Sunday, May 12, 2019

Weekend Roundup

I spent much of the week in Oklahoma, visiting my 92-year-old cousin, his two daughters, and various other family. I packed my Chromebook, then forgot it, so went a few days without my usual news sources -- not that anything much changed while I was away. Trying to catch up here, including a few links that seem possibly useful for future reference.

Looks pretty obvious from my "recent reading" sidebar that I'm in a gloomy mood about the viability of democracy in this nation. The odd book out is subtitled "On the Writing Process" -- thought that might inspire me to write about it, and it has made me a bit more self-conscious in my writing. The one I recommend most is Jason Stanley's How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them. I lumped it into a list in my recent Book Reports, but it's well thought out and clear, with a fair smattering of historical examples but more focused on here and now: things you will recognize. I rather wish there was a more generic word than "fascism": one with less specific historical baggage, one that can be used in general discourse without tripping off unnecessary alarms. On the other hand, as a leftist, I've always had a keen nose for generic fascism, so the word suits my purposes just fine. I have, in fact, been using it since the 1970s, which is one reason the modern American conservative movement always seems to coherent and predictable.

Some scattered links this week:

I don't have much to say about Game of Thrones, but I was struck by this ratiocination by Zack Beauchamp: "But it's one thing for Daenerys to act like Bush, and another for her to act like Hitler." He's talking about the indiscriminate fire-bombing of cities full of innocent civilians, but while Bush criminally started wars, lied about his reasoning, rounded up and tortured supposed enemies, disrupted the lives of millions doing irreparable harm, just to show the world that it's more important to fear his "shock and awe" than to respect his self-proclaimed beneficence, and while Hitler did those same things on an even more epic scale, the most comparable historical example of a leader laying waste to entire cities was Harry Truman -- who we generally recall as an exceptionally decent and modest president.

You can say that war does that, even to otherwise decent people. You can say that Hitler and Bush were worse than Truman because they started wars whereas Truman was simply trying to end one he had inherited. (This is not the place to get into how he escalated the Cold War and the Korean War, which in many ways I find more troubling than his "final solution" to WWII.) You can say that Hitler was worse than Bush because his desire for war was more deeply rooted in the uncritical imperialism and racism of the era, which made him even more vindictive and bloodthirsty. But I'd also note that Truman was not above the prejudices of Hitler's era, and that Bush (while less racist than Truman let alone Hitler) was, like all conservatives ever, fully committed to traditional hierarchies of wealth and power, which made it easy for him to run roughshod over all the others.

I have no idea where Daenerys fits among this trio, as she is a fictional character in an imaginary world. Even if she reflects the world of her creators, she does so haphazardly and inconsistently.

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