Circus Maximus MMXVI: Army of me

8 09 2016

Since I’ve used the lyric, I gotta use the pic:

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Some specific observations:

  1. Hillary Clinton is a flawed candidate.
  2. Every candidate is a flawed candidate.
  3. That every candidate is a flawed candidate doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t point out the flaws of a particular candidate.
  4. I think she erred in setting up a private server. (Error in judgment)
  5. I think she’s too hawkish. (Policy difference)
  6. I think her resentment of criticism can lead her to focus too much on the fact of criticism itself, and not enough on whether the criticism is warranted. (Temperamental issue)

Some general commentary on the specific observations:

I have other policy differences (mainly in foreign policy and the national security state) with her, and I think her approach is sometimes too incrementalist, too conciliatory, but I also think the positions she does hold are not insane, and that sometimes the only way to make any gains at all is to conciliate, and to take the inch when you can’t reach the foot.

I also think she’s tough as hell, and when she gets that inch she will not yield it, and that she actually does give a good goddamn about governing well.

I don’t think she’s a criminal, and while I would have liked to have seen the speeches she gave to various financiers—I’d guess she was entirely too conciliatory toward their feelings and interests—I have a hard time getting worked about her alleged corruption.

I mean, “take the money and run” isn’t exactly a high-minded, um, principle, but in a society in which everyone is encouraged to monetize everything all the time (she said with just a wee exaggeration), I’m not shocked that she cashed in. I’m not crazy about it, but I’m also not seeing how it’s made any difference to her policy proposals.

Some specific commentary on specific observations:

Now, regarding #s 4 and 6: I absofuckinglutely understand her bitterness at having to shovel herself out from under the piles of bull-, horse-, and chickenshit tossed her way. One of the reasons I can’t get too worked up about the server thing is my sense that if it weren’t the emails, the press and Republican adversaries would have found something else on which to launch a thousand investigations.

Have you heard of Benghazi?

There are legit questions to be asked about the server and about policy decisions and about the Clinton Foundation, but it’s like fucking Groundhog Day with the punditocracy: in the morning the questions get asked, by the evening she answers them, and the next day, the same goddamned questions get asked all over again.

No wonder she’s pissed off.

Hell, I’m pissed off and I’m the kind of person who thinks that if you’re running for the presidency of the most powerful nation on the planet you should just suck it up: whatever the pundits or even the Congressional back-benchers fling at you is nothing compared to what’s going to get tossed at you by the world itself.

Some tentative conclusions:

Clinton, of course, knows this, so whether her resentments get in the way or spur her on—whether her jaw is clenched in anger or determination—she’s shown she’s able to keep grinding her way towards the White House.

And once she’s there (oh Apollo, she’d better get there), I’m guessing that she’ll take a breath, straighten her jacket, and get to work.

Recommendation:

Hillary Clinton for president, 2016.





Better stop sobbing now

11 02 2015

I have no sympathy for Christians who whine that President was unfair to Christianity at the National Prayer Breakfast.

Not just because I am not a Christian, nor because I disagree more generally with these folks’ politics.

No, the reason for my “get over it” response is their unwillingness to grapple with the violence woven into the history of the belief they hold dear. It’s as if they can only hold to Christianity if Christianity without [recent] flaws.

Oh, wait, that’s pretty much exactly what they mean, even if they didn’t mean to mean it.

Ta-Nehisi Coates has a couple of posts on the response to Obama’s remarks, as does Jamelle Bouie, and they do a fine job of tag-teaming the No-True-Christian phalanx: here is this example and this example and this example and, oh look, another example of how Christianity was used to justify violence and oppression.

Reference to the historical record is crucial (even if the tres or quinque solas types want to claim history’s got nothin’ on them) if want wants to make or rebut historical claims—that’s kinda the whole point of historical claim-making.

But I want to focus here on the bad faith of those who seek to wash Christianity of its sins: they cannot abide criticism of their faith, not because God will punish them if they don’t savage the critics—I’d think such a position bonkers at best and murderous (see: killers acting to uphold the honor of the Prophet Mohammaed) at worst, but it has its own kind of insane integrity—but because it is “offensive” to and displays “contempt” for Christians.

And, yes, I get why these folks don’t like having the unsavory bits of Christianity against the unsavory bits of Islam—We’re good and they’re bad so how dare you!—but honest to pete, is their faith so thin that it is bruised by mere mention of imperfection?

