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What poetry has to say about “the mob at the gate”

Friday, October 26th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — Donald Trump and Joy Reid. meet CP Cavafy ]
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Donald Trump has been repeating a mantra tying Dems to the word mob recently — here’s one example:

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Belay that! For Trump “the mob at the gates” might equally, scarily, be that “caravan” in Mexico, making its way up to a confrontation with US troops at the border, and no doubt paid for their troubles by George Soros

Take your camera. Go into the middle. You’ll find MS-13. You’ll find Middle Easterners..

Hold it: that’s a powerful image.

But Joy Reid saw the mob differently:

The mob are WOMEN.

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Democrats, the caravan, women — take the mob at the gates as you will, there’s a considerable force, on the outside, massing and pressing to come in. And poetry has something to say about that (recurrent) situation. In the words of CP Cavafy‘s celebrated poem, Waiting for the Barbarians:

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

The barbarians are due here today.

Why isn’t anything going on in the senate?
Why are the senators sitting there without legislating?

Because the barbarians are coming today.
What’s the point of senators making laws now?
Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.

Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting enthroned at the city’s main gate,
in state, wearing the crown?

But I’ll invite you to read the answer to that question, and the rest of the poem, powerful as it is, on the Poetry Foundation site..

Cavafy has one possible outcome — but there may be as many as there are mobs, or people perceiving them.

In any case, enjoy the poem, and vote.

Decapitation — Variations on a theme by Vollmann

Monday, September 24th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — preliminary to a rave review, i suspect, with Helena Bonham Carter as Red Queen thrown in ]
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There’s an old English saying, presumably about the martyred King Charles I:

The King walked and talked half an hour after his head was cut off..

Young boys, getting acquainted with rules and grammar, and somewhat literal minded as a result, find this statement a paradox, which, however, can easily be resolved by the addition of a comma or perhaps better, a semicolon:

The King walked and talked; half an hour after his head was cut off..

Older boys quickly learn the (semicolon) reason of the riddle, and eagerly apply the first version to younger boys, the better to perplex and torment them. And thus both versions, the beauty of the paradox, the ease of its resolution, and the cruelty thus made available are transmitted across the generations..

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I have written this because the beheading of a king clearly marked my young soul, as I was yesterday reminded by three passages from an Atlantic review of Vollmann‘s latest Opus — Magnum III at least [I, II, and let us not forget, gods I would love to read this, Kissing the Mask: Beauty, Understatement and Femininity in Japanese Noh Theater]..

Summits chopped off:

  • In West Virginia, mountains do not have their summits chopped off but are granted “removal of overburden.”
  • Decapitation:

  • His insatiable appetite for detail yields both irrelevant trivia (“Embarking on the Super Limited Hitachi Express, which was also known as the Super Hitachi 23 Limited Express”) and magisterial portraits of landscapes befouled by poking and prodding and, in the case of West Virginia’s mountains, decapitating.
  • Headless:

  • Vollmann breathes a cool wind “whose degree of particulate contamination was of course unknown,” hears on a silent street at night the grunting of a radioactive wild boar, and walks on broken glass through an abandoned clothing store advertising a 50 percent–off sale and peopled by headless mannequins.
  • Headless mannequins and radioactive wild boars — vivid metaphors, no? — we the humans have been brain-dead, and in all likelihood will continue so.

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    We’re all too familiar with images of ISIS executioners with their orange jump-suited prisoners, just prior to and after solo and group beheadings — as a corrective to the “it’s all Islam” narrative, here’s a para from an article titled Inside the Minds of Cartel Hitmen: Hannibal Lecters for Hire (which includes an interview with Robert Bunker that I will be taking a more extended look at now my review of JM Berger‘s new book. Extremism, is in):

    And the tactics employed in all that killing have become more and more gruesome over time. Maybe the rush felt by some murderers is like a drug itself, and they are junkies needing ever greater doses to get the same high. But how is it that ordinary people get hooked on activities like beheading, acid baths, and cannibalism?

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    Quoth the Red Queen: Off with their heads!

    Break it Down Show – Dr. Richard Ledet on Female Empowerment in COIN

    Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

    [mark safranski / “zen”]

    See the source image Richard Ledet

    ” We were very unprepared…..There were gender gaps in Pashto [culture] that we only had a surface level understanding of….”

    – Dr. Richard Ledet

    Pete and Jon at The Break it Down Show discuss the theory, practice and ground truth of female engagement policy and tactics in conflict zones with Dr. Richard Ledet of Troy University. I had the pleasure of meeting and listening to Dr. Ledet speak at Quantico during a Boyd Conference on another subject some years ago.

    Tune in and listen here.

