Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The case for Cat Stevens

Dear Hannah,

My original response to Cat Stevens becoming a Muslim and changing his name to Yusuf Islam was calling him a traitor.  My opinion, as with anyone else who trades England for Islam, is that he's still a traitor; but as there are many different brands of traitors out there, what kind of a traitor is the question we ought to be asking ourselves today.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Goodbye to the 68'ers

Dear Hannah,

Anyone who was a child in America during the 90's will tell you how he was repeatedly molested by stories about the 60's.  It was everywhere, back then; the 68'ers having all grown up and many of them gone into cinema to tell about how things were in the good old days of radicalism and free-spirits and new ideas and easy lays with pretty women.  The recollections were more sad than anything else, and every picture you saw had the miserable tint of nostalgia; not as though you were experiencing the 60's themselves, but as though you had missed it and it had been lost forever, along with somebody's youth.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Between the World and Me: a review

Dear Hannah,

Fear is the basis of this book.  Fear of the streets, fear of the schools, fear of the police -- fear of losing control of one's body, and one's life, and one's family.  Lots of men have lived it, but few have been able to eloquently explain it.  Ta-Nehisi Coates took the task upon himself and did it admirably here.  Between the World and Me is a painful search through race and history to understand the suffering of the black American.  Like most Americans, Coates quickly finds the reason for the suffering.  Like most of our Democrats, his cure is worse than the cancer.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Fire Next Time: a review

Dear Hannah,

Today's activists make a lot of recommendations, but I don't trust their taste or judgment.   On the other hand James Baldwin kept popping up on people's "greatest essayists of all time" charts, and Black Lives Matter kept quoting him like a dead saint, so why the heck not?  I picked up The Fire Next Time and gave him a go. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Some sympathy for the historical American jingo

Dear Hannah,

People ask us to walk a mile in a man's moccasins, but they never wonder what it's like to be chased by someone with a tomahawk.  Nearly everyone feels comfortable condemning Andrew Jackson for how he treated the Indians.  What they haven't felt comfortable doing is asking themselves how it would feel to be born in a country you didn't found and have a strange-looking group of illiterate, jobless, pagan wild-men show up at your neighbor's house and scalp all your best friends.  Whether or not this is Jackson's experience is irrelevant if this was the experience of many American settlers.  To have a savage at your doorstep, ready to strike at night and oftentimes beyond the reach of the law, would eventually affect your psychology in ways a modern man would consider "unfavorable."  The only good Indian is a dead Indian is a cruel thing to say.  But we wonder how many cruelties a man had to witness or hear about before he was capable of saying it*.