(May 9, 2005)
John Steppling's Review of Swans' April 25 Edition
To the Editor:
Open letter to Michael DeLang:
Dear Mike, why are you bothering even bringing up Dr. Dean, let alone writing him? I mean, I agree and all that the Democratic Party is dead -- or should be. I think, however, you raise an interesting question in regard to parties at all. How to have an opposition party? What would that mean?Our fearless leader's Blips bring up the newest sighting of the Virgin Mary -- this time it's a water-stained underpass. I personally liked the face of Jesus when it appeared on a burnt tortilla -- but this isn't bad. The new Pope still looks like a vampire to me -- and his creepiness took me back to Dorothy Day and Oscar Romero -- neither of whom is likely to ever reach sainthood (not that either would want it). To read about both is a worthwhile excursion on the Internet. As for Ratzo, here is a further take on the Panzer Pope.
Gilles also mentions the new findings regarding lethal injection. Quelle surprise! I doubt most pro capital punishment types much care, and in fact, most would be happy at the findings. The culture of death and despair -- of humiliation and violence -- is reaching its zenith I suspect. (Here is a tasty piece on the costs of participating in the ghoulish apparatus of death.) We now have video games about car jackings and beating up prostitutes -- Sweden has cut down on prostitution by making it a crime to BUY sex, not a crime to sell it!!! -- and most Internet porn is now veering toward only humiliation ( I have nothing against porn per se, for the record). "Reality" based porn is now the biggest seller (i.e., "crack whores I have fucked," or "slaves to black cock," or "ugly girls exploited," and, etc. etc. etc.). This seems to indicate a feeling of powerlessness among the masses, a sense of weakness and fear, and a lack of self...a hatred of self. That sexual fantasy must now be little more than humiliation of others and of one's self speaks to the totally abject erotic and emotional lives of our populace. What can one expect......and this leads to my pal Phil Rockstroh's excellent article. How has the acceptance of fascistic tendencies come to be so accepted....even embraced? Phil has some thoughts, and I have some, too. Others have spoken of this too (Theresa Whitehurst for one) and all seem to agree this stems, in part anyway, from a culture of consumption. Production capitalism is, or was, bad enough, but now the only outlet is pure consumption -- and buying new trainers does not a happy person make.
Phil probably doesn't really go far enough in examining the root causes. This may be a space limitation -- as a real analysis could go on for several volumes. Still, I want this question to be asked more often and talked about more. The sense of self (I asked this, even, in the film dialogue with David Walsh) and our notion of identity have seemed altered -- or shrunken -- and our relations with others are so deformed that even simple social interactions of a daily variety are imbued with a suffocating and terminal quality -- a culture of suffering, of torture and hypocrisy. From Abu Ghraib to lethal injection to Dirty Mothers Caught on Video, it's all part of the same fabric -- and Bush and Cheney and Clinton are all pitchmen for this ugliness -- along with the Krauthammers and Humes, with Ann Coulter (TIME cover girl -- now let's deconstruct that!!!) and morons like Jonathan Steele (ranting about stopping Milosevic from winning...I mean, winning WHAT?), and Condi and Bolti and Wolfie and Rummie -- and General Sanchez and General Abizaid, and Lyndie England (now the official scapegoat for torture), and Donald Trump -- Britney Spears and Clint Eastwood, and Howard Dean and Hillary and Lieberman. How did such ghouls become headliners? How does that happen? The Empire insults Arabs at every turn, makes fun of Islam and the poor, and tries to find a way to unseat guys like Chávez and Castro...while itself holding court on history's worst nightmare. Rap music is too violent...and Hollywood too liberal...and all the while the fascists are creating a world of pure toxicity, while co-opting dissent almost each second.
Whew... Okay, well, I better stop.
What's next? Oh, Charles Marowitz on Greenblatt's new book on Shakespeare. I have not read this one -- but I always trust Charles on this topic. I want to add there is a lot of good writing on Shakespeare (and much bad): my favorites include John Berryman and Ted Hughes, along with the much neglected William Empson. Frank Kermode, too, has written brilliantly on the bard. Shakespeare is always a tonic for the midnight crawling paranoid mind worms, and these days a good re-read of Coriolanus or Measure for Measure will do much to restore what little hope you might still cling to...
...Although this story made me smile!
