Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Voices of Vituperation.

Enough Already!

I am really, really tired of all the hate-mongering and vile language out there about President Obama. 

The election is over.  Live with it!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Romney's Political Triumvirate

If Romney wins the election, we will have lost more than a year of sane and civilized dinner table conversations.  We will lose our souls.
 I say this because the election will have been bought.  Sheldon Adelson has spent more than all the corporations and super pacs combined and a lot of it was spent in Israel to get the vote of 164,000 American Jews living there. Mr. Adelson is spreading the word – not just for a Romney presidency, but for Netanyahu to get another go as Prime Minister of Israel  in January, 2013.

By producing a daily newspaper called Israel Hayom (Israel Today) and handing it out to readers for free with advertisers getting a substantial discount, Adelson has essentially closed down the Israeli free press. Traditional papers such as Maariv and Haaretz may have to sell to the highest bidder because they cannot compete. Adelson, as you may recall, is the Las Vegas casino magnate who at first supported Newt Gingrich and is now Romney’s benefactor, advisor and big daddy.
What he is hoping to accomplish is to ensure the election goes to Romney with help from the ex-patriot vote in Israel.  As a result, he will have a grateful Romney, control of Netanyahu after the Israeli election, ending in an all but certain war in Iran.  Romney and Netanyahu have been friends for thirty five years and most of Romney’s foreign affairs advisors are former Bush advisors.  Think Iraq.    

And, don’t forget what will happen here in the U. S.  With Romney as president, we will likely have no more balance of powers. The Republicans will control not just the presidency, but the House and soon (with the kind of money machine the Republican Party has no qualms using) they will also control the Senate, and the Supreme Court.  There are two imminent positions to be filled on the Court and you can be certain they will be filled with over the top conservatives.  Does the name, Bolten ring a bell?
There are abundant reasonable American Jews in Israel and there are Israelis who are far more moderate who believe Adelson’s influence in Israel is wrong.  On the other hand, there are people like Barry Rubin and Arlene Kushner, whose anti-Obama vitriol is in perfect harmony with a bellicose prime minister. With Netanyahu’s re-election, and a Romney victory in the U. S., we will have a triumvirate of power -- Adelson, Netanyahu and Romney.   

I can’t make these corporations, super pacs and multi-billionaires refrain from buying our leaders.  All I can do is draw attention to their purpose.

And, I just have.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Confluence of Conspiracy (Theories)

First, we hear that President Obama is not a U.S. citizen; a conspiracy perpetrated on American citizens, and a theory whose greatest proponent is the intrepid Donald Trump. Mr. Trump, it seems, can’t help periodically roiling the conspiracy waters of the extreme right, even though the President has produced his birth certificate more than once, proving he was born in Hawaii (part of the United States, folks).   

Then we are told that he is a closet Muslim secretly planning on converting our democracy to Sharia,  the strict set of laws set forth by Muhammad and subverting all that we Americans hold dear. Of course the fact that he has been a Christian all his life, even attending the notorious Pastor Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity Church of Christ (“Christ” should be a dead giveaway that he’s Muslim) was also a conspiracy and likewise under suspicion.

Next, we’re told Obama’s social security number is a fraud. I learned this from a fantastic website @ 

The attack on the U. S. Counsulate in Benghazy Lybia was the result of a planned terrorist attack and not caused by the anti-Muslim movie, made from a small studio in Hollywood. Of course we KNOW that now, but no one knew for certain why the attacks occurred at first and rather than blame elements of the Libyan revolution, Susan Rice cautioned against jumping to conclusions on all the Sunday morning talk shows.  This was interpreted as a conspiracy to withhold information from the American public, thus placing blame on the administration for being TOO careful, TOO cautious and TOO conspiratorial.

Now, the conspiracy theorists believe that the jobs report figures, released on Friday by the Department of Labor (which at 7.8 were mildly better than they’ve been in the last few years) were “manipulated” by the WH one month before the election in order to squelch those on the right whose main political mantra has been the President has not been able to bring the economy back. The major proponent of this particular theory is the owlie Jack Welch, former CEO of GE (which used to own NBC) who tweeted the day after our first presidential debate the following:

 "Unbelievable jobs numbers ... these Chicago guys will do anything ... can't debate so change numbers." 

All of these conspiracy theories point to the same thing: hatred.  It doesn’t matter what Obama does or does not do – he is somehow illegitimate.  And why is he illegitimate?  It pains me to say this, but he's black, he had a father from Kenya, he's not a red-neck good ol' boy, he's professorial, he's different.  And being different is a reason for suspicion.

Don’t let hatred take over our country.  We are bigger than this.        

Thursday, October 4, 2012

John Sununu's Remarks

anengaging speaker
I'm offended by John Sununu's remarks today on one of the cable TV news programs with Andrea Mitchell.

In the presidential debate last night, the president seemed to be distracted. He has always been an effective speaker and in command when behind the podium. But last night, it was Mitt Romney who came out fighting from the beginning, not Barack Obama.  Mr. Romney was a new version of himself, confident and assertive and articulate.  The role reversals were mind boggling.  It was an unexpected disappointment for me and my family as we were certain Obama would flay Romney. For whatever reason, he simply did not deliver. However, to hear John Sununu’s words today on Andrea Mitchell’s cable TV program was offensive and sad.

 “What people saw last night, I think, was a president that revealed his incompetence, how lazy and detached he is, how he has absolutely no idea how serious the economic problems of the country are, and how he has failed to even begin to address them” 

Really? Lazy?  No matter how much Republicans disagree with the President, no one, I think, would call him lazy.  Later in this same interview, Sununu says:

 “On the other hand, Mitt Romney came in with a lot of specifics, a lot of very sharp knowledge of issues not only with the Obama version of bumper sticker numbers, but the governor showed that he understands policy and he understands how to make policy into law, talking about what he did in Massachusetts.” 

This was laughable!  Everyone knows that Romney not only stretches the truth but denies his own previous statements as fabrications.  There are sufficient analyses out there to support this supposition without my having to quote fact checkers - Democratic OR Republican. So I won't.  

On top of this, I recently read a column by George Will, which went far beyond what he – a normally articulate though dour ultra-conservative journalist with the NYT -- has said in the past.  In a column for the Washington Post on October 1, he wrote the following: 

“Perhaps a pleasant paradox defines this political season: That Obama is African American may be important, but in a way quite unlike that darkly suggested by, for example, MSNBC’s excitable boys and girls who, with their (at most) one-track minds and exquisitely sensitive olfactory receptors, sniff racism in any criticism of their pin-up. Instead, the nation, which is generally reluctant to declare a president a failure — thereby admitting that it made a mistake in choosing him — seems especially reluctant to give up on the first African American president. If so, the 2012 election speaks well of the nation’s heart, if not its head.”

Give me a break, Mr. Will.  I submit that there is an undercurrent of racism in this election in spite of “MSNBC’s excitable boys and girls” you so easily dismiss with their “(at most) one-track minds…”  It is not a paradox requiring any special apparatus to smell it.  And, pardon me, but President Obama’s administration is not, as you say four paragraphs back in your piece,  “. . .in shambles. . .”

This kind of journalism is not what this country needs right now.  I had given Mr. Will far too much credit for being "reasonable." And the kind of slander that erupts from the mouths of the radical right like Sununu is unconscionable and unforgivable.

I wonder, does Mr. Sununu represent the views of the recently glorified and “forked tongued” dragon slayer, Mr. Romney?  

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ahmadinijad's Last Visit to the UN

The president of Iran has been interviewed ad infinitum by almost every major electronic news source out there – most recently, today on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS on CNN.  
He’s a bit contentious, and circular in his answers.   He seems to enjoy putting his interviewers down while smiling wisely and condescendingly, as the interpreter drones on. But make no mistake: this man is a rational being with a weakness, I think, for the Big Apple.

In his interview with Fareed, he discussed the fact that while in New York, he spent most of his time riding from the UN building to his hotel and back again and even apologized for inconveniencing the people of NYC for having to wait as his motorcade passed by.  Charming.
Perhaps he felt magnanimous, riding on a phantom wave from a “news” story out of FARS this past week, (the “official” news source of Iran), which quoted verbatim a spoof from The Onion, that President Ahmadinijad was preferred over President Obama by a large segment of our southern population in a recent poll. The almost entirely plagiarized piece quoted a make believe West Virginian as saying, “he (Ahmadinijad)  takes national defense seriously and he’d never let some gay protesters tell him how to run his country like Obama does.”  
FARS has since apologized for falling for satirical piece in The Onion and publishing it.
Ahmadinijad knows he is virtually a “lame duck” with Iranian elections coming along in 2013 and the mullahs back home issuing mysterious comments that iran will be moving to a more moderate regime soon.
I’m happy he had all the attention he craves here in the States.  But since the demographics in Iran run toward a youthful, more educated  and sophisticated population, I don’t think we’ll see the likes of him again. 
I can dream, can’t I?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Romney Sinks to New Lows

My deepest condolences to the families of the four foreign service agents including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and those attached to the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi (Lybia).  It is a tragic day for America here and across the world. 

