Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Bush, Gog, and Magog

In the video below a NY Times columnist reports on a conversation between Bush and French President Jacques Chirac.  In his efforts to persuade him to bring the French in to support the war effort apparently Bush appealed to these biblical apocalyptic concepts of Gog and Magog.  Humorous for me because this terminology is very natural for me.  It's what I grew up with.  But I can imagine that someone not steeped in it would have been pretty weirded out.  Chirac conluded that Bush was a madman.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Ahead Of Their Time

I recently watched an old movie from the 50's that at the time had been denounced by the US House of Representatives as sympathetic to communists.  During production anti-communist vigilantes fired rifle shots at the set.  After being edited in secret only 12 theaters would dare to screen it.  Many of the participants would be blacklisted in Hollywood.  The lead actress would be deported.

The film is called Salt of the Earth and you can watch it here.  Why such an extreme response?  It portrays a strike from a position sympathetic to the union.  It advances a view that men and women should be treated as equals.  It talks openly about the injustice of racism against Mexicans.

It struck me as way ahead of it's time.  These are not the kind of opinions I'm accustomed to seeing in a movie from that era.  But it occurs to me that this may be a bit of a pattern.  We're used to seeing the perspectives of rich people.  In the US that means capitalists.  They own the media, control the politics, and run the movie studios.  When we think back to that era we think of the perspective they preferred because they dominated the communication of the time and controlled the way history was being written.  Racist, sexist, hostile to working people.  I find as I look back and search for the opinions of others, maybe common men and women, the marginalized like the kind of people that would make a movie like this, it's not as much like that.

Take a look at some of the better known socialists and anarchists from times past and just note their positions.  Someone like Eugene Debs maybe.  Here's something of his from 1903 decrying the treatment of the negro and women.  Look into people like Mark Twain, Hellen Keller, Albert Einstein, George Orwell, ML King Jr, and others.  From what I know of them they seem very unlike the dominant men of their era.

And of course you can look a lot closer to our current era.  Bernie Sanders was against the Defense of Marriage Act when it was very popular in the US and Hillary was advocating it.  He was against the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act, NAFTA, and all the other ridiculous policies that were a lot more popular at the time.  It seems to me that looking back it's the socialists that have been repeatedly right and the right wing wrong.

Urgent issues face the world today.  Issues related to the environment, war, race, economics.  You can align yourselves with the powerful.  But if you do that you may be seen as somewhat backwards in the future.  You may appear to be paranoid in your defense of status quo, as the House Un-American Activities people look today.  Today the FBI has more environmentalists on their list of suspected terrorists than any other group.  The powerful see environmental activism as the threat, just as they saw people advocating for racial and sexual equality as the threat of the past.  You can be on their side.  Or you can be on the side of people that have a tradition of being right and of doing the most to make the world better.