Phillip Greenspan has a short worthwhile take on the label "anti-Semitism." Could Ariel Sharon be lying? Is the Pope catholic? Is the Pope a Nazi? Of course Sharon is lying -- and the new forces of Empire are using the term anti-Semite to smear anyone who suggests Likud is, uh, well, fascistic, racist, and chock full of war criminals. Here is how Israel treats dissent.
Finally, a brief note on Joe Davison's prose piece. I don't usually talk about the fiction or poetry on Swans...mostly because I don't want to do sound-bite takes on art. However, I wanted to express how fun it was for me to read his exploits in my old city; El Lay -- and he captures well the sense of the Hollywood flatlands in which I grew up. That sad wasteland of disappointment and tarnished fantasy -- juxtaposed to the even sadder sheen of Melrose Avenue and the Beverly Connection (a sure first strike target if I ever get to be Emperor of the World). Los Angeles is, I think, without much argument, the weirdest outpost of late Capitalism one could find, and a sinister infectious city best kept clear of. I wish so many I know there would leave ---- soon!
In Krakow the weather has been extraordinary and there are new "gondolas" on the Wisla that are actually kind of nice. More and more rowing clubs seem to be out, too, which is also sort of pretty -- and reminds me of Eakins's paintings...among my favorites. There is, on the dark side of things, a new shopping mall -- Galleria Kazimierz (although its nowhere near Kazimierz) which is a disquieting and depressing architectural monstrosity -- claustrophobic, loud, and counter-intuitive. Noise pollution is my latest beef with the uber-culture and it's more and more prevalent here in Poland. Still, "Skalki" is ready for swimming in another couple weeks...a completely unregulated, "officially" off limits, former limestone quarry, that is breathtakingly beautiful -- and free. Groundwater flooded one of the large pits back in the 1960s, I am told, and it was abandoned. What remains is a huge de-facto park with a quite substantial, several-acre mineral bath in the middle of it. We look forward to summer, as does Comrade Boris, who has a dog show coming in June. All told, my mood is improving, a bit.
Krakow, Poland - April 17, 2005
[ed. Steppling is a LA playwright (Rockefeller fellow, NEA recipient, and PEN-West winner) and screenwriter (most recent was Animal Factory directed by Steve Buscemi). He is currently living in Poland where he teaches at the National Film School in Lodz. You can find more about his writing on his personal Swans' cove.]
Our Savior, Baby BushTo the Editor:
I can only hope one who can call a sitting President of the United States a "baby" has some appreciation for those who are willing to risk their lives to make it possible for that person to sleep at night without fear of reprisal. The laws of this country you apparently abhor still protect you.
Rebecca A. Carney
Killen, Texas, USA - May 2, 2005
Faulty Logic and Bad Syntax -- Richard Macintosh's Neidermeyer NationTo the Editor:
Please pass along to Mr. Macintosh that I think he is a boffoon. [sic]
Neidermeyer as an archetype? What military experience does he have to qualify his expert knowledge of military archetypes? If he is correct, then there must be thousands of tortured soldiers at the hands of the sadistic officer corps. Funny though, from the pictures at the Abu Ghraib, I do not recall seeing officers involved. Mr. Macintosh does not think individuals can be held responsible for their own actions, but that the whole organization must be culpable. This is faulty logic and can not be upheld.
I would love the chance to discuss with Mr. Macintosh his theories about the military. But first, some questions should be asked. How many military officers is he friends with that he can make such a broad generalization? How much does he know about the U.S. military and its professional education and training centers? Perhaps he sould [sic] discuss his views with my good friend Joe Galloway, a true professional writer. I guess my measure of a professional writer has to do with being published.
Please feel free to contact me. I will not expect to hear back though. Mr. Macintosh seems the archetype who runs when confronted with facts figures and specific examples.
Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA - April 25, 2005
Protests and "opinionated opinions"To the Editor:
After looking through your web site a little closer I notice that you seem to have no disenting [sic] opinions anywhere. This confirms to me that you and your constributors [sic] hold yourselves in high esteem. I liken you to the pigs in Animal Farm..."Everyone is equal...but the pigs are MORE equal."
Enjoy your life of isolated ignorance. You seem to only want to discuss issues within the frame of your own shallow and opinionated opinions [sic] and wish not to be confronted with any kind of factual issues of any kind. [sic]
Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA - April 28, 2005
Style & SubstanceTo the Editor:
I am replying in kind to the ever so curteous [sic] comments from your contributers. [sic] If you look at their comments, mine are no different.