Even more tragic is the immediate reaction of Mitt Romney, who jumped on the situation to excoriate our current President, the Secretary of State and the Ambassador to Egypt in Cairo for issuing statements of apology for the hugely tasteless and insulting anti-Muslim movie apparently causing the riotous infiltration of the Consulate in the first place.

I just watched an interview with former (George H. W. Bush) Ambassador Nick Burns who says to inject politics at a moment like this is not only thoughtless, but embarrassing and unconscionable.  I say it is traitorous!

Romney deserves the condemnation he is apparently receiving here and abroad.  I do not want this man representing me.  Can a candidate for president be impeached?    

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Israel's Biggest Threat

Whenever Benjamin Netanyahu opens his mouth, the world comes a little closer to nuclear war, beginning with the forces or Israel against Iran, followed without much doubt by the U.S., the players in the Middle East, possibly Russia and even China -- who knows? A global conflict could occur because of the threats of one confused and dangerous egomaniac whose Israeli political counterparts are mostly opposed to a strike against Iran; these are not just the American Jews, I mean Israelis.
And who are they?

A piece in Reuters today by Matt Spetalnick and Allyn Fisher-Ilan quoted the single most important supporter of Netanyahu’s bellicose rhetoric, Ehud Barack saying the following:

"Despite the differences and importance of maintaining Israel's independence of action, we must remember the importance of partnership with the United States and try as much as possible not to hurt that," a statement from his office said. Do I hear an adult voice in the room? Perhaps this attack of reason upon Mr. Barack is a clear indication of the Israeli political climate.

Additionally, Bradley Burston’s piece in the Israeli Haaretz today makes it clearer:

“If immediate red lines are in order, Benjamin Netanyahu would be well advised to set them for himself, and the malice and abuse and disrespect he has heaped on the president. If deadlines are in order, he might consider his upcoming U.S. visit - and the White House rejection of a meeting with Obama - as an opportune moment to shut down entirely the verbal centrifuges he has set spinning in attacks on the president, the secretary of state, and other administration officials.”

Netanyahu should stay out of American politics. Of course he wants Romney to win the election because Romney would blindly follow him into war with Iran. I wonder – has anyone considered what might happen the day after an attack on Iran by Israel even with U.S. backing?

Haven’t we been in enough wars, incursions, police actions without having thought of the way to extricate ourselves?

The answer is Afghanistan.

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Truth Tsar

I’ve told my share of lies, more when I was a child than now. But when I did,  it became increasingly offensive to me, like an odor about myself, just as embarrassing to me, as it would be to anyone around me. I don't tell lies today, well, maybe an occassional fib now and then.  But the problem is that I’m not the only one who does it. Lying is almost common these days. It’s a stink in our society that is as prevalent today as honor and truth-telling were to our ancestors.

I do try to be truthful (I promise), in my blog, in my conversations, in my correspondence; even in my fiction, I try to write from the heart as my Freshman English instructor suggested all those years ago.

But if you think about it honestly you’ll realize we are surrounded by lies on a regular basis: lies, exaggerations, untruths. It makes me wonder: is it an attribute of human nature or is it merely a very bad habit that we’ve allowed ourselves to sink into and don’t really think much about it anymore?

I used to think that people lied because of money. After all, many lies are for money: the scams across the Internet are manipulating the elderly and the unaware for money. Preparing our annual tax returns, 75% of the population will try to use tax dodges, any scheme at all in order not to pay their fair share.

Commercials are filled with lies – why? To sell more product.

What about the law? Lies, lies and more lies, not just by witnesses, but by attorneys in order to win their cases (and their fee). The Law is filled with tricks which allow the guilty to go free (most recently the story of the ill-fitting glove and O. J. Simpson).

Job applications – are we always perfectly honest about our attributes or do we exaggerate our experience in the work force, our education, sometimes even lying about our age and birth circumstances, just to get a job?

The Press (both electronic media and print) - how they’ve been allowed to make lying a legitimate exercise and create the news that is not news, or de-emphasize reals news so that it can be found as an after-thought on TV or on page D9 in the newspapers. This is our fourth estate – we own the air-ways and yet we allow one or two major conglomorates control our media as though we lived in a third world country. Money is the cause of this as well. Powerful interests depend on prominent spots on tv and in print. I don't want to imply there are not great and fearless journalists out there -- there are.  I'm just saying, there is a trend to manipulate the  news to one's own advantage.

Politics - may be the greatest arena for lying and here is where my earlier theory flounders. Politics is rampant with lies. But many politicians are rich, filthy rich, even. So why do they lie?

In politics, it’s not just money, it’s power. But money is power, is it not? In the case of the rich guys in politics, it must be different; they’re not seeking money because they’ve already got lots of it. They’re seeking power, but if they have money, they already have a certain amount of power. Whatever it is they are seeking, they will lie to get it.

Lying has become acceptable. Just as lack of responsibility has become a way of life. If you do harm to someone, a public apology (usually only after the harm is discovered) is all it takes to be forgiven. What happened to responsibility? Retribution? Atonement? They are unnecessary because the liar has already been forgiven as the result of a wimpy statement of apology which in my opinion, is meaningless. A public apology in this world is merely a way to get back in the game after a suspension.

I don’t know what the remedy is. Maybe what we need is a “Truth Tsar.” (I've become my own) -- someone to take the place of all the fact-checkers out there that only check the facts for their chosen party, thus allowing only the "facts" that suit them.  .

Monday, September 3, 2012

The In-Elegant Campaign

Pants on Fire!

Well, I have to take back some of the nice things I said about Ryan.

His speech during the Republican Convention on Wednesday, was filled with so much hyperbole – not only over his marathon, but about the timing of the GM closure (it took place during the Bush administration, not Obama’s). He claims Obama cut Medicare by over $700 bln when, as I understand it, the Obama Health Care Program doesn’t actually “cut” funds, but reduces growth in an effort to keep the Program solvent. And, though he failed to mention it, his own budget plan appears to use the same method of savings.

That wasn’t the only lie, there were others. Why tell the truth when no one seems to care whether you lie or not? Everyone knows Obama didn’t strike the work requirement to Welfare assistance, but the Republican campaign persists in this flagrant un-truth with no embarrassment or apology. Why be bothered with the facts? A certain Republican pollster boldly declared the campaign is not going to be concerned about fact-checkers anyway.

So much for my ignorant assumptions. I still like to think there should be an outrage to these continuous miss-statements of fact, but people just sit back, shake their heads and say, “that’s politics!”

It should not be, though. We’ve become inured to the lie and to those who perpetuate it. And that’s the fault of the electorate. By our inaction, we not only allow it, we encourage it.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The In-Elegant Campaign

Pants on Fire!

I am neither a Democrat nor Republican. But, you know, I don’t like Romney. He’s not just evasive, he’s either lying or instructing those whose job it is to represent his ideas, to lie. I’d one-hundred times rather have Ron Paul as the Republican nominee than Mr. Romney.

Ron Paul, for all his fustiness, is a “straight from the shoulders” kind of guy. If you don’t like what he says, “lump-it!” Remember back during some of the Republican Primary debates. Ron Paul said Obama was doing as good as anyone could do during the crises in Libya, Syria and Egypt? He even said that President Kennedy was masterful in his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis way back in the early sixties.


Who of the Republican Party today has the courage to say these kinds of things to their own constituents? Paul is my kind of politician. I wish there were others I could include here, but sadly . . .

Well, yes, there is another Paul, a Mr. Paul Ryan, who has recently appeared on the scene. Unfortunately, Mr. Ryan has allowed his ideals, energy and zeal in the House to become twisted into a chinese pretzel in order to please the devious Romney campaign.  He’s the one with the ideas and the guts to present them in Congress.  He’s the one with the budget plan, remember, the one who is on record as having voted for perhaps unpopular bills during his tenure and as a result is taking his knocks for those votes.  Romney, on the other hand, lurks in the shadows, ducking those pesky reporters, refusing to answer direct questions, wearing the same stoney non-smile, and leaving his henchmen to attack reporters with statements like, “. . . this is a holy place to the Polish people. . .” you ass-holes. My, my.

But back to Ryan. Why in the world has he hitched his wagon to Romney in the first place? In a few short years he would have been able to run on his own and not be tied to the babbling, in-articulate pablum we hear from the campaign. What, really, have they said?  What positions have they taken? What policy do they want to enforce?  The answer is, first beat Obama and then we’ll let you know. Is this the kind of paternalistic presidency we want for our nation?  "Don't ask questions, just do as I say?"

