"[O]ne of the most extremist right-wing militants in America," says one of the Glenn Greenwalds.
"A brainy communications director," says The Weekly Standard.
"My favorite campaign spokesman EVER," says Doug Sovern.
"Very literate," says Michael Barone.
A hunt consists of locating, pursuing, felling, and eviscerating game. Hunts come in various forms. The most common ones are the hunt in which a solitary rifle wielder goes after his prey together with a game dog, and the roundup, in which beaters drive the prey into the hunter’s sights. Hunting has a sporting aspect. The hunter has to be skillful and alert, smarter than his prey. He has to know how to hide, how to attack without being spotted, and how to shoot well. But hunting also entails special rules. One hunts only at particular times, for instance, and only shoots at individual animals. Taken together, all these elements correspond to the demands placed upon a fighter pilot. (Indeed, the German for fighter pilot, Jagdflieger, contains the word for hunt Jagd.) This is why German fighter pilots understood what they did in the context of hunting.
[B]ragging is a frequent element of everyday conversations, in which the person talking tries to outdo his interlocutor with a better story or a superior achievement.
— Some of the deathly wooden prose from what ought to be an interesting book: Sönke Neitzel and Harald Welzer, Soldaten: On Fighting, Killing, and Dying, 2012.
ROBERT: Who do you see starring in it?
SHATNER: Well, I’ll play Julius Caesar. And all the other parts too. I’ll play Cassius, with a beard. Lucius with a long robe. Trebonius with a hat. And a full suit of armor for Marc Anthony.
ROBERT: So you’re going to play all the roles yourself.
SHATNER: Well, I can’t play Calpurnia. I thought we’d get Sharon Stone for that.
ROBERT: She could actually be a little difficult to get.
SHATNER: Then we’ll get Heather Locklear. I know Heather! She’d be great!
ROBERT: If you play both Caesar and Brutus, won’t you have to stab yourself in the back?
SHATNER: I’ve done it before.
— From 1998’s Free Enterprise.
One of the Union soldiers who entered Richmond that day was Garland White, who as a boy had been separated from his mother and sold to a young Georgian named Robert Toombs. Now the chaplain of the Twenty-Eighth U.S. Colored Infantry, White thrilled to “the shouts of ten thousand voices” celebrating liberation on the streets of the former Confederate capital. Black men and women gathered around him, urging him to speak, and so he did; he “proclaimed for the first time in that city freedom to all mankind.”
As White stood in the street, trying to take it all in, an older woman approached him and asked his name, his birthplace, and the name of his mother. When he had answered all her questions, she quietly informed him that “this is your mother, Garland, whom you are now talking to, who has spent twenty years of grief about her son.” And so she proved to be, one of so many mothers and fathers that day peering hopefully into the faces of the black soldiers passing by, searching for the remembered features of other “children who had been sold south of this state in tribes” in years and decades past.
— From Bruce Levine, The Fall of the House of Dixie, 2013
I cannot express the joy I felt at this happy meeting of my mother and other friends. But suffice it to say that God is on the side of the righteous, and will in due time reward them.
— From a letter from Chaplain Garland H. White, 28th U.S. Colored Troops, in the conquered city of Richmond, Virginia, 12 April 1865.
This anxiety about keeping slaves under control also strengthened the determination of state officials such as Joseph E. Brown and Zebulon Vance to keep local troops close to home in order to guarantee and enforce local security. As early as May 1861, Brown began resisting Richmond’s attempts to centralize control over the Confederate armed forces—specifically objecting to the transfer of state troops to Confederate authority. When Brown finally relented, he did so only on condition that those troops be used for the defense of Georgia alone. Meanwhile, he announced that weapons supplied to Georgia troops could be carried out of that state only with the express permission of the governor. About a year later, as the enlistments of many Confederate troops mustered in Georgia were due to expire, Brown called on Richmond to return the soldiers’ arms to him, since they were “the property of the State.” The Davis government refused. So when a ship carrying a different cache of arms, this one bound for Virginia, docked en route at the port of Savannah, Brown ordered the arms seized and used thereafter solely for the defense of Georgia. The Confederate secretary of war complained that if such acts continued “it would be better to abandon at once all attempts to conduct the defense of the country on an organized system.” Brown ignored those words and resolved to repeat the tactic at the next opportunity.