    279 – Dr. Richard Ledet
    5/29/2018 

    Female Empowerment – Today we feature some of Pete and Dr. Rich’s work from their overseas time. Today they discuss their academic paper about the ethical pitfalls of female engagement in conflict zones. If you’re interested in the paper, here is an early draft they presented at a conference at Ft. Leavenworth, KS.

    The peer-reviewed article will publish in the Journal of Military Ethics in 2018. These things take time, we’ll do our best to update the show notes when the article is officially published.  In the meantime, enjoy Dr. Rich and Pete talking about the pitfalls of working to empower females in conflict zones.

    Sunday surprise — emoji as selfie, with hijab

    Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — cute, controversial ]
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    Rayouf Alhumedhi, 16, from Saudi Arabia, now living in Vienna, wanted an emoji to represent herself and other women in hijab, and it has now been approved. Here she is, below right, with the emoji version of herself:

    Unsurprisingly, there are some who view the hijab as an example of “patriarchal constructs that oppress women” == but Rayouf herself clearly feels both liberated and delighted.

    Mileages will no doubt vary.

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    Source:

  • CNN, Teen behind new hijab emoji: ‘I just wanted an emoji of me’
  • ISIS, bridal and burial veils, Rilke

    Monday, July 17th, 2017

    [ by Charles Cameron — some non-Islamic (archetypal) context for a jihadist’s bride receiving a suicide belt as a wedding gift ]
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    Asia Ahmed Mohamed, 26 (left), was given a suicide belt as dowry by her jihadi husband Mohammed Hamdouch – Daily Mail

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    The unfortunate King Admetus, who had shown great hospitality to Apollo when the latter was banished from Olympus for nine years, was gifted by the spinners of fates with an extended lifespan — provided a substitute was found at the time death came to claim him.

    Death came for Admetus, and in the great poem that Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, after his father, mother and closest friend have each refused the chance to save Admetus’ life at cost of their own — Admetus’ loving wife Alcestis steps forward to offer herself..

    Here Rilke describes her inner state:

    No one can be his ransom: only I can.
    I am his ransom. For no one else has finished
    with life as I have. What is left for me
    of everything I once was? Just my dying.
    Didn’t she tell you when she sent you down here
    that the bed waiting inside belongs to death?
    For I have taken leave. No one dying
    takes more than that. I left so that all this,
    buried beneath the man who is now my husband,
    might fade and vanish–. Come, lead me away,
    already I have begun to die, for him.

    **

    The young, free, wild woman, the Artemis in every young bride, loses not just her father’s name but her identity, her life even, at the moment of marriage: the more sober, adult, bound woman, the wife, succeeds toi her flesh and days.

    This theme, in which the (presumably white) bridal veil is seen to imply the (presumably black) burial veil, is a central strand in Greek tragedy, not just in Euripides ALcestist, from which Rilke drew his narrative, but in all three great tragedians, as Rush Rehm shows in his book, Marriage to Death: The Conflation of Marriage and Funeral Rituals in Greek Tragedy:

    The link between weddings and death — as found in dramas ranging from Romeo and Juliet to Lorca’s Blood Wedding–plays a central role in the action of many Greek tragedies. Female characters such as Kassandra, Antigone, and Helen enact and refer to significant parts of wedding and funeral rites, but often in a twisted fashion. Over time the pressure of dramatic events causes the distinctions between weddings and funerals to disappear. In this book, Rush Rehm considers how and why the conflation of the two ceremonies comes to theatrical life in the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripedes.

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    Oh yes, and here’s Santa Muerte as Death Bride:

    Regarding Santa Muerte, here’s R. Andrew Chesnut‘s abstract for his book, Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint:

    Although condemned by mainstream churches, this folk saint’s supernatural powers appeal to millions of Latin Americans and immigrants in the U.S. Devotees believe the Bony Lady (as she is affectionately called) to be the fastest and most effective miracle worker, and as such, her statuettes and paraphernalia now outsell those of the Virgin of Guadalupe and Saint Judetwo other giants of Mexican religiosity. In particular, the book shows Santa Muerte has become the patron saint of drug traffickers, playing an important role as protector of peddlers of crystal meth and marijuana; DEA agents and Mexican police often find her altars in the safe houses of drug smugglers. Yet Saint Death plays other important roles: she is a supernatural healer, love doctor, money-maker, lawyer, and angel of death. She has become without doubt one of the most popular and powerful saints on both the Mexican and American religious landscapes.

    In Santa Muerte we see the conflation of wedding and funeral alive and well in 21st century Mexico — and rippling out into the wider world.

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    That’s pretty much the cross-cultural context against which I understand a Jihadist’s bride given SUICIDE BELT as wedding gift:

    Asia left Spain for Syria in March 2014 where she married Hamdouch, also known as Kokito de Castillejos, ‘the decapitator of Castillejos.’

    During the ceremony, the terrorist gave his wife a belt of explosives. They had a son.


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