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June 2009

It has been a while since I posted anything so here is a little flood: an article on torture I wrote a couple of weeks ago, a review of Jim Harrison’s book “The English Major” and a couple of old playlists for the Vinyl Side of Midnight.

The English Major
by Jim Harrison

This is a very funny book, filled with bawdy humor. Harrison’s protagonist is a teacher turned farmer from Boyne City who has been divorced by his wayward wife. This and the death of his dog unhinges him to the extent that he takes to the road with a childhood jigsaw map of the U.S., in an attempt to visit and rename each state of the union. It is a kind of “Travels With Charley” without the dog.

Along the way he meets up with an old student, now twenty years later, and they start a wild affair. As he weaves his way across the north towards California he explores several themes. Who are we without our families and familiar landscapes? What’s in a name, or a label? How do we look at a cow and not think the word ‘cow’? Harrison’s character finds solace in nature, good food and the occasional whiskey.

“Be careful what you wish for” seems to be one of his messages. “F@#& Republicans” seems to be another.

This book is a quick read and I highly recommend it.

A college professor friend of mine taught Harrison (both as a student, then as a subject) and later wrote about him. He interviewed Harrison as part of his research, and allowed me the pleasure to listen to the tapes. Anyone who has heard Harrison speak publicly knows that he writes like he speaks, which indicates to me something along the lines of what his thinking must be like: a winding wild river, clear, gushing, babbling, sometimes deep and prone to take circuitous pathways. Always worth camping nearby and fishing for uncommon riches.

Memorial Day Entry

Politics, Torture & The Evolution of The Species

For some reason I watched Valkyrie, the movie starring Tom Cruise, this week. I watched it back-to-back with a documentary of the same event. I’d always assumed Valkyrie was the plot to kill Hitler, but it was actually an operation to use the German army reserves to do a coup against the SS after the assassination to kill Hitler.

My dad was in WWII, European theater. He’s been gone since 1995. Whenever I see something about WWII I wonder how he’d like it.

My dad was also a staunch Republican and Richard Nixon was his hero. Really. As much as I love Obama, that is how much he loved Richard Nixon. We didn’t quite see eye to eye on that.

I wonder if he would even recognize his political party these days. Declaring pre-emptive wars, falsifying information through torture to justify the invasion and occupation of a nation, the enrichment of corporations and the dismantling of the middle class, the use of the government to conduct an enormous transfer of wealth from the middle class to the highest reaches of the upper class. Conducting a war without raising taxes. The ruin of Wall Street and New Orleans.

The news this week has been on Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House. She said the C.I.A. had mis-lead her in a briefing on torture. Now the Republicans want to make the issue whether or not she has lied, what did she know when, etc. (Also last night they voted on whether or not they should re-label the Democratic Party the Democrat-Socialist Party – so it’s come to name calling?).

When I look at what the Republicans did in the last decade under Bush and Cheney, I see a very cynical administration that, more than anything, operated as though the ends justified the means. They wanted results and didn’t care how they got them. Even if this meant moral corruption.

The irony is that moral corruption leads to other types of corruption. Real flesh and blood results. The corruption of systems and ideals and… well, look at the economy, look at our standing in the world.

The idea of torturing our enemies because we can get confessions and information is so arcane and midieval that it is almost beyond belief. My favorite bumper sticker of the week was “Who would Jesus torture?” And the hypocrisy behind calling it “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” is so cynical. But the fight is not just moral. What is right or wrong. It is also for our very evolution as a species.

I looked at a book once that was about travel in third world nations. The author made the point that travel in such countries was like time travel to him. Want to visit the 18th century? Here are places you can go… How about the 15th century? Here are some other places.

It hits me that examples of the evolution of our consciousness are walking amongst us. And I’m not just talking about IQs. There are plenty of smart people who don’t have the ability to see subtleties, the ability to see things from different points of view, the ability to value the process along with the content of an argument.

You really cannot separate process from content. The ‘how’ is just as important as the ‘what’. Understanding that takes a little sophistication. Which is an indication of an evolved intellect. I won’t say I have one of those, but Obama certainly does. Any species has to evolve and adapt given the change of it’s circumstance. And a world that faces multi-culturalism, a shrinking world with a polluted eco-system and dwindling resources, a world that, more than ever, must operate on understanding, respect, cooperation, and innovation, this is a world that calls for a new set of solutions. And the way we address this is just as important as the ideas and ideals we hope to implement.

So this rant started out as a comment about my dad and memorial day and WWII. Sorry that I got distracted but my brain is loosely associated this early in the morning. The title came later.

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