Ryan has made a huge mistake in his career I think.  He should have stayed out of this race;  he should have continued to do the work in Congress he was doing representing his own (albeit ultra-conservative) agenda.  His budget plan may not be a viable one, but it sure as heck was more viable before it was massaged by the campaign.  I certainly don't agree with him on women's issues.  But, like Ron Paul, he is talking about issues, and not just voicing vague and fluffy platitudes. He has presented his ideas to the House for everyone to see and critisize. He has done more than just obstruct.  I really hate to see him tied to Romney -- no matter how great his appearance at the convention may be.  I had thought he was his own man and now, his belongs to Romney, the elusive shadow behind the curtain.  

Don’t you see what’s wrong with us as a nation? No one wants to put himself on the line, because he may lose his seat by doing so. Ryan had guts. I admire him for doing something and sticking with it. I admire him for taking chances, like Ron Paul, and letting the mop flop where it may.

I do not admire Romney whose bid for the Presidency out-weighs any sense of honor or duty not to (not only) pander to the people, but to allow himself to continue with the lies. Lies that everyone knows are lies such as Obama’s willingness to “gut the welfare program” – this one, ad infinitum

I can’t wait for Ryan to defect. And if he does, remember: this is where you heard it first! And if he does, maybe someone will have the good sense to draft my guy. Tampa still lies ahead. Why not dream big?  

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fareed Zakaria

Fareed Zakaria has been caught in an episode of plagiarism.  I am very saddened by this story and disappointed beyond words. Still, I hope that he is reinstated and allowed to continue his posts as Editor-at-Large for Time Magazine and host to GPS, a regular Sunday morning international news show on CNN.  


I believe that apologies in a situation such as this, are meaningless,  because they occur only when one is caught; his apology is based in fear of losing what must have taken years to establish:  his professional credentials.  Being fired,  even temporarily, is not only embarrassing, but creatively and financially devastating.  Still it was the right thing to do, as I'm sure Fareed will agree.

The suspension is not just necessary but crucial,  because plagiarism should be anathema to any journalist of his stature with the academic background he posseses (a Phd from Harvard plus a long-standing academic association with Yale University).  But, I will miss the weekly international round-up of difficult to reach guests that few TV personalities are able to gather around them for in-depth conversations. There is no where else that you can get the kind of global coverage we see every week on GPS (except, of course, the incomparable Charlie Rose at his table on PBS).  For that reason, I am saddened.  I agree with the suspension, but I still feel he is the best on the air and will hope that CNN reinstates him in the next month or so, as TIME promises to do.

Perhaps, this is what comes from success, competition and deadlines.  But success is, as we all know, fleeting. Perhaps this is an opportunity for you, Fareed, to re-boot and re-think what you've achieved.  Be ambitious.  Be competitive.  But be also vigilant.  I am an admirer and this is my advice.   

Monday, August 6, 2012

Where are the Leaders?

  Re: Sikh Temple Killings in Wisconsin:
“Michelle and I were deeply saddened to learn of the shooting that tragically took so many lives in Wisconsin. At this difficult time, the people of Oak Creek must know that the American people have them in our thoughts and prayers, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded.”

-President Barack Obama, Sunday August 5, 2012

“Our hearts are with the victims, their families and the entire Oak Creek Sikh community. We join Americans everywhere in mourning those who lost their lives and in prayer for healing in the difficult days ahead.”

-Presidential hopeful and former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, Sunday, August 5, 2012.

Yes.  Of course.  My deepest sympathies go out to the victims, the friends and families of the victims, as well. 

But, what else Mr. President? What else, Governor Romney?

Would either of you like to make a statement about how we've all had enough?  Enough gun violence, enough intolerance. There was a 9mm semi-automatic handgun used in this shooting, legally purchased according to news sources.

You are two very powerful men, but you are afraid to make a statement that could change the laws of the land and saves innocent lives.

We don’t need this kind of leadership. We need someone who’s not afraid to stand up and speak to the American people, someone who has the guts to “lead.”  No more pandering to the gun lobby. No more passing the buck.

Where are the leaders?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mass Murder in Colorado

(My deepest sympathy to the survivors of this tragedy and the families of all the victims.  This post is directed to the rest of us, who if we can organize and form a citizens' group of sorts, might prevent another such incident).

Nevertheless, here we are again! And do you think that after another massacre caused by lax gun laws and ammo purchased through the Internet, there will be any reform on gun control?

Not unless we act. The gun lobby is now the “sugar daddy” of the U.S. Congress, supplying them with perks and supporting campaigns for re-election. We therefore pay (with our taxes) for a weak, flaccid congress which is terrified of the gun lobby,  doesn't  make waves and continues to allow mayhem across the nation dating back at least as far as the Columbine massacre thirteen years ago.

President Clinton signed a Federal Assault Weapon ban in 1994 which was allowed to expire in 2004 under the Bush administration. As a result, every weapon purchased by this confused young man,  who has admitted to perpetrating the murders at the movie theatre in Aurora, CO on July 20, and every round of ammo in his possession, was apparently legal and purchased over a period of several months from gun stores and the Internet.

Do we never learn? Why do we need semi-automatic rifle fire and high capacity gun clips which most gaming authorities do not allow?  We obviously don't need them to hunt or to protect our homes.  Let’s think about this a moment:

Have you read the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?

                            Text of Amendment:
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

The Second Amendment, the bible of the powerful NRA, states that we have a right to bear arms to protect our country. That’s about it. Everything else is open for interpretation.  “. . .a well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state…”  meaning that we can go to war as a citizen soldier  in order to protect our homes and our land. That’s my interpretation of it.

But, we no longer have a militia; we have a standing army.  So in literal terms, we don't have to take up arms to defend ourselves  -- at least not from foreign marauders.  The Court's interpretation in 2008 (DC vs Heller) held that the Second Amendment protected an individual's right to possess a firearm without any connection to a militia and to use that firearm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as protecting hearth and home.  I can live with that.

What it does not do is allow us personal ownership of the types of weapons now available, the likes of which were never remotely imagined when the second amendment was conceived.  It does not grant us the right to take down an eager young audience waiting for a much publicized fantasy thriller nor does it give us the right to shoot an unarmed teenager coming home from a visit with his girlfriend in Florida, nor does it say that we can blow away a U.S. Congresswoman almost killing her simply because she made herself publicly available to constituents in a Safeway parking lot.

And here, I must refute the most profoundly stupid statement I've ever heard, recently  made by one U.S. Congressman who speculates that had there been more people from the audience armed that night, there might have been fewer deaths.  Seriously?  With the type of protective gear this guy was wearing covering him from head to toe?   Can you imagine the scene had some of the audience been armed? -- in a panic and shooting randomely in the dark, hitting not the perpetrator but -- each other?  Please!

Movies are a part of Americana and we should not stop going to movies. We should not be held hostage to fear.   And as some have maintained, we must keep in sight the miracle that more were not killed.  I agree.  But when will it stop? Where can we be safe from gun-toting mal-contents and screwed up grad students?  Increasingly, we're allowing guns to rules our lives.
To quote myself from my blog regarding the Tucson shooting in January of 2011:

"We not only encourage incivility on the cable news shows, we reward networks who air blood-curdling TV dramas and movies of such considerable violence, that even I, a grown woman, have to walk out of the theatre in disgust and nausea. Guns are wielded on every channel -- try flicking across the networks one evening during prime time and you will witness a gun -- being discharged against someone or being used as a threat against someone -- guns on TV are as common as tasteless advertisements."

I don't condone doing away with guns but I propose regulating the ownership and use of them.  Ask the incredibly effective Aurora Police Department, whose performance early Friday morning was flawless.  Ask their Chief, the no nonsense Dan Oates, whether he thinks the current gun laws are reasonable.  Ask any active police officer. 

It is long past time to act. We need to do something about the loose gun laws, before another preventable incident such as this takes place. Think people! Neither the Congress nor the NRA owns us. We can fire Congress and replace them with real patriots who will do the will of the people. We are the people. Let us do something.

Please see my blog of January, 2011 regarding the shootings at Tucson, AZ:

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Supreme Court Ruling

When the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold the “Affordable Care Act” last Thursday, I was, to say the least, taken by surprise. This court has the reputation of being the most conservative since WWII and I, along with many others, was shocked. I think we were prepared for a 5-4 decision in the other direction, with (Chief) Justice Roberts leading the dissent.

