Sunday, February 10, 2019

HoCo Council, Kamala Harris, BLM

Incense and Shibboleths

Well, not so much incense…but Tahitian Vanilla candles provide a welcoming atmosphere for reflection and the sort of high-minded pontification that you, my dear readers, both expect and deserve.

Having essentially taken a month off from the blog, I was hoping to gain some valuable Perspective on the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.  Of course, the answer to that question was 42.  42 also, coincidentally, being the vehicular mph at which one may receive a $100 fine from the speed trap cameras that are poised like vultures high above 295 in DC.  OK, perhaps it is slightly higher than 42, but still, I know an Autobahn when I see one, and the limit is ridiculously low for that stretch of road.  The lack of a posted limit in that area is no accident…we are cash cow herds rambling atop rough asphalt. 

Let’s do national and local politics today.

My audio wasn’t the best, but I believe I heard Howard County Council Chairperson Christiana Mercer Rigby endorse Senator Kamala Harris for President.  [Source: recent episode of Elevate Maryland.]  If I am correct, coupled with Opel Jones’ earlier public endorsement of Harris, that accounts for half of the Democratic members of the Council lining up behind Senator Harris’ presidential bid.  I may be pulling from a small sample size here, but, in light of some of the postings from others in our community, it does seem as though HoCo’s Young Establishment is enthusiastic about the esteemed Senator from California.

Note: in the interest of declaring my interest, I am still undecided regarding a primary preference.  While this blog looks favorably upon Senator Sanders and Senator Warren, I am not sold on either (yet) for 2020. 

Frankly, as I digress, I think Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez has the potential to be a once-in-a-generation talent and I hope she finds her way on a national ticket in, let’s go with 2032.  But that is looking a bit down the road, isn’t it?  I love her politics and her communications skills are extremely impressive (we are talking about approaching-their-prime Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton-level connecting abilities).  But since she is not constitutionally eligible for the office of which we are speaking, I should veer back to the topic.

Harris is probably as far right as I can go. She seems to have a better candidate skillset than Sanders or Warren and I think a series of debates between Harris and Trump would show her mettle and reveal his flaws anew in many delightful ways, in front of a global audience.  Which is why she is on my short-list…but I don’t feel compelled to announce my support for anyone yet.

Why?  First, from a mercenary standpoint, no campaign is paying me for services performed.  So there is that.  Second, I want to see how the field shapes up.  We don’t know if Stacey Abrams will enter the fray (probably not, but still….).  Among others, Biden, Beto, Brown, and Bernie haven’t declared their intentions yet.  We are living in a time where Terry F’ing McAuliffe is looking like a saint, given what is going on in Virginia now.  There is madness in every room.

What else…oh yes, I am a bit late on this one (re: infrequent posting) but, for the record, I too am very displeased about the abstentions coming from three members of the Howard County Board of Education regarding the Black Lives Matter At School Week of Action.  This was an opportunity for words on inclusion to be translated into action and for a commitment to be made, in support of and in solidarity with “Black students, families, and staff members” to quote, in part, the words of Jessica Nichols. These are our brothers and sisters, and the children of our brothers and sisters, and to not recognize the need and moral imperative for this Week of Action, in these times, is simply inexcusable.  I don’t know what was in the hearts and minds of those who abstained.  I just believe that “process” is not a valid reason for an abstention.  Dante wrote about fence-sitters…and not in the Purgatorio or the Paradiso. 

Anyway, around 700 words.  Time to wrap it up.

In solidarity.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Hitch & George

I warned you, there might be book reviews.  Coincidentally, “There Might Be Book Reviews” opened for “They Might be Giants” at the Hamtramck Palladium Theatre back in’ 98.  Solid show, Dan Miller just joined the group…but I digress.

I finished Christopher Hitchens’ book, “Why Orwell Matters” about a month ago.  When one’s favorite essayist pens a work centered on their favorite essayist, how could I not pick it up?

Now, Hitchens himself could be rather problematic, to use the parlance of today.  At least on certain issues (on gender, on US foreign policy re: Iraq post 9/11) he was “off.”  I still don’t understand his motivation for crafting the 2007 Vanity Fair piece, “Why Women Aren’t Funny.”  The only plausible explanation being a misogynistic block in the right hemisphere of his cortex.  At least on the latter issue, the Iraq War, one can see the consistent line of anti-authoritarianism throughout his life that enabled him to view the Hussein regime as the clear antagonist, which led him to side with the Bush Administration’s “hawks” (a rather charitable image, considering the descriptors that could be employed here).

I believe, had Hitchens not passed in December 2011 and if he were still alive to the present day, his views on the War in Iraq would have evolved, as history reveals more about the run-up, the war itself, and its aftermath.  Alas, this can only remain conjecture.

The point is, as Hitchens argues in his tome, that George Orwell possessed both the wisdom and moral fortitude to stand opposed, consistently and volubly, to three of the worst ‘isms that afflicted the 20th Century:  Nazism, Stalinist Communism, and Imperialism.  A product of rather comfortable means, Orwell could have quite easily been a willing cog in an imperialist system, in which he played a minor part as a police officer stationed in Burma in the 1920s, but he chose to reject that life in favor of one where he could write about society, its ills, and a possible path forward.  In his own words, Orwell stated that “every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism, as I understand it.”  (the italics are Orwell’s)

Of course he didn’t merely use his pen to advance his polemicist inclinations.  He took a bullet in the throat whilst fighting in the Spanish Civil War against the fascists.  It was there, while serving with the POUM militia (a non-orthodox, Trotskyist faction) that he struggled against not only the authoritarians on the right, led by General Francisco Franco (who remains quite deceased), but also the Stalin-aligned Communists who attempted to brand POUM as fascists-in-disguise.  This was a war of not only right against left, but left against left, and Orwell was very nearly captured by pro-Soviet forces before he found his way into France and out of the war.    

This first-hand experience dealing with Stalinists convinced Orwell that they were, indeed, not comrades with whom he shared a common vision, but a threat to the democratic principles that he espoused so fervently. 

It is through this lens that Hitchens captures, in his own fluent style, the life and writings of Orwell, taking us through his experiences in England and across the world (although not the United States, as Orwell never set foot on American soil before he died at age 46), his politics, his views on gender, on race, and other issues and dynamics that remain terribly relevant today.

And this is why I chose to write about this book.  As certain strains of fascist thought appear to be taking hold and gaining adherents in several nations (such as Brazil, the Philippines, and the United States, to name three), it is useful to recall those who argued for a different vision of society, one in which individuals are able to enjoy greater effective liberty over their own lives through fairer economic policies and via truly democratic processes.  Orwell was such a figure, and his views were brought to life quite effectively by a wordsmith who, seemingly and singularly, was born to tell Orwell’s story.  Yes, for many reasons, Orwell continues to matter very much today.

What am I reading now?  Militant by Michael Crick.  Will I review it?  Perhaps…

In solidarity.