The Flâneur's Archives

Archives from The Flâneur's Arcade (2007-2017)

Tag: obama

Bummer


Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor, detail
(Hans Burgkmair, circa 1500)
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

from H. A. L. Fisher, A History of Europe, pp. 351-352
(Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1935)

Frederick III (1440-93), the first Emperor to show the famous Habsburg lip, and the last Emperor to be crowned in Rome, was as great a nullity as ever played an important part in history. Without any of the engaging gifts of Edward II of England, Frederick was just as little fitted as that unfortunate monarch for the dispatch of business… [This] dull obstinate bigot ruled in Vienna for more than fifty years, leaving no print of mind or will upon the conduct of affairs. The Turks conquered Constantinople and overran Hungary. The rôle of Austria as the chief remaining bulwark of Christianity against the Ottoman Turk became charged with a new significance, which could hardly escape the meanest intelligence. But no event, however, startling, could ruffle the placidity of Frederick, no problem however grave could excite his sluggish mind, or the most alarming prospect inflame his torpid imagination. Inertia was the principle of his life. The most important station in Europe at one of the most critical moments in her history was occupied by a blockhead.

Looking Back at Obama


Ex-President Obama’s last look at the White House
(Source: Pete Souza’s Instagram)

As Obama’s term ends, one cannot help reflect on the legacy of his presidency. While his approval ratings remain highest among exiting chief executives of the recent past, I’m afraid that the sober eye of history will cast a harsh judgment on what he did–or rather, did not do–during his watch. As the glitter of his celebrity tarnishes with time, the deficiencies of his feckless leadership will come to full relief, like that of “dull” and “sluggish” Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III, who oversaw the final fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks (1453). When Europe is finally completely Islamized, and its democracies subjected to Sharia Law, its people will look back on Obama’s failures in Libya, Syria, and Iraq, the rise of the barbaric Islamic State and the mass migration of muslim refugees to Europe, and discover in his inscrutable inertia the root of its decline.


Afghanistan


Libya


Benghazi


ISIS


Syria


Iran


Russia


Ukraine


Europe


“No problem however grave could excite his sluggish mind”

Finally, A Feminist I Like (Part 2, End)

Camille Paglia Sarah Palin

In refreshing contrast to Eve Ensler’s hysterical vagina-mongering is Camille Paglia’s sober academism. Grounded in the classics, she is nonetheless well-versed in pop cultural idioms, and nothing is spared from her level gaze, whether its Madonna or the French poststructuralists. She returned as regular contributor to Salon.com on 14 Feb (V-Day!) 2007, where David Talbot once summarized her résumé as: “She burst onto the scene in 1990 following the publication of her book, Sexual Personae. Paglia was a rough-trade feminist not afraid to challenge the orthodoxy of the women’s movement or its reigning sisterhood; a professor from a small college with no qualms about torching the Parisian academic trends then enthralling Ivy League humanities departments… (from The Salon Interview: Camille Paglia, 7 Feb 2003)”.

I actually stumbled upon her while reading the Wikipedia entry on Ensler about whom she has this to say:

The perversion of feminism that Ensler represents–turning Valentine’s Day, the one holiday celebrating romantic harmony between the sexes, into a grisly memento mori of violence against women–has been well demonstrated… That the psychological poison of Ensler’s archaic creed of victimization is being spread to impressionable women students is positively criminal.

The buffoonish hooting and hollering incited by Ensler’s supposedly naughty play is really the hysterical desperation of aging women who have never come to terms with the cruel realities of nature and who cannot face the humiliating fact that, despite their accomplishments, they will always be culturally swept away by the young and beautiful. That in the year 2001 the group chanting of crude four-letter words for female genitalia is viewed as some sort of radical liberation implies that the real issue in the “Vagina Monologues” isn’t male oppression but bourgeois repression–the malady of the dainty, decorous professional class that was created in the first century after the Industrial Revolution.

Today’s upper-middle-class Western women, with their efficient, schematized lives, are so removed from elemental mysteries that they are naively susceptible to feverish charlatans and cultists like Ensler, who encourages the delusion that they are in full control of their reproductive system and that everything negative or ambivalent about it has been imposed by the prejudice of misogynous males…

Today’s genteel ladies would learn a lot more about life if they would cut the crap and get out of their gilded ghettos. A day at a potato farm or crab-picking plant would do a hell of a lot more for them than an evening at Madison Square Garden with Eve Ensler and her pack of giddy celebrity lemmings in hot-pink suits.

(from The Bush Look, Salon.com, 28 Feb 2001)

Meowwwch! The claws are out and aimed at the jugular. This scathing denunciation came after her mourning of the passing of Emily Vermeule, distinguished professor of classical philology and archaeology at Harvard University. She put Ensler’s unabashed propagandism that masked itself as ‘art’ against the academic diligence of Vermeule who “held herself to the highest standards created by great male scholars of the past; she did not advance by genuflecting before Michel Foucault or by spouting the simplistic social constructionist dogma that has made academic feminism such a morass of ignorance, fakery, gimmickry and bullying careerism”.