Justice Roberts, however, is a very smart man. He is only 57 years old which is between 20 and 30 years younger than most of his colleagues. He knows he will likely have another 30 years to serve barring unforeseen illnesses or any of those unpredictable life situations we all face. He also understands the reputation the Court has incurred with its 2000 Bush v. Gore ruling along with the infamous Citizens United decision in January, 2011. To add one more flagrant partisan ruling to his legacy would not only jeopardize his reputation as Chief Justice, but would hinder progress to further the Court’s conservative agenda. By voting with the liberals, he has provided us with the judicial restraint he promised during his own confirmation hearings.

That he confounded the dissenting judges is evident and uplifting. The scoop is that  Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito were not only surprised but miffed that their leader could defect.  It is said that Justice Kennedy, who has created his own list of surprise rulings, tried for a full month to convince Justice Roberts to re-join the conservatives, to no avail.  I maintain that rulings by any of them should not become predictable. That is why I’ve so admired Justice Kennedy who seemed to be the lone maverick on the Court until now.

Whether the mandate is a tax or a penalty and whether it is an action or non-action that Congress has or has not any authority over through Commerce, I simply don't know.  And since the ruling, it appears that these concepts have been revised and re-revised. 

However, even more significant to me in his individual opinion, was Justice Roberts' statement that “. . . the Court does not express any opinion on the wisdom of the Affordable Care Act. Under the Constitution, that judgment is reserved to the people.”  Doesn’t this point to limited authority by the Courts, whose judges are appointed -- , not elected as is the President and the Congress? (And for a term of life!)  I like this man.

Perhaps I can live with the idea of Justice Roberts leading this court for the next 30 years, after all. I would prefer term limits for all three branches of the government, but in the meantime, we appear to have a Chief Justice with a streak of stubbornness and an extremely savvy political  awareness.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Dynamic Quality in Faulkner's Fiction

This is an essay from my collection, "The Moving Finger Writes," soon to be published.  I decided to post this particular essay from the collection because of my deep appreciation for Faulkner's writing and because I was prompted by an extraordinary interview (from the 1940's) on Ray Harvey's blog, The Journal Pulp:  on June 17, 2012.

In December 1950, William Faulkner traveled to Europe with his daughter, Jill, to accept the 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature. In his acceptance speech, he revealed an optimism for mankind which surprised many of his critics and readers alike, "I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance" (qtd. in Blotner 2: 1366). The speech provoked mixed reactions back home, as some believed Faulkner's life work had attested to the eternal despair, anguish, and defeat of mankind. Yet many of his most sympathetic characters had endured, characters such as Dilsey and the other blacks who lived on the great white plantations of the South. Many of them were defeated like Joe Christmas, who, perhaps, remains Faulkner's greatest tragic hero. And still others, like Caddy and the Brundens, exhibited a life force that is suggested in Faulkner's remark in the Stockholm address. These fictional people became his most powerful and memorable characters, and exist for us because of their inherent need to act. They had a need to taste the unknown and a passion for experi¬encing change if not, indeed, affecting it. These are the characters we will examine in this study, to reveal their motivations and to relate those qualities of dynamism to Faulkner's own belief that life is motion and to be motionless is to be dead (Adams, 4).

Faulkner's own life exemplified this quality of dynamism; he wrote constantly but remained steadfast in the face of critical review directed towards his work. Yet the bulk of scholarship has little to do with the subject of this paper. Most of the early criticism was directed toward Faulkner's Southern tradition, and negative reviews were written about his treatment of the Negro in his novels. Later, a more technically oriented group of critics directed their attention to his use of time and counterpoint, which is the juxtaposition of one seemingly unrelated story with another, and his points of view, especially in The Sound and the Fury, a nearly flawless example of the stream of consciousness novel. With the publication of Sanctuary in 1931, came a wave of criticism directed towards sensationalism, and literary cries against Faulkner's use of violence and cruelty briefly became the norm. Since there is an abundance of symbolism in Faulkner's writing, many reviews were concerned with his use of both mythical and Christian allusions, and still later, with the publication of Go Down, Moses, in 1942, his works were reviewed and analyzed for his theme of the ultimate destruction of the wilderness and his devotion to the land. After his death in the 1960's and during the 1970's, Faulkner was attacked by women's groups for his treatment of women. Thus, considering the enor¬mous body of scholarship covering so many aspects of his works, relatively few works address themselves to the issue of dynamism in Faulkner's characters.

The few exceptions are Richard P. Adams' Faulkner: Myth and Motion, which is a thorough study of Faulkner's use of mythology and his allusions to Christ's passion and to Christianity. The other half of Adams' dual¬istic approach to Faulkner lies in his suggestion that stasis, in one aspect or another, appears in Faulkner's fictional characters as failure. Michael Millgate has touched on the subject of motion in Faulkner, in his The Achievement of William Faulkner, and Judith Wittenberg's Faulkner: The Transfiguration of Biography attempts to compare qualities found in Faulkner's most sympathetic characters to those which he most admired in his own experience. Another study by Karl E. Zink called "Flux and the Frozen Moment: The Imagery of Stasis in Faulkner's Prose," (PMLA, LXXI, June, 1956, pp. 285-301), discusses the imagery of stasis in some of Faulkner's works, suggesting primarily, that the "tableau vivant," as an image of stasis, is a means of dramatizing or heightening the signifi¬cance of an event. Though Adams' study remains the most definitive of the four, his concept that motion is implicit in Faulkner's work allows him to discuss elements of theme, structure, texture and moral as parts of a whole, highlighting, as he does, the attributes of major characters which tend to categorize them either as successes or failures. If a major character is defeated in one way or another in Faulkner’s prose, Adams argues that he demonstrates stasis. It is with Adam’s assessment of the characters that I disagree most, rather than with his overall in¬terpretation of the works.

In Flags in the Dust, a complete and uncut version of the novel Sartoris, published in 1929, the first of Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County books, Adams has placed young Bayard Sartoris, the protagonist, in the same passive-static category as Horace Benbow. He has credited Narcissa, Horace's sister with the only elements of dynamism in the book with the exception of the vivid descriptions of nature and growth of vegetation in the countryside. It is true that Narcissa is antithetical in every way to the explosive Bayard; she is superficial and self-oriented. Even her name suggests self-love and a preoccupation with her own goodness. Bayard, on the other hand, seems to embody the principles Faulkner most admired: passion and a willingness to strive. It is the struggle, which is crucial to Faulkner's concept of a life fully lived. Bayard is the embodiment of this concept. He is as raw and eruptive as the changing dynamic earth rhapsodized during the intra-acts of prose in Faulkner's Requiem for a Nun. He is filled with forces which plunge him headlong into situations earning him the reputation of recklessness. He is reckless, but he has no death wish. We see the unpredictable and uncon¬trollable passions of Bayard as part of the motion which tends to sweep away the static obstacles in its path; they are juxtaposed with moments of calm, in which Bayard searches for comprehension and meaning. It is the struggle which redeems Bayard. The vigor with which he pursues everything in life is an enactment of the life principle, for the over whelming result is force. Even in his haphazard trysts with death, he actually seeks life through action, because he can not remain still.

That Bayard refuses to get caught up in the glamorous and out¬rageous escapades of his colorful ancestors, increasingly romanticized by Aunt Jenny during long evenings sipping toddies in the parlor, is, perhaps, the strongest evidence in favor of his dynamism. He refuses to go backward. He must always move forward. Yet he can not seem to purge himself of the complexities of guilt he feels over his twin brother's death. This is evident when, just after arriving home from the war, he tramps up the steps to the front porch where old Bayard waits for him, and blurts, "I tried to keep him from going up in that ... little popgun " (44).

He drinks heavily in order to obscure the fact that he has survived in John's place. It is not that Bayard does not think highly of himself. On the contrary, he races around the countryside in his Roadster, seen as the symbol of his death wish to some critics, and places himself in similar physically challenging situations, not in order to be killed, or even to risk being killed, but to prove that he and he alone is in control. He wants to live, but he wants to live on his own terms. Nonethless, he is not always on the offensive. His moments of impetuosity are contrasted with moments of civility and tenderness: with Simon, whom he has frightened badly by driving too fast, and when, in order to avoid a frightened child in his path, he chooses to be thrown from the wild horse he has ridden through the town streets. He has a lusty sense of humor, but exhibits a seem¬ingly uncharacteristic romantic bent when he insists he and his drunken cohorts serenade the chilly Narcissa in the middle of the night.

