(November 15, 2010)
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Graham Lea's French Literature And Jean Giono
To the Editor:
I really enjoyed the reading of this paper dedicated to French authors. Though Giono is much more famous abroad than Pagnol, the latter holds a special place in my heart -- probably because I was born closer to Aubagne than Manosque. However, I wonder what an adaptation in English sounds like, the original being so much marked with the very peculiar French (and accent) of the southern part of the country. Probably as difficult to translate as poetry!
Annecy, France - November 1, 2010
Jan Baughman's We Exploit Our Troops: The Tillman Story, among Other Examples
To the Editor:
Thanks for publishing the film review of The Tillman Story. I've closely followed this story the past five years and appreciated reading Jan Baughman's thoughtful commentary.
If she, or Swans readers, are interested in learning more, I would suggest Mary Tillman's Boots on the Ground by Dusk (paperback at blurb.com) or Jon Krakauer's Where Men Win Glory (revised paperback has 50 pages of new material; a flawed work since Krakauer lost the trust of the Tillman's family). And, I've posted several documents (with material not found in the film or books) on the Tillman case at my Feral Firefighter blog. Here is a short excerpt:
In his The Fog of War interview with Jason Guerrasio, Amir Bar-Lev, the director of The Tillman Story, said: "...there's been no culpability on the second half of this tragedy, which is the higher ups trying to cover it up. ... to borrow a football metaphor, they [the Tillman family] ran the ball 99 yards over four years time, they handed it off at the one-yard line to Congress and they fumbled it...." Shortly after Sundance, Bar-Lev e-mailed me that "he was pretty hard on the Democratic Congress in his film." True, his film does portray Congressman Waxman's Oversight Committee as ineptly failing to get answers from the top military leadership during their hearing. However, Bar-Lev's film missed the "untold story" that both the Democratic Congress and the Obama Presidency protected General Stanley McChrystal from public scrutiny of his central role in the cover-up of Pat Tillman's friendly-fire death. This cover-up was a thoroughly bi-partisan affair. It wasn't just a case of the Bush administration and the Army stonewalling the Democratic Congress. Congress didn't just "fumble" the ball, they threw the game. It's not surprising that after their initial cover-up of Pat Tillman's friendly-fire death fell apart, Army officers and the Bush administration lied to protect their careers. But after they took control of both Houses of Congress in 2006, the Democrats (including Congressman Henry Waxman, Senator Carl Levin, and Senator Jim Webb) and Senator John McCain could have gone after those responsible. Or at least not promoted them! Just before the 2006 mid-term elections, Kevin Tillman published his eloquent letter, "After Pat's Birthday." Kevin had hoped a Democratic Congress would bring accountability back to our country. But, just as with warrantless wiretapping and torture, those responsible for the cover-up of his brother's friendly-fire death have never been held accountable for their actions. Five years ago, Pat Tillman's family were handed a tarnished Silver Star. It was a travesty of justice that President Obama and the Senate promoted General McChrystal to the Army's highest rank, and handed him his fourth star.For more details, see The "[Untold] Tillman Story" posted at http://www.feralfirefighter.blogspot.com.
This "[Untold] Tillman Story," besides discussing the bipartisan nature of the cover-up, also includes a description of how The New York Times and its Pentagon Reporter Thom Shanker contributed to the Tillman whitewash. And my "book" ends with a short piece describing how Rachel Corrie was Pat Tillman's hero.
Thanks again for taking the time to write this fine review of the film.
By the way, after browsing through Swans, I now remember first stumbling upon the Web site back in 2008 while reading about Ralph Nader. Your writings certainly reinforced my conviction to vote for him (I even bought one of his "buffalo" campaign t-shirts when I met him during a stop in Michigan). And I still have my Nader-Gonzalez sticker on my bumper (along with my Tillman #40 sticker).
(Posting as "Guy Montag"; a reference to the firefighter in Ray Bradbury's novel Farenheit 451.)