For Paglia to admire a woman for aspiring to standards created by men is stunning enough for feminists, but to admit that Sarah Palin is the best thing that happened to the movement since Madonna is to taunt vituperation from the sisterhood-of-the-travelling-vagina establishment. (She, by the way, counts herself a Democrat libertarian, pro-choice, and atheist.)

Palin represented an explosion of a brand new style of muscular American feminism. At her startling debut on that day, she was combining male and female qualities in ways that I have never seen before. And she was somehow able to seem simultaneously reassuringly traditional and gung-ho futurist. In terms of redefining the persona for female authority and leadership, Palin has made the biggest step forward in feminism since Madonna channeled the dominatrix persona of high-glam Marlene Dietrich and rammed pro-sex, pro-beauty feminism down the throats of the prissy, victim-mongering, philistine feminist establishment…

As a dissident feminist, I have been arguing since my arrival on the scene nearly 20 years ago that young American women aspiring to political power should be studying military history rather than taking women’s studies courses, with their rote agenda of never-ending grievances.

(from Fresh Blood for the Vampire, Salon.com, 10 Sep 2008)

Palin appeals to Paglia in the same way as a Sicilian matriarch in Philadelphia who owned a butcher shop, or their landlady when she was growing up in upstate New York who was a farm woman “as physically imposing as her husband”–in short: practical, hardy, sensible women, who dealt head on with the actualities of life and toughed it out together with their men. She admires these qualities in Sarah Palin’s “brand of can-do, no-excuses, moose-hunting feminism”, as opposed to the froufrou crowd in Ensler’s camp of urban sophisticates.

Frontier women were far bolder and hardier than today’s pampered, petulant bourgeois feminists, always looking to blame their complaints about life on someone else.

(from Fresh Blood for the Vampire, Salon.com, 10 Sep 2008)

What appeals to me in Paglia is the same thing I find appealing in the late Paul Feyerabend–their resistance to go and graze with the herd. The word iconoclastic has been used on Feyerabend, and I think the same can be said of Paglia–not that they simply shock the establishment, but because they actually assume the task of thinking for themselves. Theirs is therefore a singularity of thought that appears radical, but really boils down to just sensible questioning of entrenched intellectual dogma. If it is radical, it is certainly not rabble-rousing, but sobering. Paglia calls herself a dissident feminist. I guess in this Obama era of euphoric sloganeering, being dissident is what goes for having the faculty for cold, hard reality-check.

Finally, A Feminist I Like (Part 1)

Laura Ingraham Eve Ensler

Whilst listening to podcasts of The Laura Ingraham Show–yes, I’m a fan of her biting wit aimed mostly at anti-Americans in the far-far-left (e.g. Ayers)–I came across one of her mocking renditions of liberal non sequiturs: a blogpost at The Huffington Post by Eve Ensler on why Sarah Palin gives her the spooks. The post, from the author of The Vagina Monologues, has of course the token incantatory title of “Drill, Drill, Drill”.

If the Polar Bears don’t move you to go and do everything in your power to get Obama elected then consider the chant that filled the hall after Palin spoke at the RNC, “Drill Drill Drill.” I think of teeth when I think of drills. I think of rape. I think of destruction. I think of domination. I think of military exercises that force mindless repetition, emptying the brain of analysis, doubt, ambiguity or dissent. I think of pain. (from “Drill, Drill, Drill”)

Talk about exalted expectations on the new presidency! Obama is not only supposed to bail out the economy, but now save polar bears to boot. What, by the way, was the basis for her objections against drilling? She does not rebutt with facts nor with instruments of logic, but with nebulous free associations and alliterations: drilling equals rape equals destruction equals domination, and, while we’re at it, why not throw in the trite fact that drill is also what they call training in the army (duh?), the mere mention of which must unleash chauvinistic issues like a can of worms.

But why do polar bears so concern Ms. Ensler?

I have a particular thing for Polar Bears. Maybe it’s their snowy whiteness or their bigness or the fact that they live in the arctic or that I have never seen one in person or touched one. Maybe it is the fact that they live so comfortably on ice. Whatever it is, I need the polar bears. (from “Drill, Drill, Drill”)

Wait! This manic fretting sounds a wee bit too familiar.

Woman 1: I bet you’re worried.
Woman 2: We were worried.
Woman 3: We were worried about vaginas.
Woman 1: We were worried about what we think about vaginas, and even more worried that we don’t think about them. We were worried about our own vaginas. They needed a context of other vaginas–a community, a culture of vaginas… (from The Vagina Monologues)

Oh dear. No wonder she’s afraid of the gun-totting, oil-drilling governor of Alaska. Sarah Palin may actually have (yikes!) balls! She’s a freak of nature!–an outcast from Ensler’s utopic community/culture of vaginas.

