The Right Side of History? Where Are We Going?

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Contrary to those who claim to know the arc of history or declare themselves on the right side of history, it is more wise than foolish to acknowledge the ambiguities of the present in these troubled times. If the study of the past teaches us anything, it’s that ideas and movements wax and wane, twist and turn. Predicting the future is as dubious as it is interesting. While certain trends seem set, the future, simply put, is wide-open and progress is as common as regression (leaving aside the lofty standards by which we judge such things).

Two poems highlight this dual reality of trends and surprises.

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Kids These Days: On Euthanizing the Elderly Vote

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Vice, that paragon of all things moronically millennial, recently published a piece arguing that since older people will have to live less than younger people with the consequences of their voting decisions, their votes should count for less. This is not only anti-democratic, but it is ageist, arrogant, and privileges the youth over the youth-less.

First off, it’s true that the elderly constitute a special interest group with their own concerns (healthcare, etc.) and tend to vote in a certain way to benefit themselves. But this is nothing unique: younger people also vote their interests (education costs etc.). Self-interest is normal in a democracy and is not the basis for disqualification. Further, let us not be hasty and assume that every vote is driven by self-interest in a purely monetary fashion. There are some things more important than cash, and the Brexit vote is a good example of that. The UK will take some sort of a hit financially in the short run, but apparently the majority of voters thought this a reasonable price to pay for wrenching their national sovereignty out of the hands of Brussels and improving their border security.  Continue reading

Brexit Beer and The Implosion of The Establishment

 

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Jolly Good 

Last night a group of friends and I quite unintentionally stumbled into the Churchill Tavern and proceeded to drink pints of Fuller’s London Pride while watching the Brexit returns. Contrary to the elites’ counsel and predictions, Leave beat Remain. While there were plenty of Americans at the bar having a bloody good time, oblivious to the going-ons across the pond, one could pick out the Brits tensely watching the TV. When BBC called the referendum for Leave there was no cheering.

Stepping outside, I bummed a cigarette from an unhappy looking fellow. Mid-twenties, well-dressed, he was imperious, defiant, and British. I asked him what he thought, and while we both stole glances through the window at the TV, he declared: “Farage is a twat. This entire campaign is based on a bigoted, xenophobic lie.” Gesturing to his friend, a Frenchman, he declared, “There will be consequences with the EU and especially the French.” I held my tongue. It isn’t my country or my election and if there is one thing that annoys me it is when Europeans pontificate on American politics (John Oliver, go home). I told the man as much so there was no fisticuffs. Plus, there was no need to rub in the victory. Despite what I just said, I am for Brexit.

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Kissinger: Realism in Theory

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Say what you will about Clinton, at least she has the sense to pay heed to the demon Kissinger. I may like Bernie’s non-interventionist ways (and that’s about the only thing I like other than the fact that he channels the crazy uncle), but his hating on Nixon’s right hand man is sophomoric at best (Bernie: “Kissinger was one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country.”). It is rather amusing: a socialist Jew hating on a socialist-killing Jew. Blood doesn’t run thicker than water, apparently. Continue reading

Harlem: White Guilt, Gentrification, and Historical Consciousness

 

I live in Harlem, but I’m an outsider. Race is the obvious reason for this: I can walk a half mile in Harlem and only see a couple white faces. But race is not the only reason. Many of families in Harlem have lived here for generations. In this way, my status of outsider would be similar in backwoods West Virginia.

A fellow white resident told me he felt like an occupier living in Harlem. This struck me as an overwrought and guilt-ridden way of looking at the situation, but he accurately identified a level of unease. But the unease is diminishing to an extent: young white professionals who want to live in NYC have begun moving into Harlem because the rent is cheaper. Over the past year, I’ve noticed an uptick in white faces. This white migration in turn has begun to contribute to the gentrification of the area and the slow but steady rise of rent costs that will ultimately drive out multi-generational black families. This in turn has led to guilt-ridden condemnation of gentrification—numerous white neighbors argue this line. It’s quite nauseating especially when coupled (as it always is) with cliché anti-cop rhetoric. It’s straight up hypocrisy: if they really cared about preserving black Harlem, they wouldn’t move there. So why do they? Continue reading

China v. Vietnam v. America: How Quickly We All Forget

American napalm, that was so four decades ago.

The left loves to excoriate America’s strategic, altruistic, and ultimately flawed foray into Southeast Asia as cynical corporate imperialism. Noam Chomsky is particularly fond of this interpretation. But LBJ’s escalation of America’s participation in Vietnam’s civil war goes hand-in-hand with his beliefs about the ability of government to remake society and the world. The Great Society and Vietnam War were flip sides of the same coin. Champions of the left such as FDR, LBJ, and Obama in recent years, have characteristically opted to ally with corporations to advance their altruistic goals, which creates dissonance within the left driven by a misunderstanding of cause and effect. Corporations become the boogeymen that drive war, when in fact well-meaning, left-wing pipe dreams animate conflicts that corporations then more than willingly accommodate. Conservatives, supposedly so pro-corporate, have made less use of them than liberals.

I digress. Back to Southeast Asia. While the Vietnam War is a favorite topic of American-haters, Vietnam doesn’t share their obsession with getting stuck in the past. The other day The Diplomat published an excellent article that explored both Vietnam’s strategic considerations and its historical consciousness. America’s massive crime of getting involved in that far off land appears to be little more than a blip.
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The Plot Against America: Counterfactual History and Historical Consciousness

 

What Might Have Been: President of the United States

 

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth is a counterfactual historical novel. The story focuses on a Jewish family by the name of Roth living in an alternative history in which Charles Lindbergh, the Nazi sympathizer, wins the 1940 election on the platform of keeping America out of the war. Despite the consternation of many Jews across America, some prominent rabbis become convinced (not without good reason as it turns out) that Lindbergh’s “Nazism” is calculated to put America in a better negotiating position vis a vis Hitler. Call it politics. Call it the ambiguous future.

Roth’s book emphasizes the unknown. If his story was straight historical fiction, we’d all be able to look up how the story ends. Instead we get familiar ingredients (Nazis, Jews, America, Hitler) but an unclear finale haunts the proceedings. Continue reading