There are moments in Bayard's story when he seems actually to have recaptured that elusive feeling of peace--at least one of contentment. Badly hurt with broken ribs after one of his car accidents, Narcissa has decided to sit with him to keep him company during the long summer after¬noons, "' You won't drive that car fast again?' she asked... 'You'll break your ribs again.' 'Yes,' he agreed stroking her hair awkwardly...and he lay with his chest full of hot needles, stroking her dark head with his hard, awkward hand " (282). And certainly, his summer involve¬ment with the arduous routine of the farm proves that Bayard was, at times, in harmony with the world and with the life principle symbolized by his interaction with the land,

For a time, the earth held him in a smoldering hiatus that might have been called contentment. He was up at sunrise, planting things in the ground and watching them grow and tending them... and (he) came in at mealtimes and at night smelling of machine oil and of stables and of the earth and went to bed with grateful muscles and with the sober rhythms of the earth in his body, and so to sleep...(228-229)

The peace he seeks continues to elude him, however. His excessive energy cannot be channeled into purposeful action; it is diffused and wasted. He becomes peripatetic, searching here and there for that which he will never find. Perhaps he understands this and ultimately decides to end his life. It is much more likely and more characteristic for us to believe that the thrill of the unknown and the challenge to his pride led him to agree to test the newly designed plane. In any case, he never returns home from the McCallums after the death of his grandfather, and runs off to fly a highly experimental and dangerous aircraft. He dies in the crash the same day his son is born. It is spring, the season for regeneration, and the Sartoris line is perpetuated.

By conventional standards, Bayard was a failure, but he failed spectacularly, whirling downward in a blaze of glory, seeking to fill that need for danger. He was a life force because his entire life shouted action. He charged the air around him, so that everyone who met him either loved or despised him; no one was indifferent about Bayard. And he was even able to shake the apathetic Narcissa temporarily out of her stasis – a feat never again to be accomplished. Before their marriage, Narcissa thinks of Bayard, "All of her instincts were antipa¬thetic toward him, toward his violence and his brutally obtuse disregard of all the qualities which composed her being. His idea was like a trampling of heavy feet in those cool corridors of hers, in that grave serenity in which her days accomplished themselves..." (158).

In Narcissa, we recognize the elements of destructiveness from a dangerous self-satisfaction and willingness to remain unchanged, unmoved. It is a foreshadowing of what she becomes in Faulkner's most sensational novel, Sanctuary. In Flags in the Dust, she is a watcher. She watches Bayard from afar and is mildly titillated, but considers herself too pure to be violated by a man. Like Isabella in Measure for Measure, she is obsessed with her own goodness, wearing white all the time to express her purity. Rather, it symbolizes coldness and a certain emotional sterility. In early scenes from the novel, she is seen standing tall and serene in her white dress, watching Miss Jenny snip Larkspur and later telling Miss Jenny that there would be peace for her only in a world where there were no men (56). Narcissa remains untouched, unblemished by an active involvement in life and is referred to repeatedly by Faulkner as having, " an aura of grave and serene repose " (56), and by Horace, as, "Thou still unravished bride of quietness " (191). She is drawn to Bayard against her will, observing, "...his air of smoldering abrupt violence ... causing always in her that shrinking, fascinated distaste, that blending of curiosity and dread, as if a raw wind had blown into that garden wherein she dwelt " (77). Her marriage to Bayard and her association with the Sartoris clan is her only redeeming feature because she does bear the Sartoris heir. By this one act alone, Narcissa is at least partially redeemed as a positive force, perpetuating the aristo¬cratic and chivalric race of Sartoris males, whose fate it was to die young and with glory. From the end, she will protect her son, Benbow, raising him coldly and efficiently, shielding him from the passions and the past that are his heritage. It is easy to see how Narcissa evolves into the bigoted self-righteous sister of Sanctuary, who in her maddening¬ly smug cocoon, forces an innocent man, Lee Goodwin, to a violent and demeaning end.

Hovering quietly and ineffectively around Bayard and Narcissa, is Narcissa's well meaning brother, Horace, who in his passive pursuit of sterile relationships with married women, expresses his own destructive inclinations. Horace is something of a poet, a sensitive young man, for whom Narcissa has a delicate, petulant concern. He returns home from the war at about the same time as Bayard, but his war experiences are limited to his work with the YMCA. Bayard is filled with memories of horror as a combat pilot having witnessed his brother shot down in spite of his attempts to save him. Horace returns with an exuberant fascination with the glass-blowing process he has seen in Venice. He's a decent fellow, who often prefers his artist's garret over the garage to his father's home, to the rest of society"...he found himself suddenly quiet ... in the pre¬sence of the happiness of his winged and solitary cage. For a cage it was, barring him from freedom with trivial compulsions; but he desired a cage " (191). And he preferred the, "...still unchanging days..." (191). Horace's main aspiration was idleness. He worked only because he had been educated for the law, and when his father died, he was the logical one to take over the case load, "All he wanted anyway was quiet and dull peace and a few women, preferably young and good looking and fair tennis players with whom to indulge in harmless and lazy intrigues " (193). Here, we see the difference between Bayard, who not only attacks life, but stretches his participation in it to the limits, and the other, Horace, who weakly allows it to happen to him.

Unfortunately, Horace lives on in Faulkner's fiction and becomes Lee Goodwin's ineffectual defense attorney in Sanctuary. As well meaning and sympathetic as he is, he barely escapes the wrath of the lynch mob, who are out to lynch Goodwin for the corncob rape of Temple Drake. The reader can not help the impatience he feels for Horace's inept and naive bungling of Goodwin's defense or his silence in the courtroom when Temple accuses Lee of the crime in a display of abject perjury.

The Sound and the Fury is still considered by many critics to be Faulkner's best work, though it was only his fourth novel in a prolific stream of works. In it, we meet Caddy Compson, said to be Faulkner's own favorite character. That Faulkner loved Caddy is obvious, as she surpasses all of his other characters in her dynamic approach to life. A true life force, she is the ultimate survivor in a world of chaos and destruction. Further, she is the only female in the works cited as well as others, who achieves the status of a fully-developed and sympathetic character, for Faulkner, as already mentioned, is notorious for his treatment of women. (Drusilla, in The Unvanquished, is another, though her exposure in the novel was of short duration.) The reasons are, for the moment, unimportant, but the criticisms are just: there are far too few vital, positive female characters in all of Faulkner's greater works, and even fewer in his lesser ones. Caddy is the exception and she is joined by Ben and Dilsey in the novel as positive life forces.

We never see Caddy directly; she is discovered through the eyes of two of her brothers: Quentin and Ben. Through Ben, we see the essential Caddy, full of love and self-sacrifice. In childhood she is as passionate in her love for Ben, and in her propensity for childhood pranks as she becomes later in life in her devotion to her alienated daughter, Quentin. She responds to Ben's need for order by indulging him in simple, sensual fantasies. And that Caddy "smells like trees," (61) is symbolic of her qualities of endurance and continuity--to Ben, cleanliness, purity, and therefore, order. It is interesting to note that she is the only one of four children to reproduce. Yet Caddy is not the symbolic earth mother and fertility goddess that we find in Faulkner's later novels. She is a life force by virtue of her action-not merely the fundamental processes of propagation as are Lena Grove in Light in August, and Eula Varner in The Hamlet. It is here, perhaps, that the distinction may be made in Faulkner's statement that man not only endures, he prevails. (Blotner 2: 1366). Caddy, it would seem, prevails.

Through Quentin's eyes, Caddy is associated with the land and nature. On the day of his suicide, Quentin is assaulted with thoughts of Caddy at the branch, combined with the smell of honeysuckle, a device used by Faulkner to express Quentin's erotic infatuation with death and his inces¬tuous feelings towards his sister. Before she seeks her lover in the woods, he sees her lying, "...with water flowing about her hips " (122). And after her rendevouz, he wraps her body in mud hoping to convince her and himself that is was he who took away her virginity,”…I’ll make you say we did thought it was them, but it was really me " (167). Even so, Caddy goes on meeting Dalton Ames, and Quentin thinks, "Why must you do like the nigger women do in the pasture, the ditches, the dark woods, hot, hidden, furious in the dark woods (sic) " (111).

That Caddy acts, albeit wrongly, is evident. But like Bayard Sartoris, she cannot do nothing; she must plunge headlong, at times, and by plunging, she thwarts the stasis that controls Quentin.

Quentin can not cope with Caddy's pregnancy and the humiliating annul¬ment of her wedding because of it. He sees the decline of his family's wealth and prestige as a disaster. He is impotent in the face of his sister's promiscuity. Thus, there are external forces which control Quentin and he can not be compared to Bayard. Quentin kills himself quietly with considerable premeditated precision because he can not cope with Caddy's drive and with the change that surrounds him. Bayard engages in wild, impulsive acts, suspecting, perhaps subconsciously, that he may one day be killed in the process. There are no outward forces which control Bayard Sartoris, only his own internal conflicts.

