Star Wars: All Yang, no Yin

star wars

Well, the force awakened a bit over a week ago, and I finally got around to making my way to the movie theater, hoping (vainly) that the crowds had thinned. Not so, much to my chagrin. I was excited to see the movie, but not beside myself. As a child and youth I loved Star Wars and delved headfirst into the expanded universe of comic books, games and novels. Like many young people, I dreamt up my own adventures in a galaxy far, far away. My enthusiasm for the world has waned with time (three awful movies will do that to you), but there has always been a special place reserved in my cerebellum for Star Wars. I wanted very much to like this movie. It just didn’t happen. No matter my love for the original trilogy, something just did not work for me, and I will try to explain the reasons as best I can.

Where There’s Snoke There’s Fire

               There was something very much out of balance in this movie, and it took me a while to figure out just what it was. The original trilogy is full of great moments of heroism from Han Solo, Luke, Leia, R2D2 and all the other forces of the rebel alliance, but they are offset by villains more than equal to their courage and goodness. Darth Vader, The Emperor, Jabba the Hutt, Boba Fett, are all memorable and worthy adversaries. The Empire’s crushing stranglehold on the galaxy steeps the entire trilogy in a sense of stifling, authoritarian dread. Every victory by the rebel forces seems hard-fought and won only by the skin on their teeth. The oppressive political power of the empire is the status quo of a regime holding to the power it usurped from the senate. This is all explained without needlessly excessive exposition. God knows less is sometimes more, especially when faced with essentially hearing the Trade Federation’s tax forms read aloud in the prequels. The problem with TFA (The Force Awakens) is that it flees in the opposite direction and favors explaining nothing at all.

Continue reading

Advertisements

America’s Foreign Policy: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

 

THE-GOOD-THE-BAD-BILLY-PERKINS.jpg

“The people who want government’s head to be in the clouds should remember that its feet are mired, understandably but inevitably, in the clay” (George F. Kennan, Around the Cragged Hill, 54-55). 

I am not sure if Kennan ever read the Kybalion, but as Yath00m likes to put it, “The stars will always kiss the feet.” Lofty, ethical ambitions have a place in foreign affairs, but Kennan, the father of America’s Cold War strategy, sees that policymakers by necessity trudge through mud. It is for this reason he writes:

[G]overnment, while worthy of respect, should not be idealized…Its task…is largely to see to it that the ignoble ones are kept under restraint and not permitted to go too far…Its doings are something that should be viewed by the outsider only with a sigh for its unquestionable necessity, and by the participant only with a prayer for forgiveness for the many moral ambiguities it requires him to accept and for the distortions of personality it inflicts upon him.

—Kennan, Around the Cragged Hill, 54, 58. 

This idea of necessity will return.

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Walter McDougall writes in his book Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter with the World Since 1777 that American foreign policy can be understood through the lens of Sergio Leone’s classic The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. While the left emphasizes The Bad (the slaughter of native Americans, enslavement of Africans, a predatory war against Mexico, the interment and nuking of the Japanese, and economic imperialism [so called]), the right emphasizes the The Good (FDR’s Atlantic Charter, the defeat of heinous regimes in Germany and Japan, and victory over Soviet tyranny). Those who see America as The Bad tend to believe that America ought to flagellate itself for past crimes.  Advocates of America The Good tend to advocate their country’s forceful moral leadership of “the free world” (see George W. Bush and almost the entirety of the current Republican presidential candidates).

Continue reading

Longing For The Frying Pan: The Republican Play For National Insecurity

 

 

2015-12-17.jpg
I watched the GOP debate last night, and it was just about as bad as I expected. Having Republicans talk about national security is kind of like unleashing a salivating pack of dogs on a defenseless kitten, so it’s no surprise that most of them got ugly. The word of the evening, if we had been teleported to some opposite world, would be “restraint”, or maybe even “diplomacy”. Here’s the thing, and I will be blunt, there were only a few minutes of the entire debate that I thought even bordered on sanity. There is a great deal to address, but, for the sake of organization, I will go through the candidates one by one in the order of most foaming-at-the-mouth bat-shit insane to somewhat reasonable. Keep in mind that this is coming from a registered independent who has no love for the progressives, so you won’t hear me singing the praises of the other side of the aisle.

Chris Christie: The New Jersey governor takes the cake and, judging by his likely history with cakes, the phrase is a bit of a metaphor about his approach to national security. The moment he said that he would enact and enforce a no fly zone in Syria was bad enough, but when he was asked to clarify and explained that yes he would shoot down Russian jets, I groaned audibly. That is insane. First of all, Russia has been invited into Syria and is thusly abiding by international law. For us to override that by declaring a no fly zone (because we are America and always right) would be an act of aggression against a neutral power. We would be forcing Russia into a situation where they are suddenly violating an arbitrary ultimatum when they have more justification for involvement than we do. It’s the equivalent to a soccer coach declaring that the boundaries of the field have changed and a player is now out of bounds and then shooting them for good measure, just to prove that he is in charge.

Continue reading

Donald v. Adolf

trump-is-hitler1.jpg

 

The only thing more ignorant than a Trump supporter who thinks that the man will single-handedly make America great again, is the Trump hater who thinks he is the new incarnation of Adolf Hitler. Hitler, he is not. Weimar Germany, America is not. And not by a long shot. Similarities certainly exist. For instance, both Hitler and Trump have two arms, two legs, a head, and hair (albeit Hitler had a better idea of how to part his locks). A cursory (not superficial) glance at history and the present highlights the simple-minded mentality that propagates such sophomoric comparisons.

There are two things that should be considered. First, a comparison of Hitler and Trump’s ideas. Second, a comparison of their respective political contexts. Upon reflection, the Hitler-Trump memes are absurd. The main culprit I think is how much people have forgotten about Hitler. He has become a caricature, a trope that has been used and abused and laden with nicknacks from all the strawman hobbyhorses he has been nailed to. He is simply the monster without form or essence. The problem here is not merely an academic one. If you misdiagnose the problem, you will never get around to orchestrating a thoughtful response to the Trump phenomenon.

Continue reading

Donald J Trump: The Artist is Present

trump.jpg

“The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts.” (“Trump: The Art of the Deal,” 1987)

 

We are all watching something beautiful and incredible unfold in the world right now. We are experiencing something akin to the creation of Michelangelo’s David or Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. What I’m speaking of is the ongoing piece of performance art played out by Donald Trump. It is one of the most fascinating pieces of artwork to appear in human history. It is a theater of the absurd, harsh satire, political irony, it is off the cuff and in the moment. It is brave. It is absolutely phenomenal. I just hope that, by the end of this election cycle, people see it for what it is and rise as one with steaming tears glistening on their cheeks to applaud a man who has transformed from business tycoon to avant garde provocateur extraordinaire. In short, the man is an unprecedented genius. This is the most experimental work of art we have ever seen as a society. His brain is working on a meta-societal level that most people cannot comprehend, and he has created a labyrinth of the mind through which we all crawl in the dimness, squinting, perceiving that the hallways are all lined with portraits of Trump. Not so. This is a hall of mirrors, and Trump is making America stare long and hard at itself.

Continue reading