And if you decide to offer me an opportunity to rebut please let me know.
Fayetteville, North Carolina, USA - April 28, 2005
Old Potage... Philip Greenspan's Deliberate Misstatements Of Anti-Semitism Are Counterproductive -- (Letter reproduced as received.)To the Editor:
There's a lot more antisemitism in europe than gets reported. That's why the governments of Britain, France, Germany, etc. have admitted to as such in recent months and made public statements denouncing it.
It's harder to document antisemitism in Europe now because it doesn't come from "official" (or unofficial) government policy as it did six decades ago. Now it comes from the usual suspect (ultra-right wackos), an unexpected suspect (ultra-left activists, some of whom are antisemitism and use "anti-zionism" as a shield), and random people in all walks of life.
The ADL's website isn't an actively updated index of such stuff. It's fairly sloppy and mostly just posts occasional press releases. They don't have an active writer doing what you looked for.
Do you know people in Paris? Intelligent people who pay attention to social issues there? If so, they'll tell you how antisemitism is very noticible there.
Also, in an editorial that you wrote, you said that zionists were actually doing some violence against Jews to get them to go to Israel. Well, even if the ACCUSED cases of that were true, that was a VERY RARE EXCEPTION to the rule. it's not fair to pretend that such a thing was a major reason for jews to flee the places they did. THe governments of Russia and almost every Arab country in the middle east actively promoted antisemitism and in some cases, like Iraq, began actively firing Jews and taking their possessions, basically forcing them to leave.
There is legit criticism of Israel, just like there is for most governments. Heck, half of israelis don't seem to liek their own government very much. But there's also a lot of anti-israel stuff that is so exaggerated and dishonest that one can only suspect that antisemitism is what causes it. If you listened to the far left, you'd think that israel was murdering 9,000 people a day while nuking everyone that moved.
The fact is, more people die in CHICAGO + DETROIT than in the West Bank + gaza... and that's DURING the palestinian terrorist intifada.
BEFORE the intifada, almost no one was dying in the west bank or gaza. And you were safer there than in CHICAGO or DETROIT, or Brooklyn NY for that matter.
SOme claims of antisemitm may be off the mark, but it's out there in a big way. But this isn't new. It's been there for thousands of years. It just takes different shapes and forms.
Boston, Massachusetts, USA* - April 28, 2005
In a Nutshell: Mohammed Ben Jelloun's What's Consociational Patriotism?To the Editor:
Coincidence plays a very crucial role in our life, sometimes to the best of our interest. I am a regular reader of dissidentvoice.org, although the editor there (Sunil Sharma) does not like me for his own reasons, I still find it very informative and in many cases speak my mind.
While I was sifting through Dissident Voice, I found your Web site, I find it interesting, informative and helpful. Yet, I am very straight forward and I have nothing to hide.
In time of political prostitution, it is very important that we take position where it belongs:
I am a Palestinian blind refugee whose rights were, are, and will never be recognized unless through the armed struggle, which is the most advanced form of struggle.
I came to Canada on March 3, 1993, and ever since Windsor has become my graveyard.
I have two degrees: one in Arabic literature from the American University of Beirut, and a BA in history from the University of Windsor.
My Palestinian identity is my pride, and the armed struggle is my choice; I can't do anything about it, but in my heart I cherish it and hail it to the fullest.
From here, you can understand my support and advocacy for the Liberation of Iraq through a clear, straight forward agenda that will drag the occupation with its stooges, agendas and byproducts.
I have never heard of any empire that withdrew from any colony peacefully and with armed resistance. Those who think of India must rethink of what conditions led to the Liberation of India from the British: it is a long story and I don't think I want to consume your time reminding you of things you already know.
This is a short account on me and what attracts me to your publications. I found Mohammed Ben Jelloun's solution to be strange and scary: nobody wants the Lebanese formula, which was initiated by the French invaders not even the Lebanese, the reason it is still enacted is the fact that the Left and the Arab Liberation Movement lost the War in Lebanon to the filthy Wealthy and their allies and the ominous fundamentalists of all kinds.
The alternative is a secular regime based on a socialist agenda that will resist the domination of the West or any domination whatsoever.
This is my stand in very few lines.
Windsor, Ontario, Canada - May 4, 2005
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