If you’re from my generation, you grew up with the American heroics epitomized by John Wayne in The Sands of Iwo Jima. As a very young man my two favorite books were Battle Cry by Leon Uris and Valhalla by Jere Peacock. This idealist propaganda approach was effectively destroyed by exposure to the journalistic approach to the obscenity of the Vietnam War. Blame television. Add to this the Stanley Kubrick film—Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb—and generally I avoided war stories in text or film for the next fifty years.
Oh, there were certainly exceptions: I did read War and Peace … twice. War and Peace, however, was not a jingoistic American fairy tale.
Continue reading “Two Novels, No John Wayne”
You’re a young man who eschews walking in favor of a skateboard, who has a bevy of wahinis surrounding him when he surfs, who is blessed with a Washington D. C. family that is powerful and rich, who is allowed to delay college to find himself: his more spiritual side.
A High School theme paper and an interest in Arabic poetry lead him to a madrasa in Brooklyn where he starts to learn Arabic; then his friend and mentor at the school invites him for further study in Pakistan; then he discovers the erotic closeness of other men and goes off into the mountains to train and learn to improve his marksmanship. He does all of this in a romantic quest to be like Richard Burton and to live life to the fullest.
Continue reading “American Taliban”
When was the last time you read a novel where the exceptional Americans were not the heroes, or even heroic? If it has been some time you should consider reading The Blind Man’s Garden by Nadeem Aslam.
But don’t think Al Qaeda and the Taliban are the heroes in this excellent novel. What it expresses is the fundamental strengths of humans: love, family, food, loyalty, and spiritual awareness. The Taliban is forcing the Muslim population back into the 13th century, Al Qaeda is fomenting violence throughout the region and threatening to expand, and the American Gobots are trampling the culture and traditions of the countries they have invaded in their imperialistic zeal to make every do as America says.
Continue reading “The Blind Man’s Garden”
Yes, this is a headline from the current issue of The Onion but in humor there is often truth and insight:
Nation Horrified To Learn About War In Afghanistan While Reading Up On Petraeus Sex Scandal
I have listened to commentaries about this sex scandal and even discussed it with friends over dinner or a cup of coffee. But the theme that interested me most and which I wanted to pursue was whether or not this country was obsessed with sex and needed desperately to grow up. I had to work out my thoughts and have concluded that Obama made a mistake in accepting the resignation of General Petraeus. It is outdated and specious thinking that suggests foreign spies are using hot women to steal government secrets: sometimes sex is just sex.
I also agree with the people who point out that a (perhaps unthinking) reliance on the secrecy and security of Gmail might fly in the face of Petraeus’s reputation of being smart and his position as the head spy in this country.
I don’t want to sound sexist but rather than uncovering a weakness in the government and the military, this whole story involving a couple of Generals and a couple of women and a questionable FBI investigation seems to boil down to just a few facts: some women are highly attracted to men with power (I don’t buy the uniform cliché) and most men lose the ability to think straight when confronted by sex and the FBI is still prone to spend time and money on silliness as long as it makes the CIA look bad.
Let’s drop the whole story, get out of Afghanistan without delay, and see if the Republican controlled House of Representatives is interested in doing anything to help the country revive over the next four years.