Hunt the Devil on Holiday


Times Square from the roof of One Times Square, 30 December 2014. (Credit: Anthony Quintano)

As one year expires and another begins,

we pause for a month of meditation,

to reflect (on war culture) and envision (a democratic alternative),


before returning on January 17,

three days ahead of the inauguration of a new US Commander in Chief,

to reiterate a cautionary word of perspective


on the nation’s archetype of the good war and,

from that point forward,

consider the mythic passage through empire’s end times.



Hunt the Devil on Summer Vacation


Looking eastward over Lake Monroe southeast of Bloomington in Monroe County, Indiana, United States. The scene is on the western edge of the Hoosier National Forest; the photograph is taken from the northeastern corner of Clear Creek Township, and the distant shoreline is located in Salt Creek Township within the Paynetown State Recreation Area. (Credit: Nyttend / Wikimedia Commons)

Hunt the Devil is on holiday through the month of July.

The good life—a concept Kenneth Burke associates with the project of getting along with people—requires “adequate physical expression.” Otherwise, we become “bad poems.”

Physicality balances mentality. Aristotle’s anti-sedentary school of peripatetic philosophy, Burke held, was on the right track in this regard. Physicality helps to cultivate the sentiments and curb the overly ambitious passions, to enrich the social texture and live a more ecological life.

Burke’s idea of the good life is to channelize militaristic passions by transcending into a constructive, creative, cooperative way of being, which is the moral equivalent of war.

Kenneth Burke, Attitudes Toward History, pp. 256-260.


Three Kings


Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy: “The Three Wise Men.” (Credit: Nina Aldin Thune)


You’d wake up in the morning wondering if they were still there but you did not want to meet them, afraid of the magic of their passage which still infused the lighted Christmas tree that you could see in the living room down the hall from your vantage point at the doorway of your bedroom.

Xmas toys were small tokens that fulfilled the date peremptorily, almost a duty since you went to an American school in which instruction occurred in English. (Both Cuban and US holidays were celebrated and they had told you about Santa Claus coming to your house with toys on Christmas Eve.) We had no problem accepting gifts from Santa Claus, but the important toys—bicycles, Lone Ranger costumes, Tonto action figures, Zorro’s secret hideout (a miniature, plastic mountain)—were brought by the Kings on January 6. Train sets were also delivered, which you were not old enough to fix, but which delighted you by running round and around on their own power and on a single track.


Exploring the role of demonology in American war culture

University of Alabama Press Blog

Hunt the Devil is a timely and illuminating exploration of demonic imagery in US war culture. In it, Robert L. Ivie and Oscar Giner examine the origins of the Devil figure in the national psyche and review numerous examples from US history of the demonization of America’s perceived opponents. Their analysis demonstrates that American military deployments are often part of a cycle of mythical projection wherein the Devil repeatedly appears anew and must be exorcised through redemptive acts of war, even at the cost of curtailing democratic values.Jkt_Ivie_mktg

Meticulously researched, documented, and argued, Hunt the Devil opens with contemporary images of the United States’ global war on terror in the aftermath of 9/11. In five chapters devoted to the demonization of evildoers, witches, Indians, dictators, and Reds by American writers in presidential rhetoric and in popular culture, Ivie and Giner show how the use of demonization in the war on…

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Hamlet, Prince of Bikers

(Credit:  FX)

(Credit: FX)

Abraham Lincoln believed that there was nothing finer than Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and that Claudius’ monologue in Hamlet (“O my offence is rank!”) was superior to Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech. We are long since from the time when American presidents could render intelligent opinions about Shakespearean plays, and yet Shakespeare—much like the King James Bible written in Shakespeare’s language—still lives and breathes with us. His heroes and villains, his dramatic structures and his words, his myths and fables, are still our own.

Edwin Booth (brother to John Wilkes) was the finest Hamlet of his generation during the last half of the 19th century. In the 1930s John Barrymore (scion of two illustrious theatrical families), was the last great American Hamlet. After Barrymore’s time, the great vitality of American performative artistry—along with Shakespeare and the taste of American presidents—moved over to films and television. (more…)

José Martí

José Martí. (Credit:  Cuba. Secretaría de Instrucción Pública y Bellas Artes / Wikimedia Commons)

José Martí. (Credit: Cuba. Secretaría de Instrucción Pública y Bellas Artes / Wikimedia Commons)

It is fitting that these Cuban posts will end one day before the birthday (January 28, 1853) of José Martí. We have had occasion in the past to speak of him. But we have not told how on that day, as if following a silent and sacred call, Cuban school children would deposit notebooks, pencils, rulers and other school supplies at the foot of the monuments in honor of the Maestro. And all of them would have learned the rhymes from the Simple Verses:

When I die

without a country, but without a master over me,

I want on my gravestone a branch of flowers

and a flag.

