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…)
Once upon a time, true Christians walked upon the American continent, and their religion was for them a living principle and a source of joy. One thinks of the indefatigable work of Fray Bartolomé de las Casas in defense of the American Indian; the nightly dance rituals of American Shakers and their sober house furniture pieces—crafted so that angels could be received by saints. One witnessed how Martin Luther King guided an entire generation of civil rights leaders through the desert wasteland of mid-century America. (more…)
Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.
KJ, John 18:40
The Mozart of baseball journalists, an exquisite writer whom I have admired for decades, has shamed me into revealing—for whatever little it’s worth—my vote in the next presidential election. To read Roger Angell’s distinctive, lucid prose is like listening to the song of a water spirit in a fresh mountain stream. At the age of a youthful 96 years, Angell has taken to the pages of the New Yorker (his long-time home) to declare his vote for Hillary Clinton.
I once heard Ruben Berríos, leader of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, say that a US presidential election was always a choice between “Mr. Hamburger and Mr. Hot Dog.” The customary spectacle in our time of two unfortunate male clowns lunging for the presidential chair has been—to say the very least—disheartening. But there is a never-before-seen wrinkle in this year’s election: it is a choice between Mr. Hot Dog and a Woman. Hillary Clinton may yet turn out to be another fool in our endless parade of presidential clowns, but there is no doubt that Donald Trump will be a vulgar buffoon.
I have taken my responsibilities as a democratic voter seriously in this election. At the risk of my sanity, I have heard most of the primary debates, followed the news assiduously in print and social media, and have taken the time—seeking surcease of sorrow—to review the history, speeches and debates of the greatest of presidents, Abraham Lincoln. At the end of this self-imposed Way of the Cross, through which I sought revelation in penance, I make mine Roger Angell’s words: “I will cast my own vote for Hillary Clinton with alacrity and confidence.” And let me clarify: I am not voting for Clinton because I think Trump is a punk (although I do). Trump, to my mind, was the very best of the stable of presidential candidates Republicans offered US voters in the primaries; I will vote for Clinton because I trust (I do) that as president she will walk on paths that I think best for this great country. (more…)
Political discussions in the United States usually degenerate—sooner or later—into arguments about who is and who is not an American. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has pointed out: “the concept of being “un-American” is unique to the political culture and national identity of the United States.” Our tiresome, repeated claims of American exceptionalism are an outward expression of a deep insecurity—the product of a sense displacement created by the Stranger’s anxiety when confronted by a Strange land.
The Republican presidential primary campaigns have been rife with the politics of identity recently. Our fears and our confusion have been much in play. The US Constitution specifies that “No person except a natural born Citizen … shall be eligible to the Office of President” (Art. 2, Sec. 1). Since his election in 2008, the legitimacy of the presidency of Barack Obama has been questioned in conservative circles by accusations that he was born in Kenya, not in Hawaii. (more…)
I have not finished reading Stacy Schiff’s The Witches: Salem, 1692 (NY: Little, Brown & Co., 2015), but her recent opinion piece in the New York Times, entitled “Anger: An American History,” brought into clear relief the contemporary relevance of 17th century witches.
“Witches” is a chapter in our own Hunt the Devil. We locate it in a genealogy of the demonology of US war culture, followed by Indians, Dictators, and Reds—all of which are implicated in the rhetorical lineage of George W. Bush’s Evildoers.
Fear, as we suggested most recently in the post “Islamophobia,” can overwhelm commonsense and incite us to violence. It is not rhetorically unrelated to anger and hatred. Book II of Aristotle’s treatise on Rhetoric explores the emotional means of persuasion, that is, how emotions such as anger and fear affect our judgment when they are aroused in political discourse. (more…)
Hunt the Devil will take a brief break for the holiday season. We will return on January 5, 2016.
Oscar and I are grateful for our readers. We wish you a happy holiday.
Over the last twenty-two months, we have written nearly 180 posts based on our book, Hunt the Devil (published in 2015 by the University of Alabama Press) and building toward a sequel to Hunt the Devil, the working title of which is After Empire.
So far, three articles for academic journals on the After-Empire project have emerged from the blog. Two already are in print: (more…)
Brian Amsden, who teaches at Clayton State University, produces podcasts about once a month answering—one story at a time—the question of how we humans come to believe the impossible things we believe. His show is called Rhetorical Questions.
The most recent episode, Episode 7, is Brian interviewing me about Hunt the Devil: A Demonology of US War Culture. Brian asks great questions and makes excellent observations throughout the interview. (more…)
Hunt the Devil: A Demonology of US War Culture is now available for purchase, and our publisher — University of Alabama Press — has provided us the opportunity to offer our book to our readers at a 30% discount through October 31, 2015!
Simply order the Hunt the Devil: A Demonology of US War Culture directly from University of Alabama Press using a special discount code, and you can get this “timely and illuminating exploration of demonic imagery in US war culture” for just $35.00 USD.
Five copies of the book, thanks to Atticus (see previous post), arrive. I open one copy to make sure they have the dedication right before showing it to my wife, Margarita. I leaf through the pages and am glad to recognize the names of old friends always with me: Shaw and O’Neill, Las Casas and José Martí.
As always close to Father´s Day I think of my father, of his time in Vietnam, and wish he were here to see this. I remember the lines by Martí through which I always evoke his memory:
When I was honored
by the generous land
I did not think of Blanca, or Rosa,
or of the greatness of the gift.
I thought of the poor artillery man
who lies silent in his grave.
I thought of my father, the soldier;
I thought of my father, the worker.
What do you do when you’ve written a book you love with a dear friend and you are waiting for copies to arrive in the mail as proof of the book’s existence in the material world and they do not get here?
Your co-author has received his copies and he smugly tells you over the phone how nice the volume looks and how well it reads and how it is great that the record of the hunt for the devil we set out to trap years ago has now seen the light of day.
First, you possess your soul in patience, remembering that it is a virtue.
That does not last long.
Soon you find yourself in a foul mood and you wonder why, and you tell yourself, after you have checked the front gate again, that if the damn books would get here everything would be fine. Then you see, as if the devil were taunting you (not) for the last time, the Fed Ex truck about a block away, driving away from your house, and your impulse is to run after it and yell at the incompetent driving the truck that he has missed delivering a package. The truck soon disappears and leaves you desolate, abandoned and ignored. You couldn’t even catch the stupid truck.
Then you spend some time cussing Phoenix (never Arizona) and its delivery and mail services. (more…)