In his novel Light in August, published in 1932, Faulkner presents us with one of his most tragic heroes, Joe Christmas. From the moment he is born, Joe becomes an antagonist to the life principle when his mother dies in childbirth and his father is murdered by his grandfather. With his very conception and birth, he is responsible for the death of two people. He never learns this, but he may sense it, through the inimical presence of his grandfather during Joe’s early childhood at the orphanage. The grandfather has killed the father because he suspects he has Negro blood and Negroes are anathema to humankind. Thus, Joe grows up believing that in some vague and unidentified way, he is evil. His adoptive father cor¬rupts him further with his own repressive attitudes. Joe can not or will not change; therefore, bad things happen to him which he fully anticipates. When he feels threatened, and the cloud of doom hangs over him, he says, "something is going to happen to me, something is going to happen " (91). And then something does.

Yet in spite of his complexities, Joe is not a totally negative character. The single major image we associate with him is motion. After a bad beating in his youth, Joe steps from a dark porch and entered, "...a thousand lonely and savage streets." (209). And, "...from that night the street ran as one street ... into Oklahoma and Missouri and as far south as Mexico and then back to Chicago and Detroit ... it ran between the savage and spurious board fronts of oil towns..." (210-211). He is constan¬tly moving, constantly searching for peace. During his week as a fugitive after Joanna Burden's murder, the simple pleasures of living another day become paramount and he feels that, "the air, inbreathed, is like spring water. He breathes deep and slow, feeling with each breath himself diffuse in the neutral grayness becoming one with loneliness and quiet that has never known fury or despair. “’That was all I wanted,' he thinks, in a quiet and slow amazement. 'That was all for thirty years. That didn't seem to be a whole lot to ask in thirty years "' (313). Joe never finds that peace, however, and it is easy to find sympathy for this character whose sterile, unloving childhood helped to shape the course of his life.

As a child, often in a world of his own, he is repeatedly seen as monkish and Christ-like, as, "...he was looking ahead with a rapt, calm expression like a monk in a picture " (131). Monks are celebate and therefore sterile, and the association is an apt one. And, "the boy's body might have been wood or stone, a post or a tower upon which the sentient part of him mused like a hermit, contemplative and remote with ecstasy and self-crucifixion " (140). Self-crucifixion is the key, for Joe Christmas moves with martyr-like precision towards his destiny, until, in the end, he becomes a Christ symbol with his own murder and awful mu¬tilation. Still, like all of us who are members of the human community, Joe had to make choices, decisions for which he, alone, would be responsi¬ble. He brutally murders Joanna Burden, the woman he both loves and hates, seeking, perhaps, the punishment he knows is inevitable. But he is not a cold, amoral Popeye out of Sanctuary.

During the week in the woods, as he continues to elude the sheriff and his men, we see Joe's suffering, his raw humanity and the dynamic will to survive. Even when he feels he will not, he forces himself to live off the land, knowing, "...he had to eat. He would make himself eat the rotten fruit, the hard corn, chewing it slowly, tasting nothing" (316). But like Bayard, he is doomed and he knows it; he has chosen his path, and he must follow it to the end. Rather than passively waiting to be discovered, he grimly leaves the shelter and relative safety of the woods and begins the last leg of his long journey. He hitches a ride to Mottstown where he knows he will be apprehended for Joanna's murder, and he thinks, "They all want me to be captured and then when I come up ready to say 'Here I am Yes I would say Here I am I am tired I am tired of running of having to carry my life like it was a baset of eggs,' (sic) and they all run away. Like there is a rule to catch me by, and to capture me that way would not be like the rule says " (319). And finally, having arrived in Mottstown, he realizes, “…he is entering it again, the street which ran for thirty years. It had been a paved street, where going should be fast. It had made a circle and he is still inside of it. Though during the last seven days he has had no paved street, yet he has traveled further than in all the thirty years before " (321).

This is real tragedy! We are drawn to Joe, not only because of his humanity, but because of his inhumanity. His suffering becomes our suffering; his sins, our sins. His sacrifice is repeated in the deepest regions within all of us--within our souls. In The Tragic Mask, John Lewis Longley, Jr. suggests that, "We unite with Joe Christmas because he is the modern Every¬man. In a cosmos where the only constants are absurdity and instability, we have the right to expect anything except rationality. Any one of us could become the victim. His suffering far transcends the time and place and means Faulkner has used and comes to stand for everything that is grave and constant in the human condition " (13: 203).

In contrast to the dynamic suffering of Joe Christmas, Faulkner presents Gail Hightower in the same novel, who appears as his most useless and static character to date. Like Narcissa Benbow, Hightower is obsessed with goodness and confident in his own piety and salvation. He seeks perfection through meditation and passive suffering. In an attempt to escape the life cycle, he withdraws from it and sits and watches it go by through his dingy window. Though he is temporarily revitalized with his sudden and unwanted catapul¬tion into the drama of Lena Grove and her baby, it is too late; he cannot recapture the motion of life. He discovers that all of those years of anemic piousness and the pomposity of self-righteousness are pale and sickly when compared to the robustness of the land and nature that now surrounds Lena and her new-born child. His slovenliness, the sagging skin, the unwashed, unclean odor that lingers about him, the green lamp shade next to the window from which he watches the activity around him, all suggest decay--even putrefaction.

There is just enough humanity left in Hightower to move him to offer an alibi in Joe Christmas' behalf, to the lynch mob led by Percy Grimm. “’Men’ he cried. 'Listen to me. He was here that night. He was with me the night of the murder. I swear to God--'” (439). But he was overcome in a moment by the fanatic Percy.

Hightower's antithesis is the earth mother-fertility goddess symbol Lena Grove, who opens this novel traveling along a country road, eight "...peaceful corridors paved with unflagging and tranquil faith and peopled with kind and nameless faces and voices" (4). She is the sole reason for Hightower's redemption, because he is the only person available to de¬liver her baby. He realizes, "...she will have to have others, more... that will be her life, her destiny. The good stock, peopling in tranquil obedience to it, the good earth..." (384).

Lena eventually finds the father of her baby, who runs from her and his responsibilities, but in the meantime, she has been befriended by a kind and lonely man who wants to marry her. The novel ends with Lena, Byron Bunch and the baby moving away from Jefferson towards a new life together. It is a simple, uncomplicated ending and beginning to an extreme¬ly complex story. But Faulkner has made it clear that Lena's "framing" of events both brutal and unnatural, will provide the affirmation of the life force necessary in so tragic a novel.

In 1940, Faulkner's novel, The Hamlet was published--the first in a trilogy about Frenchman's Bend and the Snopes family. The work has Faulkner's usual elements of tragedy but adds the bawdy frontier type humor seen in As I Lay Dying. Though not a major character in the novel, Jack Houston epitomizes Faulkner's concept of man's will to prevail. He leaves home at sixteen in order to avoid becoming fettered in marriage to the young woman who later does become his wife. He pursues a varied career in Texas for over twelve years, before returning to Frenchman's Bend to work the farm he has inherited from his father. He marries the girl of his boyhood, not only willingly, but now eagerly and when she is killed by the horse he has give her, he is filled with grief, "’I don't under¬stand it,' he would say. 'I don't know why. I won't ever know why. But You can't beat me. I am strong as You are. You can't beat me '" (217). Thus, we understand Houston's will to overcome that which has temporarily rendered him motionless.

Later in the novel, as Houston lays dying from the shotgun blast of Mink Snopes' gun, he exhibits the dynamism with which he has lived his entire life. He wills the pain to start, for if he feels no pain, he knows he will die from the stomach wound. "'If I don't get the hurting started quick, I am going to die.' He willed to start it" (217). Un-fortunately, Houston dies anyway, and his body is subjected to a macabre series of trials, both pathetic and funny, which Mink, in his eagerness to hide the crime, has authored. In the end, even its awful mutilation and decay have not reduced Houston's dignity. The reader can feel his ethereal presence, laughing and cursing as Mink connives and bungles his way into a frenzy and stuffs Houston's corpse inside a hollowed out tree trunk. Houston's faithful hound dog, in a display of tenacious lo¬yalty, leads the sheriff to the hiding place and Mink is ultimately arrested.

Although Houston has succumbed to a senseless murder over a petty business confrontation, he emerges as representative of Faulkner's con¬cept of the heroic. He is rash and passionate and never achieves success in the conventional sense; that is, as Horace Benbow and Gavin Stevens have. But in Faulkner's world, it is not what is achieved, but the manner in which one seeks one's path; it is the movement that is para¬mount. Like Bayard Sartoris, Houston generates strong emotions from his fictional antagonists and from the reader, and like both Bayard and Joe Christmas, he resorts to violence. In all three, violence becomes the force used to sweep away the stasis, leaving their paths clear for motion. It is not that Horace and Gavin Stevens are bad men. Rather, it is that they lack the courage--the force--to fail. Rather than risk failing, they risk nothing--and they remain motionless.