— From Bruce Levine, The Fall of the House of Dixie, 2013. The Confederacy’s amalgamation of remarkable central coercion — even aside from slavery itself, its brutal repression of communal dissent, mass mobilization, and internal travel restriction had no parallel in the Union — and regional parochialism reminiscent of the last days of the Polish Commonwealth is a paradoxical chapter in American history.
I was in Weslaco, Texas, and had joined a group waiting on a street corner to be hired by a farmer. A truck drew up and stopped near the group. The driver gestured that we could climb aboard. About twenty did so, almost everyone who had been waiting. We drove to a ranch approximately fifteen kilometers away. The driver of the truck got out, and we all climbed down. His first words to us were: “There’s lots of you …” as if he had not expected so many. Then he said: “Let’s see … raise your hand if you want to work for a dollar an hour.” Nearly everyone in the group raised his hand. “No … there are still too many of you,” he said, adding, “Let’s see, raise your hand if you want 75 cents an hour.” The number of us who raised our hands dropped to half. As his voice rose in impatience, he said: “No … there’s still too many. Let’s see, who wants the job for 50 cents an hour?” The group of us raising our hands dropped to seven. Talking like someone who had repeated the same speech many times before, the foreman told those who had not raised their hands: “Ok, boys, you’ll get a chance another time. Get on your way fast so I don’t have to call the police and have you cited for trespassing.”
— Jorge A. Bustamante, Mexico-United States Labor Migration Flows, International Migration Review, Vol. 31, No. 4, Winter, 1997.
Interviewer: How come most of your songs are sad songs?
Townes Van Zandt: I don’t think they’re all that sad. I have a few that aren’t sad, they’re like … hopeless. Totally hopeless situation. And the rest aren’t sad, they’re just the way it goes. I mean, you know. You don’t think life’s sad?
— From Be Here to Love Me, 2004.
It is a gorgeous prospect, this annexation of all Mexico. It were more desirable that she should come to us voluntarily; but as we shall have no peace until she be annexed, let it come, even though force be necessary, at first, to bring her. Like the Sabine virgins, she will soon learn to love her ravishers.
— From the New York Herald, 8 October 1847.
What a State Might Do
A few years ago an exhibition of photographs in Safarikovo Square in Bratislava commemorated the 40th anniversary of the uprising against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. The square was near my apartment and several times I saw older men speaking emphatically to the student at the information desk. When I asked her what the men were saying she told me they wanted the tanks to come back. Under Communism, they said, we could be sent away to camps if we said the wrong thing, or even if we said nothing, but everyone had a job, and healthcare and education were free. What you did at home was your own affair. You had a private life. Today we can say and do what we want. But unemployment is high while healthcare and education are expensive.
Neal Ascherson argues that Anne Applebaum, in her book Iron Curtain, questions not only totalitarian Communist regimes but also the welfare state (LRB, 20 December 2012). She sees what was wrong with Communism but fails to see what its attraction was; what, in short, a state might do for its citizens. It would never have been possible in imperial Russia or the Austro-Hungarian Empire for a peasant to be a teacher, a miner a lawyer, a woman a doctor. Under Communism, at least at first, the playing field in Eastern Europe had been level as it had not been before.
— From the Letters section of the 24 January 2013 issue of the London Review of Books. The 94 million figure is the estimated non-battlefield deaths attributable to Communism throughout the twentieth century from The Black Book of Communism.
One trusts the argued tradeoff between human liberty and putative material provision will not be wholly unfamiliar to an American now.
In April, John Travolta met with President Bill Clinton at a conference on volunteerism in Philadelphia. It was a freighted moment for the president, since Travolta was portraying a character based on him in the forthcoming movie Primary Colors. “He said he wanted to help me out with the situation in Germany,” Travolta later said. “He had a roommate years ago who was a Scientologist and had really liked him, and respected his views on it. He said he felt we were given an unfair hand in that country, and that he wanted to fix it.” Clinton set up a meeting for Travolta and Cruise with Sandy Berger, his national security advisor, who was given the additional assignment of being the administration’s “Scientology point person.”