For most of his life he was a banished wanderer. At 17 he was sentenced to political imprisonment with hard labor in the rock quarries of San Lázaro, in Havana. (more…)

New Democracy

View from Harney Peak, South Dakota. (Credit:  Navin75 / Wikimedia Commons)

View from Harney Peak, South Dakota. (Credit: Navin75 / Wikimedia Commons)

The New Democracy will be built like a medieval cathedral—step by step, brick by brick, with all and for the good of all. Foremost in the mind of the laborers will be Samuel Butler’s credo: “There is no way of making an aged art young again; it must be born anew and grow up from infancy as a new thing, working out its own salvation from effort to effort in all fear and trembling.”

As it is built, like in olden times when ships sailed to the seas buoyed by the chants of sailors, the song of Whitman will be heard among the workers:

I speak the password primeval … I give the sign of democracy;

By God! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their counter-

part on the same terms.

And Dickinson’s hieroglyphic mysteries will illuminate the stained glass windows. (more…)

Words of Empire

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: View of the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty. (Credit: National Park Service)

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: View of the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty. (Credit: National Park Service)

Blunt Words

Conquest, Control, Supremacy, Rule, Domination, Power, Hegemony

Definition: an extensive, often multinational territory under the economic, cultural, and/or military rule of a central authority.

The United States is an “empire in denial,” Nial Ferguson, Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire (New York: Penguin Books, 2004).

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, “We don’t seek empires. We’re not imperialistic. We never have been” (April 28, 2003). (more…)

Founding Mothers

Portrait of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz by Miguel Cabrea, 1750.

Portrait of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz by Miguel Cabrea, 1750.

Weary of the litany of yet another clownish politician invoking the Founding Fathers of the country without acknowledging Founding Mothers, I wrote down the following list of exceptional women who should be given no less credit for the formation of the soul and character of the nation.

The list parts from two premises: 1) following Mark Twain, the belief that political institutions are only a small part of the life of a country; and 2) that unless you are the goddess Athena, sprung motherless from Zeus’ brow, all human beings and activities can trace their origins back not only to fathers, but also mothers.

Borges once said that all lists immediately compel the memory of names and things that are left out of the list. He implied that the true purpose of lists is precisely to highlight the names of people and things that have been left out. In that spirit, and with no conviction of being complete or exclusive, the following personal minimal list is offered: (more…)

FOX Gets It

Fox News, is an American basic cable and satellite news television channel that is owned by the Fox Entertainment Group subsidiary of 21st Century Fox.  (Credit:  FOX News Channel / Wikimedia Commons)

Fox News, is an American basic cable and satellite news television channel that is owned by the Fox Entertainment Group subsidiary of 21st Century Fox. (Credit: FOX News Channel / Wikimedia Commons)

My nephew made a good point the other day when he asked, tongue in cheek, “Who would watch FOX if they didn’t constantly make it sound like the sky is falling?” I had been mocking the network’s cynical claim to render the news “fair and balanced.”

FOX’s motto is an affront to many of my political ilk. Embedding rightwing talking points into its “hard news” reporting is commonplace. Likewise, introducing a discussion of immigration policy with a Rush Limbaugh rant, conducting a rhetorical war on Obamacare with one-sided coverage and newsroom graphics such as “HEALTH CARE LAW INCLUDES 20 NEW OR INCREASED TAXES ON AMERICAN FAMILIES OR SMALL BUSINESSES,” or featuring former Reagan aide K T McFarland to discuss White House “excuses” for Benghazi—all of this is business as usual (Eric Wemple, “Fox News All Day: Hard and Conservative).

Bill O’Reilly, host of FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, knows the motto well. By his own account, he is “the fairest guy on the planet.” Mitt Romney knows that FOX News viewers are “true believers.” And nearly half the people in a 2011 poll (including 77% of the Republicans surveyed) believe FOX News is “fair and balanced.”

An academic colleague of mine vowed to watch FOX News only. I feared for his soul. A year later he was still sane and seemingly not possessed. (more…)