SSGT Co. "F" (Ranger) 425th INF 1983 -- 1991
Firefighter, City of Grand Rapids, MI 1991 -- Present
Rockford, Michigan, USA - November 1, 2010
Are we doomed or ready to move on? Michael Doliner's After The Fall
To the Editor:
Regarding Michael Doliner's recent piece on your site, "After the Fall," it seems to me to be a particularly articulate statement of alienation, but of little or no value as political analysis. For Mr. Doliner, once American bourgeois democracy -- and its system of economic exploitation -- crumbles into a dustheap of its own creation, no possible positive outcome could come of it. Surely the world will be left to the rule of roaming savages without the foundations of the current ruling apparatus -- its governing bodies, its police forces, its currency. How shall we ever survive? Who can even conceive of something positive that could that could come after the "fall" of this degenerate system and its ruling class?
I know nothing of Mr. Doliner's background or political leanings beyond this writing, and the small blurb linked to the article. I did, however, read his 2009 piece on Marx's The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, which allows me to venture a guess that he is of that school of ex-leftists who grew tired of the ideological conflicts around Marxism, socialism, and social democracy. He despaired of the "communism" of the Stalinists and Maoists. He gave up doctrinaire belief systems in favor of a "realism" that is in fact unreal. In rejecting wholesale a class analysis of the current system, and apparently abandoning historical materialism in all variants, he sees no hope for humankind in the absence of the current regime. But for the rest of us, the end of the current system does not have to give birth to a Hobbesian nightmare. One can just as reasonably -- and I would argue more realistically -- anticipate that the death spiral of western capitalism we are currently witnessing can and should lead to something much better. It may not be as good for those currently enjoying the privileges of their class rule, but it should be better for everyone else.
The disappointment in the fall of the "rule of law" felt by Mr. Doliner is a little late in coming. The mass of the US population has experienced this "fall" for many years. We do not respect but rather fear -- and often despite -- the police, the unjust justice system, the financial system in which most of us cannot participate, the state itself. It is only "educated" liberals, and their right-wing "opponents," who have come to actually internalize the quaint notions of what this society sells itself to be. The Fric and Frac of liberal and conservative combatants actually believed in this stuff, and their often financially comfortable, police-protected, over-indulgent lives were all the more pleasant for it. If only the rest of us were better "educated," we too could take advantage of its bounty. But now, as financial ruin approaches, and the lens through which the petty bourgeois liberals like Mr. Doliner viewed the legal and financial systems is forever shattered, the world is now becoming more "real" to them. They are now visible in the same way the rest of us have been seeing them for years. The law was never fair for the poor, the working person, the person of color. The financial system has always been rigged for the benefit of the ruling class, with banks and insurance companies the targets of mass rage for generations. Similarly, torture and false imprisonment have been facts of life for broad swathes of the American landscape for centuries, not to mention key components of domestic and foreign policies.
In some ways, Mr. Doliner is posing the age-old debate between reform and revolution, and despairs that the former is no longer an option. What about revolution? What about social transformation through struggle against this degeneracy? Isn't this a far more likely, and positive, possibility? Yes, the markets may crumble, the armies will collapse, there will be uncertainty and deprivation, but then what? Will we all lose our collective minds? Will humans suddenly lose the ability to adapt, to feed and clothe each other, to create a new social environment? Will history end? This ahistorical pessimism, revealing only the limits of Mr. Doliner's worldview, is hardly a reliable prediction for the future of the mass of the world population, or the American population.
I don't know what the (perhaps former) United States, or the world, will look like after the death of the current system, but it is clear that this system is destroying itself. Unlike the circumstances of the Russian, Chinese, Cuban, and even the Paris Commune, this time the center of global capitalism is tottering. There is a real possibility -- dare I say likelihood? -- that something better will come about. After all, it is hardly the structures of monopoly capitalism that have kept the barbarians at bay. They are the barbarians, and they've always been at war against the rest of us. A useful analogy may be to the arguments around the current US wars of conquest. It is claimed that Iraq and Afghanistan will devolve into bloody war zones of mass slaughter and violence if the American armies leave, but that is the current reality. Will this country devolve into a violent, exploitive, and oppressive system of militarism that pauperizes the mass of the population if the US government falls? But that makes no sense in the face of our current reality; how else could we describe the current state of affairs Before the Fall if not violent, exploitive and militarist?
The world liberals so cherished and believed in turns out to be a sham, and dreams die hard. But please, Mr. Doliner, don't subject the rest of us to your despair over the death of a system that has been killing the rest of us for generations. We're ready to move on.
Washington, DC, USA - November 5, 2010
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