None of this had any effect on Travolta’s character in the film, as the movie had already been shot, nor on Germany’s policy toward the church, which refused to recognize Scientology as a religion or allow members to join political parties. However, the US State Department began pressuring the German government on behalf of Scientology. The Germans were puzzled that their American counterparts seemed not to know or care about the church’s RPF camps, which the Germans called penal colonies, and the reported practices of confinement, forced confessions, and punishing physical labor, which they said amounted to brainwashing. There was a belief within the German cabinet that the church’s real goal was to infiltrate the government and create a Scientology superstate. “This is not a church or a religious organization,” the labor minister, Norbert Blum, told Maclean’s magazine. “Scientology is a machine for manipulating human beings.”
— From Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, Lawrence Wright, 2013.
The third door he kicked in led to a film studio with the green and black flag of Zarqawi’s terrorist gang, Al Ansar, on the wall and black blood on the floor where Nicholas Berg had been decapitated in May. On a table was a glass of water with ice in it. In the next room were two computers, klieg lights, a CD burner, two video cameras, VHS tapes, a television, a VCR, and a recording schedule typed in English. The schedule included what time a prisoner was to be brought out and washed up, when his confession had to be taped, when the execution should be done, how long it would take to digitize the video and make copies, and when to leave Fallujah in order to deliver the tape to the Al Jazeera studio in Baghdad to be shown on prime time.
— From Bing West, No True Glory, 2006
Oh, and they’re hiring.
Dear Excellency and friend,
I thank you very sincerely for your letter and for your offer to transport me towards freedom. I cannot, alas, leave in such a cowardly fashion.
As for you and in particular for your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would have this sentiment of abandoning a people which has chosen liberty. You have refused us your protection and we can do nothing about it. You leave us and it is my wish that you and your country will find happiness under the sky.
But mark it well that, if I shall die here on the spot and in my country that I love, it is too bad because we are all born and must die one day. I have only committed the mistake of believing in you, the Americans.
Please accept, Excellency, my dear friend, my faithful and friendly sentiments.
— Letter from Prince Sisowath Sirik Matak of Cambodia, in response to a 12 April 1975 offer of evacuation and asylum from U.S. Ambassador John Gunther Dean. He was executed by the victorious Khmer Rouge on or around 21 April 1975.
It’s almost dizzying to contemplate a world in which the Soviet empire is no longer a threatening presence. Just imagine worrying about the competition of the Poles and the Ukrainians for territory, or how to go about constructing some sort of superpower in Europe to be balanced against the United States and China. Imagine pondering whether East and West Germany ought really to be reunited. Imagine that Central America’s troubles could be solved by the ascendancy of a moderately left regime in Venezuela. All this may sound oversimple. But why shouldn’t there be a daydream in which solutions to international relations seem possible?
“Tiger, one day you will come to a fork in the road,” [COL John Boyd] said. “And you’re going to have to make a decision about which direction you want to go.” He raised his hand and pointed. “If you go that way you can be somebody. You will have to make compromises and you will have to turn your back on your friends. But you will be a member of the club and you will get promoted and you will get good assignments.”
Then Boyd raised his other hand and pointed another direction. “Or you can go that way and you can do something – something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself. If you decide you want to do something, you may not get promoted and you may not get the good assignments and you certainly will not be a favorite of your superiors. But you won’t have to compromise yourself. You will be true to your friends and to yourself. And your work might make a difference.”
He paused and stared into the officer’s eyes and heart. “To be somebody or to do something. In life there is often a roll call. That’s when you will have to make a decision. To be or to do. Which way will you go?”
— From Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, Robert Coram, 2004
Always, after he was in bed, there were voices—indefinite, fading, enchanting—just outside his window, and before he fell asleep he would dream one of his favorite waking dreams, the one about becoming a great half-back, or the one about the Japanese invasion, when he was rewarded by being made the youngest general in the world. It was always the becoming he dreamed of, never the being. This, too, was quite characteristic of Amory.
— From This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1920.
Mr. Obama’s entire career has been about getting to the next stage: if he could only become a lawyer, and then a public official, and then a United States senator, and then president, he could create real change.
— From “Change Comes: After 4 Years, Friends See Shifts in the Obamas,” Jodi Kantor, the New York Times, 19 January 2013.