Monday, October 29, 2018


I spent a number of years in the disagreeable task of documenting homophobia, concluding that because of its multiple strands it remained hard to extirpate. I laid out these conclusions in my book The Homophobic Mind. It occurred to me that a similar approach could be useful in analyzing another noxious hydra head: Anti-Semitism. 
As with homophobia, it may be best to turn first to the bearers of the virus themselves. A useful start in this approach can be found in an old screed - reprinted recently in France - called La France Juive (1886) by Edouard Drumont. The book expounded three strands of antisemitism. One was pseudo-racial, positing an opposition between non-Jewish ”Aryans” and Jewish ”Semites.” At best, the terms are linguistic not racial, and their polemical use is now crippled by the fact that linguistically Arab Muslims are Semites. Another strand was economic. Drumont argued that finance and capitalism were controlled by the Jews. A third factor was religious, referencing the Jews' supposed complicity in the death of Jesus. 
Today, at least three more elements may be adduced. First is the emergence of neo-fascist groups on the far right in Europe, chiming in with a more general dislike of immigrants. Secondly, for its part the far left is given to denouncing the state of Israel in ostensible support of the Palestinian cause. Finally, many Anti-Semitic outrages in Europe are perpetrated by Muslims, a factor that tends to be obscured by those who are fearful of being charged with Islamophobia.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Symbolic values?

So. While I was brought up with no religious affiliation, in my late teens I flirted with with the idea of converting to Catholiicism, a common trend in those days.  Luckily, I averted this mistake but came, for a time, to think that this religion and particularly the Bible harbored symbolic truths.

It is not east to recapture a mindset from long ago, but I must try. 

In a nutshell, what is the symbolic harvest in question? First is the idea that any historical event or person may be studied in both the literal sense (just the facts!) and one or more allegorical senses, The latter approach may be easily abused, but interpretation of literature and art require it at some level. 

Then there is the idea that history (or histories) is not just one damned thing after another, but exhibits certain constants. To be sure, adopting the Christian view of providential history means acquiescing in the kidnapping of the Hebrew Bible, which certainly did not originate as some sort of extended prologue to the New Testament. 
Per contra, some “lessons” seem less than edifying. With all his eloquence Kirkegaard does not make the Sacrifice of Isaac - odious even though finally averted - an adequate support for his pet notion of the Leap of Faith. There is nothing exemplary about the sorry episode of Lot and his Daughters. And so forth.

Sunday, October 07, 2018


The present contentious situation in this country is one of the worst I can remember. Since I have been around a long time now, this is saying something, 
Yet there is a theory, going back to the 19th century, that American history witnesses an oscillation of two successive principles: strife vs. harmony. The time of the War of 1812 was a bitterly contentious one. 
Yet things changed, for the succeeding Era of Good Feelings reflected a renewed sense of national purpose and a desire for unity among Americans. The era saw the collapse of the Federalist Party and an end to the bitter partisan disputes between it and the dominant Democratic-Republican Party. President James Monroe strove to downplay partisan affiliation in making his nominations, with the ultimate goal of national unity. 
So if this pattern is still valid it is useless now to demand a return to civility; it will come when it comes.