Author: Oscar Giner

Death of Billy the Kid

BILLY THE KID DRAWING

Art by J. Thomson.

(At HUNT THE DEVIL, we focus on critiques of political myths. Occasionally, we post versions of foundational American myths that have shaped our culture. The following retells Pat Garrett’s account of the death of Billy the Kid as found in his book, The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid. Tainted by the spirit of Sam Peckinpah’s great western, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973), and by the fatal airs of Bob Dylan’s musical score, it narrates the story of Youth killed by Old before Old settles into a new station in life. Highlighting this theme, in Peckinpah’s film the law and order officers are played by old actors who frequently appeared in westerns (Coburn, Chill Wills, Slim Pickens, Katy Jurado, etc.); young rock stars from the 1960s (Kristofferson, Dylan, Rita Coolidge) play the outlaws.      

The myth considers Billy a hero not because he was an outlaw, but because he was young.)

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Birnam Wood Comes to Dunsinane

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“Study for the Three Witches in Macbeth” by Henry Fuseli, oil on canvas. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The First Apparition (“an armed Head”) warned him to beware Macduff, Thane of Fife; the Second (“a bloody Child”) prophesied that none of woman born could harm him. The Third Apparition (“a Child crowned, with a tree in his hand”) counseled him to assume the mettle of a lion:

                                                 Take no care

Who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are.

Macbeth shall never vanquished be until

Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill

Shall come against him (4.1.90-94).

From then on, his purpose became firm and clear. He set to “crown my thoughts with acts” by seizing Macduff’s castle and the dominion of Fife. To ensure the end of Macduff’s issue, he resolved to kill “his wife, his babes and all unfortunate souls / That trace him in his line” (4.1.148-153).[1]

“I think nothing equals Macbeth,wrote Abraham Lincoln. “It is wonderful.”

Lincoln’s praise has stood the test of time. Hamlet may be a better play and King Lear a greater tragedy, but a special power inhabits Macbeth, which has led superstitious theater people to talk about the great play in hushed tones and to refer to its title by euphemisms such as “the Scottish play.”

Is there any other play the name of which we fear to speak? (more…)

No Pity for the Kitty (Part 3 of 3)

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“Lot and his family leaving Sodom” by Peter Paul Rubens, oil on panel, 1625. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

On Saturday 24 November this year, the Arizona State Sun Devils beat the University of Arizona Wildcats in the Territorial Cup football game by a score of 41-40. ASU rallied after trailing 40-24 in the 4th quarter to win the game. No Pity for the Kitty indeed!

We learn from the American myth of “Bargains with the Devil” that ill-gained riches have calamitous consequences. When Fortune turns on those who play this demonic game, let the evil they have brought upon themselves play itself out. Sodom and Gomorrah incurred the righteous wrath of God; yet angels warned us not to interfere with their destruction and commanded not to look behind us on peril of disaster. At night, the Exterminating Angel smote the firstborn of the Egyptians; still we marked our doors with blood and did not go out of our houses until the morning of that terrible night. (more…)

No Pity for the Kitty (Part 2 of 3)

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“Honored to escort Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Capitol for meetings with members of the Senate. We hope and trust that the Senate will give a strong vote confirming Judge Kavanaugh as the newest justice to the Supreme Court.” — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence via Twitter, 10 July 2018. (Credit: Office of the Vice President)

Don’t. Ever. Pity. The Very Rich.

Save your pity, if you have any to spare, for the poor and helpless.

Upon listening to the accusations of Professor Blasey Ford against Judge Brett Kavanaugh, clown Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee exploded in howls of outrage and crocodile tears. How could anyone question Kavanaugh’s character and soil his good name? How unfair that his family suffered! The clown Democratic members of the Committee were bamboozled with the promise of an FBI investigation of Kavanaugh—a sham process that served only to provide political cover for senators (namely Flake and Collins) who masqueraded as undecided until the day of the final vote. The decision was never in question: Kavanaugh’s passage to the Supreme Court was only delayed, never imperiled by Blasey Ford’s allegations. (more…)

No Pity for the Kitty (Part 1 of 3)

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Illinois Handmaids speak out in the Stop Brett Kavanaugh Rally, downtown Chicago Illinois, 26 August 2018. (Credit: Charles Edward Miller)

On the Arizona State University campus around this time of year, one sign begins to appear on posters, walls and t-shirts. It took me years to discover that it is not a reference to the Japanese icon “Hello Kitty,” but rather a war cry as students prepare for the Territorial Cup football game between the ASU Sun Devils and their perennial rivals, the Wildcats of the University of Arizona. And the war cry is: No Pity for the Kitty!