Still, Houston's rough, surly facade serves to hide moments of tenderness and sentimentality. After his wife's death, Houston avoids the light of the full moon and the way in which it shines through their bedroom window, " it had used to fall across the two of them while they observed the old country belief that the full moon of April guaran¬teed the fertilizing act " (216). His impatience with the half-witted Ike is almost fatherly, as when he stripped him of his befouled overalls and, "...found another stick and twisted it into the overalls and soused and walloped them violently in the water, cursing steadily, and drew them out and still using the stick, scrubbed them front down on the grass” (176).

Houston is gruffly in harmony with himself and his fellow man, the demented Ike, and his humanity is expressed through his patience and apparent understanding of Ike's need. Ike, however, is no mere fool to be laughed at for the sake of a literary diversion. He, along with Benji in The Sound and the Fury, plays a significant role in a major Faulkner work.

Ike demonstrates vigor in his passionate pursuit of Houston's cow, expanding his intellect and showing remarkable qualities of resourceful¬ness in order to protect and care for her. Ike's dynamism is revealed when he sees the wild fire from the upstairs window of his home and knows his cow is in danger: "He was upstairs sweeping when he saw the smoke. He knew exactly where it was--the hill, the sedge-and-brier overgrown hill beyond the creek. Although it was three miles away, he can even see her backing away from the flames and hear her bellowing" (168). He descends the stairs which have always been a frightening obstacle to him and starts out for the meadow where he rescues the cow and has his run-in with Houston at the creek. Later, after the cow has been returned to Houston's barn, he kidnaps her and spends several days hiding in the pastures and woods, in something of a bucolic idyll described in Faulkner's most exalted, poetic language.

He must steal feed for her from a dark, forbidding barn, five miles from his home, and strange. He can not see where he is, "...but he does not hesitate. He finds the crib door and enters; his sightless hand which knows and remembers finds the feed-box" (186). Later, he feeds her, but only half, for the rest must be saved for another meal, and "...he removed the basket. It was not empty. It contained yet almost to the measured ounce exactly half of the original feed, but he takes it away from her, drags it from beneath the swinging muzzle... and hangs it over a limb, (he) who is learning fast now, who has learned success and then precaution and secrecy and how to steal and even providence." (183).

Perhaps it is brilliance which moves Faulkner to allow a so-called idiot to speak for his own concept of morality, one who is untainted by education and unfettered by the reasoning processes of intelligence; the simple-minded becomes child-like in his perception of life. In, Faulkner: Myth and Motion, Adams' suggests that, "...the supposedly simple mind, (Faulkner) shows, is not so simple after all, but it is less likely than the educated mind to obscure the dynamism of the world and of its own life" (117).

The characters discussed in this paper have all demonstrated dynamism in their lives. I have chosen them as examples, specifically because they would not be considered successes by traditional standards. They have come into Faulkner's stories eagerly, taking life in great bittersweet gulps, on its own terms. Someone once said that the task of the writer is to reveal how things are with us, be it horrors or joys. It seems that Faulkner has dedicat¬ed his life to this end. These characters are real, revealing the joys and horrors hidden in us all, and that is why they live so vividly in our memories. They live for us because the life force was inherent in their being, and in our minds they are still in motion.

For, as Faulkner believed, to be motionless is to be dead.

                                 (c) 2012 by G. Sue McGhee

                                             Works Cited

Adams, Richard P. Faulkner: Myth and Motion. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1968.

Blotner, Joseph. Faulkner: A Biography. 2 vols. New York: Random House, 1974.

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. New York: The Modern Library, 1929.

Flags in the Dust. New York: Vintage Books, a Division of Random House, 1973.

Go Down, Moses. New York: Random House, 1940.

The Hamlet. New York: Random House, 1964.

Light in August. New York: Random House, 1932.

Requiem for a Nun. New York: Random House, 1950.

Sanctuary. New York: Random House, 1931.

The Sound and the Fury. New York: The Modern Library, 1929.

Langley, John Lewis, Jr. The Tragic Mask: A Study of Faulkner's Heroes. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1963.

Millgate, Michael. The Achievement of William Faulkner. New York: Random House, 1963.

Slatoff, Walter J. Quest for Failure: A Study of William Faulkner. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1960.

Thompson, Lawrence. William Faulkner: An Introduction and Interpretation. New York: Barnes and Nobel, Inc., 1963.

Warren, Robert Penn. Faulkner: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentiss-Hall, Inc., 1966.

Wittenberg, Judith Bryant. Faulkner: The Transfiguration of Biography. Lincoln, Nebraska and London: University of Nebraska Press, 1979.

Zink, Karl E. "Flux and the Frozen Moment: The Imagery of Stasis in Faulkner's Prose". (PMLA LXXI (1956): 285-301.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Labyrinthian Intrigue

Youth Without Youth, a novella by Mircea Eliade
(also a 2007 movie by Francis Ford Coppola)

This is a very off-beat piece of fiction written by one of our greatest experts on the subject of religion. I can't say I really enjoyed it in a literary sense, but I have to say it was provocative enough to hold my attention and consider a second reading!

This book attempts to meld eastern metaphysics with western science and poses many questions which go unanswered. Yet all of the philosophical attributes are infused with early second world war history, Nazi scientists, hidden documents, intrigue with a beautiful spy from the Gestapo, miraculous recoveries and ancient languages. Reincarnation is also involved, which supplies enough romance to make the story a story rather than a vehicle for the writer's own philosophy.

The protagonist, Dominic Matei, is a former language professor who experiences what is referred to as the "rejuvenation by electricity" as a very old man and becomes young again just as he is preparing to leave his homeland -- Romania. The reasons for his decision to leave turn out to be in turn, tragic, then fortuitous, then frightening, sensational and ultimately tragic again.

Years after his experience, he falls in love with a young woman who reminds him of an earlier love and who, after having been struck by lightning, is able to speak in ancient but heretofore unknown foreign tongues. This burst back to the ancients to a time even before the Buddha, comes towards the end of the book - certainly within the last one third and well after we've seen the results of our hero's own transformation.

There is so much rich philosophical material here, that I admittedly need to do some additional research as to content - first, on the philosophy of Chantrakirti, next, the Butterfly Dream as presented by Chunang Tzu and then, the philosophy of Nietzsche, whose theories apparently coincide with the ancient Chunang Tzu. The "double" is introduced in the book as well (I think it is the modern  version of the doppleganger"),  as is reincarnation, a theory I'm extremely comfortable with. At last, I would like to read more of Mircea Eliade's own work including "The Sacred and the Profane," "Shamanism," and "The History of Religious Ideas."

In conclusion, I'd say the book ranks mid-way in literary excellence, but the material is irresistible and challenges those of us who are sick to death of formula writing and TV sitcoms and reality shows directed towards a pre-pubescent mentality. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Attachment Parenting

I just finished reading the article in last week’s Time Magazine about “attachment parenting” supporting the controversial cover of a twenty six year old mom feeding her three year old son by having him stand on a chair sucking at her breast.

The photo is provocative first because the boy looks older than three and second because it unnecessarily conjurs a bit embarrassment, disgust or even arousal and represents a trend in parenting today that demands breast feeding at any time of the day or night, any place, sleeping with your baby beginning during infanthood and carrying the child in a kind of sling that one often sees native peoples around the world using. Strollers are frowned upon. I wonder about car seats.

According to the article, which is exhaustive, the father of this so-called “attachment parenting” movement is a pediatrician by the name of Bill Sears whose theory is widely followed by a number of young parents, especially mothers.

The article compares the methods of Dr. Sears today with the harsher methods of Dr. Spock yesterday, and modern moms with our grandmothers whose mothering occurred during the Spock era. The mostly anecdotal study results in two very extreme models and the behavioral zeitgeist that the two methods incur.

I feel qualified to speak to this. I raised four children without any baby books. I was young and ignorant and I remember my mother’s voice (a Dr. Spock advocate) in my head saying, “. . .let them cry or else you’ll spoil them.”

I loved my mom, but I knew instinctively that this was wrong. Since then, I’ve read that Spock actually was a little less stringent, advising young, inexperienced mothers: “you know more than you think. Follow your instincts.” I did that – without being told.

Still, I think that the non-stop mothering promoted by Dr. Sears is over the top. And, let’s face it, no matter how hard dads try to become involved, it is the mother who feeds the child and spends most of her time mothering (or possibly smothering). She needs a break now and then as any mother can tell you, but she shouldn’t be held to such a strict standard that taking a break is also taking a guilt trip.