But everything Sarah Palin believes in and practices is antithetical to Feminism which for me is part of one story–connected to saving the earth, ending racism, empowering women, giving young girls options, opening our minds, deepening tolerance, and ending violence and war. (from “Drill, Drill, Drill”)

I did not know that “feminism” meant all that. Last time I checked my Oxford Dictionary widget, it meant “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men”. Nothing there about saving the earth nor ending racism. Granted, feminism, like Marxism, is used nowadays as a broader critical framework. Is this perhaps why Ensler capitalizes the word, e.g. in order to elevate it as some metaphysical reality, or as totalizing category? Or, as I suspect from her previous effusions, it has simply been hijacked for her own ideological agenda, or muddled by her inability to discriminate. It is pretty clear whose brain is empty of analysis.

The Place of Poetry in Public Ceremony

Elizabeth Alexander Robert Frost James Weldon Johnson

What struck me the most from today’s stately ceremonies was the hackneyed poem written and delivered by Elizabeth Alexander for the occasion. It aptly commences with unremarkable clichès,

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others’ eyes or not, about to speak or speaking…

and crests into prosaic platitudes,

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national.

Oh please, spare us. This was the point where I cringed and almost flipped the channel.

It must be hard for a poet to be tasked to speak authentic words in such formal, official, and, by nature, superficial events, which are occasions for the oratory rather than poetry. Poetry, to be authentic, must answer to none other than the contingencies of the poet’s inward life. It is first and foremost private; it becomes only public when, as Adam Kirsch observes, “the public intersects, or interferes, with that [inward] experience–when history usurps privacy”. Otherwise, the speech merely becomes bureaucratic verse: “spoken by no one and addressed to no one” (On Elizabeth Alexander’s Bureaucratic Verse, The New Republic, 20 Jan 2009).

Even Robert Frost, on the occasion of the inauguration of JFK, to which Obama is constantly compared to by the media and his adoring fans, could not be more staid:

Dedication

Summoning artists to participate
In the august occasions of the state
Seems something artists ought to celebrate.
Today is for my cause a day of days.
And his be poetry’s old-fashioned praise
Who was the first to think of such a thing.
This verse that in acknowledgement I bring
Goes back to the beginning of the end
Of what had been for centuries the trend;
A turning point in modern history.
Colonial had been the thing to be
As long as the great issue was to see
What country’d be the one to dominate
By character, by tongue, by native trait,
The new world Christopher Columbus found.
The French, the Spanish, and the Dutch were downed
And counted out. Heroic deeds were done.
Elizabeth the First and England won.
Now came on a new order of the ages
That in the Latin of our founding sages
(Is it not written on the dollar bill
We carry in our purse and pocket still?)
God nodded his approval of as good.
So much those heroes knew and understood,
I mean the great four, Washington,
John Adams, Jefferson, and Madison
So much they saw as consecrated seers
They must have seen ahead what not appears,
They would bring empires down about our ears
And by the example of our Declaration
Make everybody want to be a nation.
And this is no aristocratic joke
At the expense of negligible folk.
We see how seriously the races swarm
In their attempts at sovereignty and form.
They are our wards we think to some extent
For the time being and with their consent,
To teach them how Democracy is meant.
“New order of the ages” did they say?
If it looks none too orderly today,
‘Tis a confusion it was ours to start
So in it have to take courageous part.
No one of honest feeling would approve
A ruler who pretended not to love
A turbulence he had the better of.
Everyone knows the glory of the twain
Who gave America the aeroplane
To ride the whirlwind and the hurricane.
Some poor fool has been saying in his heart
Glory is out of date in life and art.
Our venture in revolution and outlawry
Has justified itself in freedom’s story
Right down to now in glory upon glory.
Come fresh from an election like the last,
The greatest vote a people ever cast,
So close yet sure to be abided by,
It is no miracle our mood is high.
Courage is in the air in bracing whiffs
Better than all the stalemate an’s and ifs.
There was the book of profile tales declaring
For the emboldened politicians daring
To break with followers when in the wrong,
A healthy independence of the throng,
A democratic form of right devine
To rule first answerable to high design.
There is a call to life a little sterner,
And braver for the earner, learner, yearner.
Less criticism of the field and court
And more preoccupation with the sport.
It makes the prophet in us all presage
The glory of a next Augustan age
Of a power leading from its strength and pride,
Of young amibition eager to be tried,
Firm in our free beliefs without dismay,
In any game the nations want to play.
A golden age of poetry and power
Of which this noonday’s the beginning hour.

Ugh! Thank God the sun shone so bright on the snow that solemn day, the glare prevented the venerable poet from reading his long-winded manuscript, and went instead with the shorter, less cringe-kindling The Gift Outright that he recited from memory.

Of all the pompous outpourings today, what stirred me the most was actually the beginning of Rev. Joseph Lowery’s benediction (nevermind the flak he got for the rest of it):

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou, who has brought us thus far along the way, thou, who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee.

Shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand true to thee, oh God, and true to our native land.

A little research on the Internet led me to the poem from which these unacknowledged anachronistic lines came from: Lift Every Voice and Sing, more popularly known as The Negro National Anthem, by James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938), written to celebrate the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, and sung in Jacksonville, FL, for the first time by children.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears… Here is an occasion where the spheres of private and public life intersect, where “history usurps privacy”, and the authentic voice is heard.