Hawking Up Hairballs

Friday, July 28, 2006


Like many in this country, I am distressed by what is going on in Lebanon. I’d like to say “like most in this country”, but I don’t believe it. Perhaps inured by the war in Iraq, most people I’ve run across don’t seem to be giving the whole thing much thought.

The official line of the US government, a line that goes unquestioned by the major media, is that the Israelis are the good guys and the Hezbollah are the bad guys. On July 27, the New York Times even headed an article with the following headline in speaking about the battle over apparent Hezbollah stronghold Bint Jbail, “For Israeli Unit, Hezbollah Lair Is Ambush Site”. “Lair” is generally used to indicate a wild animal’s home. It is also used to describe a person’s home or hiding place but, when used in that way, it is meant to connote a person with bestial characteristics. That is precisely the Israeli government position, that the Hezbollah are beasts, thugs, and criminals.

This sort of characterization has a long and infamous history. Whenever those in power attack the insurgents who rise up against them, they often portray them as less than human. I am currently reading A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara Tuchman. In one chapter, she talks about uprisings among the plebeian segments of society. There she quotes a chronicler who refers to the English peasants who took part in the revolt led by Wat Tyler as “like mad dogs...like Bacchantes dancing through the country.” When the lowest class of workers rebelled in Florence, they were described as “ruffians, evil-doers, thieves...useless men of low condition...dirty and shabby.” Closer home, it wasn’t so long ago that most white people accepted characterizations of blacks that portrayed them as little more than apes.

The fact of the matter is that the Israelis are the bad actors in this attack on Lebanon. They aren’t just attacking Hezbollah. They’re attacking the people of Lebanon and sending a very aggressive message to all of the Muslim people of the region. Israel was founded as a refuge, a place where Jews could live without fear of pogroms and persecution, but it has transmogrified into an assertive, imperial state. How disappointing.

It has been said that we become like those that we hate and, in indulging in collective punishment of the people of Lebanon for “allowing” Hezbollah to exist in their midst, the Israelis are engaging in the same sorts of practices as the Nazis in the occupied countries of Europe. It’s sad. No, worse than sad, it’s tragic.

Monday, July 24, 2006

He's Back!

I have been remiss in keeping up with this blog. Part of the problem is simple sloth. If I can spend some time playing Civilization 4 instead of working on the blog, I’m all too often inclined to pick the game. It goes beyond that though. After rereading some early entries a while back, I decided that they were lacking, and that I would spend more time working on them before posting. I suppose there’s something to be said for that, but it would mean spending an hour or two working on a single blog entry. If I was going to put in that kind of time, then why not spend it working on my novel? That was my reasoning, and the result has been a lack of blog entries. I want to keep blogging though, so I’ve decided that I’m going to try to write three or four entries a week. If that means dashing some of them off, rather than brooding over my writing, then so be it. Some of my entries might prove not to be that good, but so what? That seems to be more in the spirit of web logging anyway.

Three of my favorite novelists are coming out with new books this autumn. The first is Cormac McCarthy, with something that’s entitled The Road. From the description that I’ve read, it’s something right up my alley, being the story of a man and his son in a post-apocalyptic American. They are apparently traveling through a ravaged landscape, trying to make their way to the coast. My favorite McCarthy novel is Blood Meridian, and this one seems to be in the same spirit. I can hardly wait. It’s scheduled to appear in September.

Richard Powers’ latest will hit the shelves in October. I’ve read Powers described as our foremost novelist of ideas. I’m no expert, but I couldn’t disagree. My favorite novel of his is Galatea 2.2. There’s a twist at the end, so I don’t want to talk too much about it, but it’s an intelligent exploration of artificial intelligence and the nature of humanity.

And then in December, we have Thomas Pynchon’s latest, a 996-page tome covering the period from the 1890's until just after the First World War. I love Thomas Pynchon, and I’m currently rereading Gravity’s Rainbow. I won’t even pretend to can’t defend my affection for his work. If someone were to tell me that he’s wordy, self-indulgent, and difficult, I couldn’t argue. I connect with his work though, and I know what I’m going to be doing with my December.