Dependency on the parent is supposed to be a temporary thing, is it not? Aren’t we supposed to be teaching our children to be self-sufficient and independent? I guess not. And that’s my point.

I graduated from high school a month after my seventeenth birthday and went to New York to live with my sister. I found a job and supported myself in the most intimidating city in the world. It took nerve. More than that, it took confidence and self-reliance. The question is this: was I able to do this because my mother supposedly allowed me to sleep alone in a crib and bang an empty formula bottle against the slats for hours? Seriously, I don’t think so. But it was a result of having been reared in a family who believed in letting their children grow, not just physically, but emotionally too. Parents can learn something from this, too.

Given that the economy is pretty bad today, young adults are often living in the parental home with all their basic needs taken care of by mom and dad, even insurance until the age of twenty six or twenty eight. I hear constantly about the cost of education and how kids are graduating from college with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt because most college kids would rather incur all this debt rather than cut hours and get a part-time job. Apparently so would the parents.

I personally know “kids” in their twenties who’ve never had a paying job even after a college education. Because they can’t get the job in their field – the field they’ve been educated for, they don’t work at all, and parents continue to support them.

When I think about my own parenting, I realize Dr. Sears would not have approved. My mothering was efficient and no-nonsensical. I think I succeeded in accomplishing my goal though. My kids are independent, happy, successful and useful. I am immensely proud of them and they were not coddled.

Raise your kids to be independent and adventurous. If they’re sick, they need to be cuddled and hugged and rocked and nursed. That is your duty and your pleasure as a parent – to care for them and support them. But you also have a duty to prepare them for life – life without you.

Life can be difficult. Allow them to have a life apart from you. They will be better for it, no matter how great a parent you are. Let them breathe, let them grow, let them learn to take a risk now and then. Teach them to seek a little adventure. Traveling away from home to go to school can certainly help in this regard. If they need a little spending money, let them take on a part time job around campus.

You have to let go at some point. It can be a gradual letting go, but it must begin sometime. This is the greatest lesson of all.  And my goodness! Wean the child from the breast before he’s old enough to play football. There is a reasonable middle ground here. The emphasis is on “reason.”

Friday, May 18, 2012

Keep "AWAKE!"

It's really too bad that a show like "Awake" is whisked off the air just as some of us were beginning to ride the wave of alternative realities.  This was a mind blowing conception that appealed to those of us with a bit of imagination who prefer to "think" rather than to stare vacantly at the current crop of pap seen on reality shows and tv sit-coms.

There is so much crap out there -- why oh why can't you nitwit (oops, I meant "network")  middle brows allow a truly unique idea to flourish?  Some of us actually enjoy being challenged,  but you continue to pander to the pre-pubescent mentality.

Television could be so much more,  but in the words of Newton Minnow so many years ago, it remains  a  "vast wasteland" inhabited by a bunch of non-creative boors.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Excerpt from my novel, "When the Eagle Flies with the Condor. . ."

This excerpt begins on page 275 of my novel, "When the Eagle Flies with the Condor, a novel of the sixties."  Enjoy

     Every few months, Bernie drove the 382 kilometres to LaPaz by winding roads both asphalt and dirt in order to scour the shops for trinkets for Catalina and the few native children she was teaching, and to arrange for the supplies she needed for her work. Sometimes Ray came with her and they’d enjoy a weekend there together, visiting the shops and the small cabarets that seemed always to be filled with people who had the money to spend on a pisco sour or a local brew of cerveza. They’d rent a hotel room, take hot showers, have a civilized dinner with wine and dessert and make love throughout the night on comfortable beds.
     She still knew a few people in La Paz who kept her informed of the local politics, those who lived within the diplomatic corps, some who remembered her parents from years before: English, Americans and Bolivian officials. Early in the year, she made the trip alone. Ray had gone back to the States for a month’s vacation, after having served over two years with the Peace Corps. It was on this trip that she ran into Norwelia.

     After Punta del Este, they had gone their separate  ways. Norwelia, still smitten with the idealistic persona of Che, had returned to Cuba through his intercession, apparently kept safe from any reprisals against her rebel newspaper father and stuck it out there during Che’s reforms.

     Che had parted with Castro, but was still regarded a hero in Cuba. He was rumored to be in Germany, in the U. S. and back in his native Argentina. It was said that he was in Africa. It was reported that he was in Moscow. No one knew where he was but everyone speculated. Rumors of his whereabouts had been the focus of conversations within the diplomatic community for at least a year.

When Norwelia walked into El Gallo de Oro, it confirmed in Bernie’s mind what had until then been rampant speculation–that Bolivia was a prime target for the Cuban supported guerilla campaign to convert the peasants to Communism. Bernie knew that the Communist Party was active in Bolivia. On an earlier trip to La Paz, she’d been introduced to a guy by the name of Mario Monjé Molina, their party chief, at a masquerade ball thrown by her mother’s dearest friend from Cochabamba, Mama Ortega. She wondered if Norwelia had developed a contact there.

     Norwelia’s eyes found Bernie’s almost immediately. She had lost the soft, tawny luster to her skin; her face looked gray, with the muscles of her jaw clenching spasmodically. Bernie was struck with the wild, caged look that seemed to dominate her face. Yet she was flooded with an irrepressible excitement that she could not define and for a moment she wished fervently that she could re-live the past few years, bringing her to this moment of danger and intrigue in which she now found her friend.

     She became exhilaratingly cautious. Her breath came quickly as she excused herself from the bar where she had been seated with friends and joking with the British bartender, Ned. She ordered dos cervezas from the rattan bar, blew Ned a kiss and led Norwelia as unobtrusively as possible to a small round table at the back of the cabaret.

     Bernie had many questions she desperately wanted to ask Norwelia, but she managed to control her curiosity and her voice.

   “Are you looking for work?” Her heart pounded with anticipation.

     “I have a job ford now, Bernicita,” Norwelia answered. Her hands were shaking so badly, she clasped them tightly on top of the small table.

    “Really? Here in La Paz?”
    “Si. I have a work permit. A newspaper job here in La Paz. And I clerk in that shop where they sell souvenirs, on El Prado.” She spoke in English and Spanish, her Spanish softer, more like the Spanish of the Argentine.

    Bernie leaned forward, her mouth open, her lips raised in a calculated smile. Norwelia whispered something with a slight lisp that Bernie  could not understand. She leaned forward again, motioning with two fingers for her friend to do the same.

   “I said,” Norwelia continued in a husky whisper. She glanced from side to side and back to Bernie “... that I am here under Argentinean passaport.”

   Bernie straightened in her chair quickly, trying to think. The smile she had been forcing on her lips froze.

    “My God, Norwelia.”

    “Por favor!” It is Rosa . . . Suarez.” Norwelia whispered. She wet her lips and began again in a shaky, trembling hiss. “Please be careful with how you call me. You must try to forget what I just toll you, Bernicita.” Norwelia touched the bottle to her lips, but she did not drink. Her eyes locked in to Bernie’s. There was palpable fear there. Bernie felt sick. Norwelia went on, having gained some control, in a more natural voice, describing her reasons for coming. She had obtained Bolivian residency and a job because she needed the money, she said, but she was just a tourist really, wanting to get some local color, intrigued by the history and the tradition of the country.  She had gotten bored with her life, she told Bernie. She remembered how Bernie had talked of
Bolivia when they were kids together in Miami.

It was a spiel designed for any eavesdroppers in the bôite. She wasn’t stupid. She surely knew that  Bernie had figured it out. Certainly the passport was the clincher, and she would not have told Bernie about it, if she had not wanted her to know. Unless, Bernie thought, she wasn’t thinking clearly, out of fear, out of nerves. Because of Cuba’s revolution, the rumors about Che, and the general edginess of Bolivian officials, a Cuban passport might have been subjected to serious scrutiny. Argentina would be considered merely a sister state, a neighbor with the same fears and concerns about an imported revolution as Bolivia.

    They talked of family. Norwelia asked about Nicholas of course and then after thirty minutes of trivialities, they stood and touched each other’s hands and tried to smile for the benefit of the other customers. Norwelia’s trembling fingers were thin and cold, her large chocolate eyes were streaked with red. There was still a heavy curtain  of reserve between them, but suddenly, as
though on some unspoken cue, they both leaned forward, touching cheek to cheek. Bernie hugged Norwelia to her, patting her shoulder and trying not to cry. It was a gesture that indicated a more intimate friendship than they had been trying to portray and she hoped it went unobserved.

  “Hermanita,” she whispered. “Vaya con Diós.”

    Norwelia pulled away tentatively, her chestnut brown hair intruding on the suggestion of a smile, her eyes wide but steady.

   “A diós, amiga!"

This excerpt begins on page 275 of the novel "When the Eagle Flies with the Condor, a novel of the sixties."