I’m a pinko, and there has been all sorts of nasty shit—war, oppression, mass murder—done in the name of pinkoism. I can say Oh, but I’m not a Bolshevik/Leninist/Stalinist/Maoist, that’s got nothing to do with me, and nothing to do with Real Socialism, but that would properly be understood as a bullshit response.

I am an adherent to a tradition which has all too often failed miserably, murderously, to uphold its promises of liberation and the creation of a truly human society, and it would not be in any way unreasonable for you say, Uhhh, so why do you hold to ideas which have been used to justify those miserable, murderous failures?

And whether or not your motives were bad in asking this, I’d still respond, with both acknowledgement of the flaws in various incarnations of the socialist politics and a defense of the socialism itself—because I am fucking serious about my belief in socialism. As long as I think it possible to avoid or overcome the problems of previous socialist regimes, I will continue to think socialism is a program worth pursuing.

In other words, even though socialism has been flawed six ways to Sunday, I still think there’s something there worth hanging on to. I take socialism as it is, and as it has been, and what I think it could be. It ain’t perfect, but it’s all right.

Now, I understand that it’s easier to hold to imperfection in political than in religious programs, and my general sense that, well, to quote Leonard Cohen, there is a crack in everything, means that I can still see that’s how the light gets in. I don’t require perfection because I don’t think it’s necessary (which is also handy, given that I don’t think it’s possible).

Still, even you do believe that Christ were perfect, and that Christianity is the only path to salvation, it’s not clear why you can’t accept the bountiful historical evidence that that belief in something perfect has nonetheless been used to justify war, oppression, and mass murder. It’s a hard acceptance, sure, but if you want to argue on behalf of the Christian movement within history, then you have to engage that history, not wave it away or scourge those who dare to refer to it.

Again, radical sola types may not bother with history one way or another—all that matters is God, and we can’t really expect much of humans, etc.—but those who are incensed at the mere suggestion that Christian history might fairly be compared to Islam’s history clearly do believe that this history—the actions of Christians in the world—matters.

So to those who think history matters but are unwilling to look closely at it, I can only ask, Why not?

Because if you cannot accept the imperfections of Christianity in this world and still have faith in it, then I question whether you can have any faith at all.





Take a chance, take a chance

11 07 2010

Publish or perish?

What ought to be the fate of a first, flawed (fatally?) novel?

My second novel is pretty good, with no obvious structural flaws—although there are, of course, still flaws—and perhaps worth the effort to find an agent and, with luck, a publisher.

But the first, mm, the first is most definitely a first novel. Too much of this, not enough of that: the motivation for one if not two of the main characters remains murky, and however human the characters are (I am pretty good with character), they are a bit, tsssss, how do I put this, too wise?

Still, even with the over-knowingness, the characters are appealing, and I’d like to give them a chance. Hence the dilemma.

E-publishing removes almost all of the obstacles to publication, which is both a good and a bad thing. If an author thinks a novel is engaging enough, she can bypass all of the gatekeepers to print publication and go direct to the cybersphere. But gatekeepers are not always bad, and can keep an author from putting out something for which she feels affection, but which is also perhaps not ready for prime time.

Kill your darlings, said Faulkner, and I agree, wholeheartedly. I’ve struck beautiful sentences, etched out lyrical paragraphs, and consigned lovely metaphors to the trash bin, all because they didn’t advance the tale or the argument.  The play’s the thing, said another well-known author (albeit in a different context), and it is because I ardently believe that the overall purpose matters more than any part that I am willing to kill my darlings.

But what if the entire play—or novel, in this case—is your darling?

I never, er, well, not since I was a kid, did I expect to write a novel, and then  whooosh, this one (tentatively named Unexpected People) poured out of me. I wrote it in three months, after getting home from the late shift at work, and it came out clean. There was editing and trimming, of course, but I wrote and I wrote and then as I neared the end I wondered how it would end and then it did.

I wrote, and then I was done. What an amazing feeling!

The second novel was more complicated, which in turn required more discipline, more editing, more time; it is, on the whole, a more involved novel. But it also wouldn’t have happened without that first one, with what I learned in the writing of the first one, with what I learned I could do.

So do I chalk up Unexpected People as a kind of exercise, the practice before the performance?

That seems wrong, not least because it wasn’t an exercise, but a thing in itself: the stories, the characters, matter in themselves.

There is another way to deal with this, of course: try to fix those flaws. When I’d considered this previously, I thought, Oh, no, any surgery would kill the patient. But now I’m not so sure: I just sent a copy to C. (she’s helping me with a possible cover for a Smashwords version) and, just for kicks, decided to re-read it. The problems are evident—so much so I’m worried about what C. will say—but I still like the people in the story, still want to find out (even though I already know) what happens.

