The United States is a Christian nation, and we are the greatest nation on earth…at least if measured in terms of how much gross revenue made from the sales of weapons. In all seriousness, though, most of these sales of weapons go to “developing nations,” which means that 1) the weapons do great harm, landing in the hands of tyrants and war lords in unstable countries and 2) these weapons can more easily find their way into the hands of terrorists. Karma, though, what goes around comes around. You reap what you sow. We create the terrorists that we so greatly fear and that cause us to enter ill-advised, unwinnable wars that divide us, cause us to go into great debt, and further destabilize the world.
How I rate it: 4 of 5 stars
What I liked: It was a thrill ride, a thinkers thrill ride, but a thriller nonetheless. It’s a bit creepy to contemplate the reach of the government in the post-9/11 world. Even creepier, I submit, when a skilled author brings characters to life who have to grapple with the issues in real time, on the run.
Plot Summary: A clean up by the NSA leads to a cover up, and cover ups lead to more cover ups. The body count and loose ends lead an analyst inside the agency to start to ask questions, questions that she knows she isn’t ready to answer, questions that peel back the curtain on the NSA’s power and god-like reach.
“Something about all that power seemed to make the assholes who wielded it believe they were invulnerable.”
To get along with each other, we must respect one another. There is not shortcut. In this era of “nationalist” enthusiasm, in this Trump-world where people are viewed with suspicion because they are of a different religion or nationality, of a different gender or race — it’s important to remember that surrounding yourself with people who look and think and act just like you is no guarantee that you will be more safe, more secure, or free from conflict. Peace is not won through purging ourselves of those who are different, it comes through a maxim that I saw on display most notably in my travels through Alaska: live and let live. It’s simple. It’s basic. It’s respect.
I was reminded of this reading a bit of wisdom from Zadie Smith:
Racial homogeneity is no guarantor of peace, any more than racial heterogeneity is fated to fail
Here’s an extended quote from the New York Review (Dec 22):
“I don’t think I ever was quite naive enough to believe, even at twenty-one, that racially homogeneous societies were necessarily happier or more peaceful than ours simply by virtue of their homogeneity. After all, even a kid half my age knew what the ancient Greeks did to each other, and the Romans, and the seventeenth-century British, and the nineteenth-century Americans. My best friend during my youth—now my husband—is himself from Northern Ireland, an area where people who look absolutely identical to each other, eat the same food, pray to the same God, read the same holy book, wear the same clothes, and celebrate the same holidays have yet spent four hundred years at war over a relatively minor doctrinal difference they later allowed to morph into an all-encompassing argument over land, government, and national identity. Racial homogeneity is no guarantor of peace, any more than racial heterogeneity is fated to fail.” (emphasis added)
Scott, 43, never raised or pointed the gun, according to the prosecutor, but Vinson felt he posed an imminent threat because he ignored orders to drop it and stared at them in a “trance-like state”.
Is this really the kind of nation we want to live in? Where officers have a license to kill with no accountability or repercussions?
Source: The Guardian
How I rate it: 4 of 5 stars
What I liked: The main protagonist Lisbeth Salander. She is intriguing, combative, and unyielding, something of a rage against the machine dynamic.
Amidst the abuse of the protesters, it’s heartening to see veterns self-deploying to Standing Rock. As these events unfold, however, I am reminded that it takes a lot of violence to sustain our way of life. Usually the troops and police officers are fighting on the side of the wealthy and powerful, geared up to the teeth to beat back anyone who stands in the way of “progress.” Our ever-expanding economy must be sustained by heavy energy use. Few question whether or not we need the economy to continue to expand, so we just keep building pipelines that will leak, we keep drilling offshore, we keep pouring poisons into the ground to frack up the shale, and we keep blowing off the tops of the Appalachian Mountains to get at every last bit of coal, even when this means destroying our beautiful, green landscapes and leaching toxins into rivers and creeks. This is the price we all agree to pay, to live as we do, though we often do not acknowledge it. After all, most of us don’t have to live with a pipeline in our backyard.