“No Pity for the Kitty” means take no prisoners, have no mercy with the foe, no sympathy for the enemy as you stomp on its corpse, as you cut off the head of the dragon the way citoyens once guillotined members of the nobility during the French Revolution. (more…)

Last of the Cold War Warriors

Senator John McCain, 1936-2018. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Even the tempests of Caliban’s island must pause at the passing of John McCain.

Writing about the three great Liberators of the Americas—Bolívar from Venezuela, San Martín from Río de La Plata, Hidalgo from México—José Martí once taught us:

Men cannot be more perfect than the sun. The sun burns with the same light with which it heats. The sun has spots. Ingrates talk only about its spots; grateful ones talk about the light.[1]

As a resident of Arizona, I have had occasion to witness John McCain’s services to his constituency with punctilious efficiency and graciousness. The tag of “maverick”—an unfortunate banality that often diminished the complexity of the man—has led commentators in the last few days to praise his memory as follows: “I disagreed with him on many issues, but …,” usually followed by a lengthy encomium. I will add my voice to this chorus of praise and condemnation. I will write, reducing “a person’s entire life to two or three scenes,” not only about my disagreements with John McCain, but also about the good that should not be interred with his bones.[2]

(more…)

Caliban’s Island: The Return

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Picture of the Castle de San Felipe del Morro in the Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, at the entrance of the San Juan Bay, 28 April 2011. (Credit: James Willamor)

A Return to the Native Land, as we learn from Aimé Césaire’s great poem, is fraught with perils, fortuitous occurrences, fortunate encounters and profound realizations.[1] The island that I call home is magical, and like Caliban’s island, is full of ghostly sounds and ancient voices: (more…)

The Exterminating Angel

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The Exterminating Angel, also known as Guardian Angel, is a sculpture by Josep Llimona dated in 1895. Built on the ruins of an ancient cemetery which in turn was built on the remains of an old church of the fifteenth century. The Exterminating Angel is the “Angel of the bottomless pit” who reign over locusts that devastate humanity “not marked on the forehead with the seal of God” (Revelation 9:11). (Credit: Andrés Suárez García)

My mother was a gifted psychic who never believed her talent was a big deal. She scoffed at poseurs and charlatans, was highly suspicious of the use of spirituality for profit, and reserved a deep respect for Catholic nuns and Catholic schooling. Never a churchgoing person, she had a profound faith in the power of her plaster image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (a gift from my father to her before their wedding), and an unswerving belief in the principle of Poetic Justice in the world. She never called it karma, but she maintained, to the end of her life, that eventually we all get our just deserts.

I have been thinking a great deal about my mother during this crisis of abduction and hostage taking of immigrant children by the US government. I remember distinctly the day at the Havana airport when we left Cuba in 1961. At the enclosed glass-area that led to the Pan American airplane, my mother and my aunt were taken away by female guards to be body-searched (Castro militias were looking for unauthorized money or jewels leaving the country). To this day, I remember the fear that engulfed me as I was left by myself with my young sister (I was 7, she was 6) in the departure area. (more…)

They Came for the Children

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British Women and Children Interned in a Japanese Prison Camp, Syme Road, Singapore, 1945, by Leslie Cole. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Somewhere in Bernard Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra, the Irish Sage reminds us that when a stupid man does something he is ashamed of:  he always claims it is his duty to do so. In our miserable times, when a shameless man or woman does something dreadful that they enjoy, they always claim the law commands them to do so, even when no law exists to that effect. And when they engage in acts of perverted humanity, actions that can only arise from the diseased topographies of the soul, they claim—in an inversion of the classic serial killer excuse—that God made them do it! (more…)

The Water Detail (Part 2 of 2)

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“Christ at the Column” by Caravaggio, oil on canvas, circa 1607. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The torture-house run by Gina Haspel in 2002 was code-named “Cat’s Eye” (Adam Goldman, New York Times, March 13, 2018), evoking images of the Orwellian poster that haunted Winston Smith in 1984 (“Big Brother is Watching You”) and of the Ministry of Love and Room 101.  At this site (before Haspel ran the prison), a Qaeda suspect by the name of Abu Zubaydah was water-boarded 83 times. A medical officer recorded the beginning sessions of Zubaydah’s “water-cure”:

“The sessions accelerated rapidly progressing quickly to the water board after large box, walling [slamming prisoner against wall], and small box periods. [Abu Zubaydah] seems very resistant to the water board. Longest time with the cloth over his face so far has been 17 seconds. This is sure to increase shortly. NO useful information so far…. He did vomit a couple of times during the water board with some beans and rice. It’s been 10 hours since he ate so this is surprising and disturbing. We plan to only feed Ensure for a while now. I’m head[ing] back for another water board session.[i]

A common thread in discussions of “enhanced interrogations” by our politicians is the widespread assumption that the times after 9/11 were a “dark period” in our history, an aberration, an exception to our usual humane treatment of prisoners of war, political prisoners and even common prisoners.

Nothing could be further from the truth. (more…)