(Yes, I’m more hesitant to have a friend read this than strangers. That’s how it is.)

So I’ll finish reading it, then consider ways to shrink the flaws, perhaps by cutting back on the knowingness (i.e., the talkiness) of the characters, and hear what C. has to say.

I both do and do not want to publish this on Smashwords. There’s the whole matter of trying to get readers for it and marketing and shit would I have to Tweet and. . . tchaaaaarrgh maybe open a fucking. . . Facebook! account and all of the other issues of self-publishing.

But those are all technicalities, and secondary to the main question: Do I kill this darling, or let it find its way?

Stay tuned.





Yesterday, once more

7 10 2008

Lucretia, as usual, is forcing me to sharpen my thoughts in response to her own perspicacious observations.

So: the varieties of tolerance. I’ve been focussing on political tolerance, tolerance among citizens, and tolerance among strangers. The first might be a kind of structural or constitutional tolerance; the second, for those who move within a particular political or constitutional tolerance; and the third, for those about whom one knows little, and for which no relationship of even the minimal constitutional type is necessarily defined.

I haven’t said much about this third type, mainly because I’ve been preoccupied with the political and there’s nothing particularly political about this. Still a brief: A certain defensive wariness may be apt when among this last group, insofar as the encounters may happen ‘outside of the law’ (e.g., a deserted street or minimally populated area, with no obvious authority present), as it were. That these encounters may be ‘lawless’, however, doesn’t mean they have to be violent or aggressive or even threatening: One may wish only to move through or around strangers, and however much the strangers may eye one another, each nonetheless decides to leave the other alone. (This might be considered a literal ‘toleration of existence’, and a necessary precondition for politics.)

Perhaps somewhere in there should be tolerance of acquaintances (feel free to offer a better term): These are the people we work with or see regularly or engage in genial conversation, even if we wouldn’t invite them into our home and they wouldn’t invite us into their home. We might like one another ‘well enough’ or find each other ‘interesting’ or ‘worth talking to’, but wouldn’t, really, call a friend. Someone you know, kinda, and are satisfied with that.

Anyway, what poked at me from Lucretia’s comment was about the personal side of toleration. I noted that I wouldn’t be friends with someone who merely tolerated me, but Lucretia adds some shading to this statement:

As for wanting more than tolerance from my friends – maybe. I’m finding as I get older that I am more tolerant than I thought I could be. I can be friends with someone even if there are one or two things about them I really don’t like or even actively disapprove of, because they have other qualities that shine brighter, and because everyone has faults and blind spots, including me. But I agree, that if a person only tolerates something that I feel is the very core of my being, it’s going to be much harder to feel close to that person, and trust them.

I was getting at more the ‘very core of my being’ aspect, as opposed to the ‘I’ll put up with’ or ‘I’ll overlook this’ aspect of tolerance. My sense of not wanting to be friends with someone who merely tolerated me arises both out of a desire for dignity and from not wanting to feed my occasionally raging neuroses. Why hang out with someone who doesn’t think you’re, basically, okay to hang out with? Why do that to yourself?

But Lucretia’s right: Ain’t none of us perfect, so even dear friends are going to irritate us (and vice versa). What then to do? Nothin’. Let it pass. Be glad for the friendship, be glad the other person is as flawed as you, be glad you don’t have to be perfect to have a friend or be a friend.

When I was younger I used to say ‘I don’t judge.’ Hah! I judged all the time, but since I didn’t want to be judgmental, I wasn’t honest about it. As a result, I was never able to reflect on those judgments; they were unconsidered. Now I know I judge all the time, but I also let a hell of a lot more judgments go. So X is always late and Y never calls, but I know that, and I still want to be around them. So I set aside time for X and I’m the one who calls Y. At some point, I decided not to moralize these behaviors. Yeah, it’d be nice if X were prompt and Y could pick up the phone, but so what: the people matter more than the irks. (And I’m glad that goes both ways.)

Yeah, sometimes the irks overwhelm the people, and it becomes difficult to remain friends. And sometimes things just change so radically you have to reconsider everything. (I’m thinking of my friendship with someone who moved her Christian faith from the periphery to the center of her life. Another post, perhaps.) But at that point I think the issue is less a matter of tolerance and more a matter of compatibility.

Huh. Perhaps the distinction should be between tolerance of persons (which is not somethings friends do to one another) and tolerance of acts (which friends, citizens, and strangers may allow).

Does this help, or am I just fucking it all up again?