As you can probably imagine, I’m having a hard time getting back to novel-writing. The hours pass quickly as I read article after article, click share, post thoughts, reply to thoughts, and delete or edit some of those #Ishouldhaveknownbetter replies . So, in lieu of working on my novel, I’m turning to this blog to process. What I mean, specifically, is that at this historic moment of terrible transition, I’m reflecting on my own mind and spirit. Realistically, we will have to fight to beat back the forces of evil or to hold them at bay, and the next few years will likely be violent and chaotic. They will bring out our demons and all the skeletons in the closet of our national history.
Just started a fascinating nonfiction book, Sapeins: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s a sweeping and epic tome, but it’s highly readable, even entertaining at times, if you have the kind of sense of humor that allows you to roll your eyes and chuckle at your own species.
Here’s a quote I thought was worth passing on:
Genus Homo’s position in the food chain was, until quite recently, solidly in the middle. For millions of years, humans hunted smaller creatures and gathered what they could, all the while being huned by larger predators. It was only 400,000 years ago that several species of man began to hunt large game on a regular basis, and only in the last 100,000 years — with the rise of Homo sapiens — that man jumped to the top of the food chain.That spectacular leap from the middle to the top had enormous consequences. Other animals at the top of the pyramid, such as lions and sharks, evolved into that position very gradually, over millions of years. This enabled the ecosystem to develop checks and balances that prevent lions and sharks from wreaking too much havoc. As lions became deadlier, so gazelles evolved to run faster, hyenas to cooperate better, and rhinoceroses to be more bad-tempered. In contrast, humankind ascended to the top so quickly that the ecosystem was not given time to adjust. Moreover, humans themselves failed to adjust. Most top predators of the planet are majestic creatures. Millions of years of dominion have filled them with self-confidence. Sapiens by contrast is more like a banana republic dictator. Having so recently been one of the underdogs of the savannah, we are full of fears and anxieties over our position, which makes us doubly cruel and dangerous. Many historical calamities, from deadly wars to ecological catastrophes, have resulted from this over-hasty jump. (pages 11-12)
There was something about seeing Donald Trump on the stage at the Republican convention that brought it home for me, seeing Trump in the bright lights, alone and bereft of opponents — alternatively barking or basking in the glow of his victory. It all made it feel legit, legit in a very creepy, skin-crawling sort of way, but more than feeling disgust was my heightened sense of urgency, an urgency felt by most people in the face of fascism or other forms or totalitarianism. With Trump on stage, we can see ourselves going down that road, and it’s all too real now. The most obvious political course of action: do anything to stop Trump. Read more
I was reading just yesterday about how Nixon prolonged the Vietnam war for no other reason than political calculations: he was looking for a way to get out with honor so that he wouldn’t suffer the political fall out. Perhaps something to consider before casting a vote this fall for a pro-war President like Clinton or Trump. Read more
All violence is not created equal. One day we hear of yet another black person killed by a cop and the next we read of a black man ambushing police officers. Many of us feel comfortable denouncing both as equally tragic: at the end of the day innocent people died and we mourn all loss of life. It’s a travesty that a black man was killed and an equally terrible thing that officers were killed. To me, though, this can’t be the final word. It’s not an apples to apples comparison. Read more
As inspiration for my own novel, I’m looking to Melville, specifically to his infamous Captain Ahab, “a grand, ungodly, god-like man.” Ahab is obsessive to the point of insanity, seeking to extract vengeance from the epic white whale. It’s Ahab’s intensity and energy that pushes the narrative forward, farther into the deep oceans of the high seas. In the story, Ahab is Shakespearean in scope, making for a rich metaphorical discussion, but from a writer’s perspective, there’s something about Ahab that is also a little more difficult to put a finger on. He doesn’t quite fit the bill as a traditional antagonist. He’s ungodly, yes, but ultimately, Captain Ahab’s fight is with himself. Read more
As a kid I remember singing a song about being in the Lord’s army. It was a fun song, probably one of my favorites. It was an action song, I think that was the appeal when I was such a young kid. There were these dynamic movements that had all of us Sunday School kids marching like we were in an infantry, spying on the enemy, and taking aim and firing a gun. That was a long time ago. Tomorrow I go on a meditation retreat. It’s a far cry from the Lord’s army or Donald Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric that flirts so coyly with the idea of a holy war against Islam. I am, quite literally, going to sit on my ass for ten days. Read more