Tuesday, August 22, 2017

White Nationalism ~ "the primal fault"

A quote from one of the better diatribes I've read during the past few days, on the issue of racism, white supremacy etc. It comes from Stonewalling Washington: Trump pushes leftist view of US racism further than Obama or Clinton, by Ramin Mazaheri at
The Saker blog.

"For true leftists – I don’t see how Trump’s comments can’t be seen as a major positive! The idea that Trump is fomenting White Nationalism in America is like being worried about rain falling in the ocean."
Those words immediately brought to mind lines from a favourite poem by
A.E. Housman: Stars, I have seen them fall:
The toil of all that be
Helps not the primal fault;
It rains into the sea,
And still the sea is salt.

The piece by Ramin Mazaheri begins:
I feel sorry for Americans – they have such lousy leaders they feel compelled to defend.

I don’t mean Trump or Obama or Clinton or even JFK – I mean George Washington.

It’s really gotta be a blow to the national pride when Americans have to admit, if only to themselves: “Trump makes a fair point: the father of our country, George Washington, was a slave-owning bastard, just like Confederate leaders Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee.”

LOL, Trump deserves some sort of leftist medal: “Unwitting Service to the Advance of Leftism Despite Overwhelming Idiocy,” or something, because his recent statement has done more to push a truly leftist analysis of American history than anyone could have hoped.

Racist, imperialist, bourgeois, repressive, anti-worker, pre-modern…this describes all of the US leaders Trump mentioned. A true leftist must be a wall of stone on this point, so…kudos to Trump, no?
Please, do go read the full piece.

In July of 2012 I blogged about a little-known Canadian film, adaptation of a stage play by playwright David Gow : Steel Toes. I titled my post HATRED "the madness of the heart (words borrowed from Lord Byron). The film's content in August 2017, five years later, is relevant to current issues. I'd bought the DVD of Steel Toes during my search for films in which a favourite actor of mine, David Strathairn, had appeared.

In Steel Toes , set in Montreal, but would be equally relevant in any location, anywhere in the world, a liberal Jewish lawyer, Danny Dunckelman (David Strathairn) is appointed to represent a white supremacist, neo-nazi skinhead, Michael Downey (Andrew Walker). Downey is on trial for the racially motivated attack and murder of an East Indian immigrant.

There could be no clearer illustration of what hatreds can lead to than the first, barely watchable, scene of this film. Downey, crazed by hatred kicks to the edge of death - wearing steel-toed Doc Marten boots - an Indian cook, who has accidentally splashed Downey's clothing when throwing out some liquid.

90 minutes of dense and intense dialogue take viewers through opposing mindsets, beliefs and embedded hatreds of the skinhead and the lawyer. The lawyer, professionally bound to defend this man whose beliefs he finds alien and despicable, needs to delve deep into his own background and the teachings of his father, to face his own dormant hatred before he can begin to find a way to assist the neo-nazi to understand, and come to terms with, his own emotional excesses.

The lawyer understands, and tries continually to explain in some way to Downey, that the struggle against evil is primarily an internal one. Downey's failure and downfall was to externalize his struggle and inner fears by identifying specific scapegoats. Immigrants, for him, were The Enemy of "besieged" white men. Taking a broader view, outside of the film's scenario, instead of (or as well as) immigrants, targets could have been gays, any non-white people, or conversely from a "black" point of view any white people, muslims, the 1% (I must watch myself!), political right-wingers, left-wingers, women, men.....the beat of hatreds, both deep and shallow, goes on.

Strathairn and Walker give exemplary performances in what must have been seriously difficult roles for both: Strathairn isn't Jewish, and Walker, in real life, is worlds away from the skinhead neo-nazi mentality. The actors needed to acquire in depth insights into the beliefs of the film's two central characters. In interview at the end of the film David Strathairn explained that he, though not Jewish, had attended Temple and read parts of the Torah in preparation for the role.

Before the injured man died in hospital from internal bleeding he had made a statement, written for him by his wife, detailing his loss of sight, inability to walk or sit resulting form the brutal beating he received from Downey, but offering Downey compassion and forgiveness. Dunckelman repeatedly makes Downey read this document aloud until a change occurs and crazed hatred and anger begin to subside.

The film will long remain in my memory, especially lawyer Danny Dunckelman's words in the last scene of all as he examines his father's prayer shawl (Wiki has the proper term for this shawl = a tallit). I recalled a phrase used by the commenter I had quoted earlier in the post: "....our social fabric is frayed..." Danny Dunckelman says, echoing earlier meditations (and I admit to not really understanding the words, but still finding them beautiful) :
These seven threads comprise a cloth: spirit, light, time, space, birth, death, and the seventh thread, which is the mystery of the universe. This seventh thread is also the opposite of spirit, the opposite of light, the opposite of time, the opposite of space, the opposite of birth, the opposite of death. The seven threaded dimensional cloth, which is the very fabric of the unnameable. The fabric extending out from any point of our universe. This movement, this animation, this extension in the cloth is the divine dance of eternity.


Twilight said...

Comment received by e-mail from the UK
Re your link to The Saker article:
I read the link and a few of the comments and then remembered a conversation years ago about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Conversations in pubs are always interesting :) One of my friends suddenly had a brainwave and said "maybe they just like fighting!" meaning the ideology was just an excuse. I think he had a point.

Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lee and the others were of the same mind-set. To them fighting was a 'sport' and if people were killed it was seen as something noble and glorious. It was all a great game just like the British in the Empire. I was reading about the first Afghan War of 1839-1842; yes we have been interfering for that long. In that first war the British army set off as if they were away on a holiday! They even had a pack of fox hounds with them.
They are all mad you see. Military Intelligence is the greatest oxymoron in our language :)

Twilight said...

JD ~ Yes, indeed - he did have a point! Reminds me of Elton John's song Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting. Human nature's alright for fighting too. We have it hard-wired into our DNA. Some have learned how to subdue the urge, use it for positive causes - others have learned no such skills.

We Brits have to feel sheepish about what went on in colonial days - "our" Empire was thought to be a glorious thing. Empire building was common back then - they all did it, just about every country had a go at it, and humans had been doing so for long centuries before that. I hesitate to be too hard on our long-ago ancestors, or on anyone's ancestors. Revisionist history is hard on 'em all, but we cannot hope to think as they did back then, we can only hope to learn from it.