You know that guy who comes over for the dinner party and then just will not leave? Everybody else goes home and he’s still there, talking about this hot girlfriend he had at camp one summer in high school. You drop hint after hint and he wonders if you have any more beer. You change into your pajamas and yawn in his face and he takes off his shoes and socks. There is no hint that he can be persuaded to take. You know that guy, and so do Republican voters.
Even in the Deep South, Newt Gingrich keeps gimping home in last place. It’s more than clear to anyone paying even a little attention that he is not regarded as viable by Republican voters, but even after 27 losses in his last 28 tries, he refuses to bow out. Continue reading →
Many of us in the West wonder how Islamist extremists can find virtue in killing. In the East and West, killing an enemy has long been glorified. But when Islamist extremists kill Muslims because, say, they’re Shi’ite not Sunni, or they justify the deaths of innocent bystanders on the principle that, if they’re righteous, their ascent into heaven is expedited, they stretch the definition of the noble warrior beyond the breaking point.
Of course, neither do elements of fundamentalist Christianity have a problem with killing Muslims, who are viewed as heathens standing in the way of history (holding up the apocalypse by failing to cede full ownership of Jerusalem to the Jews). What’s less known is that while Christianity certainly had no monopoly on slaughter — when you consider how much smaller the world’s population was in his day, Genghis Khan was like Hitler, Stalin and Mao Zedong combined — it once attached no virtue to killing in war. Continue reading →
I feel like I lived Steven Church’s The Day After the Day After: My Atomic Angst, even if I didn’t grow up in Kansas. Church manages to capture the nuclear angst that overshadowed my own Cold War-childhood. I was too old for “duck and cover,” but Reagan had the arms race in full swing, so the threat of Armageddon loomed over all. “I was afraid of the future,” Church wrote, “more comfortable with the fantastical….”
Church grew up in Lawrence, Kansas, the town featured in the 1983 television movie, which was also filmed there. The overlap had a profound impact on Church because “[t]his synchronicity between fiction and reality was not an unusual experience” for him. “This was the sort of boundary-blurring experience that defined my childhood,” he says.
In the same way, I lived just a few miles to the east—downwind—of Three Mile Island when it nearly melted down almost simultaneously with The China Syndrome. What’s real and what’s imaginary and how do the two play off each other? What memories result, and how do we understand those memories? Continue reading →