Monday, December 25, 2017
I finished reading today the 126 pages of Timothy Snyder's ON TYRANNY: TWENTY LESSONS FROM THE TWENTIETH CENTURY (timdugganbooks.com, 2017). In this pamphlet, RIGHTS OF MAN for our day, Snyder, professor of history at Yale, draws on the history of 20th-century totalitarianism to make analogies for our own time, especially since November 8, 2016, in the hope of saving us from a descent into autocracy similar to that in Nazi Germany and Putin's Russia. While this blog of mine has only 27 followers, and I contribute a new post only a few times a year, I want to thank anyone who takes the time to read my observations, and I recommend ON TYRANNY as the best gift I can offer you at this fraught time. Be brave, George
Saturday, November 4, 2017
Terror and the New Hedonism The Guardian reports today (4 Nov.) that “terror is the new normal,” so New Yorkers act “preternaturally calm” in the wake of the recent truck attack that left 8 dead in TriBeCa on Halloween (31), and along the afflicted bike path downtown are seen “cyclists back out with a vengeance.” Yes, maybe terror has struck so frequently of late that human beings just roll with its punches and quickly resume living as they had. But this account doesn’t distinguish between radical, ideologically driven acts of terror, like the one in NYC on Tuesday, and less explicable attacks like two of the worst, the Oklahoma City bombing and the sniper assault in Las Vegas last month, both carried out by domestic white men with Christian backgrounds. Our President quickly condemned to death the Isis adherent who struck in NYC, while deferring any comment about the Vegas sniper and even declaring it too soon even to discuss the role played by his firearms, adapted to fire like machine guns. But that act of mass murder, which killed 58 and wounded around 600 others, nevertheless adds to the mounting sense of terror and horror inflicted on the vulnerable public. Thus, the recent truck assault in NYC, reported on soon afterward and causing 8 deaths, six of them inflicted on foreign nationals, had less impact than the rush of live coverage of the Las Vegas shooting with its mass casualties. And I say that sitting just 2 miles north of the TriBeCa bike path where the truck driver ran down his victims. So, yes, part of the rapid resumption of daily life in NYC, including the annual Halloween parade a few hours after the truck assault, might reflect a sense that terror is the new normal, but other reasons might be identified. One is that much of Manhattan has become the playground of the affluent, and the bike path that now encircles the island is one of the public facilities for living a pleasurable semi-suburban life in the middle of Gotham, America’s “safest big city,” as its mayor described it today. Closely related to this view of the recreational city is the emergence of a new hedonism. The affluent and their adherents throng our major cities’ restaurants, sports clubs, entertainment venues, and recreation centers, living a life of pleasure while ignoring those without the disposable income to play along with them. When an act of terror occurs, the new hedonists resist feeling terrified or recover quickly to resume their pleasures. While terror might not be “the new normal,” it might help to desensitize our response to violent death and suffering inflicted by terrorists, and the new hedonism might help to welcome us back to the urban playground.
Friday, June 16, 2017
Hard Times “These are times that try men’s souls.” Yes, a Sanders Democrat shot some Republicans on a ballfield in Virginia yesterday and was shot and killed for his efforts. No, in this country we don’t want people shooting each other for any reason. But who is primarily responsible for easy access to firearms, people of the left like yesterday’s shooter or people on the right who have fetishized the Second Amendment to prop up the most liberal gun laws in the industrialized world? I’ve read and heard today (June 15) so much apologist hand-wringing by liberals in the press and on social media that I must remind my fellow lefties that just one leftwing nut job was guilty of yesterday’s shooting and that every day Republicans in office wage war on the common people of America. Who else but Republicans are conspiring in secret to write a partisan health-care bill that does away with our health care, abandoning protection of the critically wounded environment, designing a tax reform bill that redistributes wealth upward, denying women the right to choose how they manage their own lives and bodies, delaying the urgent need to repair our infrastructure, ignoring the daily toll of violence on black Americans, exacerbating the daily trials of Spanish-speaking immigrants working to better their and their children’s lives? In almost every area of government concern, elected Republicans pursue policies to aid the affluent and to hurt the rest of the country. They don’t need guns to prosecute their war on common people, because they have political power and loads of money to back it up. While we must deplore the use of weapons, the Left needs to be more militant in working to retake political power. We must not tolerate yesterday’s shooting, but we should not act as if we are somehow culpable for the increased violence in America, especially when Donald Trump on the stump egged on his followers to commit violent acts upon protesters in their midst. The rightwing has a disproportionately large role in the escalating violence around us, while we of the Left must continue the non-violent struggle for social, political, and economic justice for all.