that again in my life…” And I won’t, of course. There is no Third Coming. The Messiah can only disappear and reappear so many times before he kills his own suspense, and now I suppose Star Wars has become just another franchise, rather than the quasi-scriptural artifact from the impossibly distant past of 1977 that it was to those of us who grew up on it in the Nineties. For that small period of time in the movie theater, though, I was translated into a higher realm—the fact that the audience cheered the opening title crawl and someone said “May the Force be with us” as the lights dimmed heightened the sense of collective transcendence.

Monday, December 28, 2015

America America-- I am so tired of you

America America—I am so tired of you
And very near to saying I am through
You require so much petting and coaxing
To do the smallest right thing
Folk play ever more on your heartstrings
And even then you don’t do it.
Your truest friends prepackage their
Advice in microwaveable form
“In keeping with our deepest traditions….
“And military norms” –
Our what? Dazed and shaken
I am seeing stripes and stars
  (For any full encounter with either
  Would put the truest friends behind bars.)

Monday, December 21, 2015

Tough Guys and Little Men

Someone I know -- herself a refugee from Nazi Germany when she was a child -- was talking with me the other day about the parlous state of American democracy. What frightens her most, she said, are not the bigoted things that come out of Donald Trump's mouth or the incendiary intentions that Ted Cruz announces, but "the roar that greets them."

Indeed. That roar is more unsettling than the rest of it, and it's a queasy feeling that results from hearing it. You know the scenes I mean. Trump's remarks about Muslims, which are by now sufficiently notorious. Cruz's repeated calls for "carpet bombing" and "saturation bombing" of IS-held territory (the NYT ran a rather curious editorial in response to these comments, which argued Cruz's declared "strategy" was deeply at odds with America's military tradition. Would that it were so! In truth, Cruz's ideas are all too close to realizable). Trump's talk of setting out to kill the families of terrorists (What? "They can kill us but we can't kill them?" he said in the last debate). And after each one, the same furious bellow of approval from the crowd.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Under the Ban

Is it after all better to remain silent and be thought a fascist than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt? The brief consensus Tuesday morning appeared to be that this was so. However bizarre and disturbing may have been Donald Trump's persistent refusal to make clear exactly whether he would or would not violate wholesale the civil rights of all Muslim Americans upon his election, the uproar across the public sphere was understandably much greater when, late Monday, he declared that as president he would ban all Muslim people from entering the country. It was almost immediately agreed across left and right that such remarks were too savagely bigoted to stand. Even Republican politicos were now calling Trump a "fascist." Somehow, the view took hold that this was the end of Trump's campaign and with it of an ugly-- but already in retrospect so brief and ill-fated as to appear comical-- episode of American perversity.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Trump and the Conspiracist Within: An Auto-Commentary

So was that Trump/database story that I repeat at the end of the last post all a huge canard? No, not exactly, though I admit now that it needs to be handled with somewhat more caution than I displayed at the time.

I saw the warning signs when it first broke and ought to have paid more attention. It had the mark of the "too-bad-by-which-I-mean-too-good-to-be-true" story that bears out one's own direst predictions so perfectly that any resulting feelings of justified outrage and disgust are muted by an inward glow of validated prophecy. I confess to feeling the same kind of moral Schadenfreude that a David Icke follower might experience on seeing a headline in a mainstream newspaper declare: "Obama acknowledges membership in reptoid race from Draco; supporters undeterred."

Cross-Postings III

Here's the drill: first the newsletter, then my auto-commentary will follow, in which I excoriate myself for various things I should have said differently. Here is the original text of my December contribution:
The world has become a pretty frightening place this past month, but nothing scares me more than the extreme anti-refugee and anti-Muslim rhetoric we’ve been hearing from our politicians the last few weeks. I am afraid of an ISIS attack, but I have little hope that we can protect ourselves from terrorism if we can’t even preserve our own values and ideals in the face of our fear.