Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Thursday, December 10, 2015

San Bernadino as Cultural Artifact

One of the benefits of anti-social media is that it encourages the Usual Suspects to opinionate in a sort of spasm, thereby revealing their hearts. Shortly after the San Bernadino shootings, several "tweets" (as TOF believes they are called) made announcements akin to the following:
Alan Colmes @AlanColmes
Planned Parenthood Clinic Across Street From San Bernardino Shooting
http://colm.es/1Tw8tpd 
This and other tweets were found here.
It actually wasn't across the street. It was over a mile away. But there are many folks who play by Deming's Funnel Rule #4. That is, they center on the most recent result. Some fruitcake had shot up a Planned Parenthood Clinic shortly before and killed three people; so this must be another. In the same spirit, generals in 1914 expected a replay of the Franco-Prussian War, and in 1939, a replay of the Great War. Activists today often seem to think they are reliving the Sixties™. But Funnel Rule #4 always results in flying way off target.

The one thing anti-social media doe not encourage is waiting for the information before whistling for your dog. Other "tweets" pushed other popular thought-cliches:

StillGotHisBack @IslandGalObama
Obviously the shooter isn't black...they haven't shot him yet.
This differs from "this-must-be-just-like-the-previous-event." In this genre of tweet, the "tweeter" is merely using the incident to dog whistle his own beliefs about the-way-the-world-works to others who agree with him. While police shootings are a legitimate concern -- two incidents within a few miles of TOFian world headquarters are here and here -- folks like this "tweeter" were imposing their own template on the San Bernadino events, eager to recruit the incident into their own narrative. In fact, at the time of the tweet, both shooters had been already shot and killed. Not because they were black (they weren't) but because they were engaged in a running gun-battle with police.

Speaking of imposing one's personal concerns....
Markos Moulitsas @markos
Yo GOP, kinda hard to talk about "keeping people safe" when your peeps are shooting up America.
No tragedy is so great that it cannot be used to score partisan political points. However, it is not clear that America is being shot up by Republicans more so than by, say, drug gangs and mentally deranged individuals. The OKC bomber was an atheist, but it would be silly to blame that act on atheism. And as it developed the San Bernadino killers did not prove actually to be GOP activists.

Geraldo Rivera, after eloquently informing his tweetees that "The 2d Amendment is Stupid!!!" and "The NRA is full of shit," demanded outrage from us:
Geraldo Rivera @GeraldoRivera
The key now is for us to be as outraged by San Bernadino massacre as we would be if Muslim extremists were doing the killing. This is terror
Indeed it was terror, and we are as outraged "as if" it was carried out by muslim extremists. The fascinating thing is Mr. Rivera's bizarre dismissal of what soon proved to be the case. His tweet will go into the dictionary under "irony."

Democratic politicians also projected their own concerns onto the incident:
Martin O'Malley @MartinOMalley
Horrifying news out of . Enough is enough: it's time to stand up to the @NRA and enact meaningful gun safety laws
Ex-Gov. O'Malley apparently believed the attack had been carried out by NRA members. He also apparently believes the existing gun laws of the Federal Government and the State of California are not meaningful. Hillary and The Bern, as well as POTUS, also took this line. In the Middle Ages, there were instances in which inanimate objects were put on trial. US courts have a similar provision for in rem cases. Two early examples:
So perhaps they were operating within that worldview. It is much as if a contractor were to build a defective house and the homeowner comes back and sues his hammers.

This is neither the time nor place to noodle about the hijacking of the tragedy by those who fear the instruments more than those who wield them. There are genuine and legitimate concerns, but TOF gets a headache when he rolls his eyes too much.


Meanwhile, Republicans were also "tweeting" over the events.  Ted Cruz was typical:
Ted Cruz @tedcruz
Our prayers are with the victims, their families, and the first responders in San Bernardino who willingly go into harm’s way to save others
Rand Paul, Ben Carson, Paul Ryan, and others "tweeted" their prayers also. The survivors in fact asked for people's prayers, but there is something about such public effusions that strikes TOF as blowing the trumpet before one (Matt 6)

The best example was Donald Trump, as always the harlequin of US political pantomime, who could not resist putting himself first:
Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
Heading to Manassas, Virginia, for a rally. Will have a moment of silence for the victims of the California shootings. So sad!
No offers of thoughts or prayers from The Donald. Oh, well.

The Usual Suspects responded in their usual tin-eared fashion. From ThinkProgress, we heard:
igorvolsky @igorvolsky
Your "prayers" aren't enough, Sen. Cruz. Do something helpful & support actual gun reform. https://twitter.com/tedcruz/status/672160155992100864 
The "scare quotes" around the word prayers are priceless. And of course, he stayed on message and brought things back to gun control, although how supporting gun reform would have helped the people in San Bernadino is unclear.
Markos Moulitsas @markos
How many dead people did those thoughts and prayers bring back to the life?
https://
twitter.com/Reince/status/672171963750744064 
It does not seem to have occurred to "Kos" that prayer might have some purpose other than bringing dead people back to life. Well, people often misunderstand what they are unfamiliar with. The whole idea of prayer was mocked by a rain-shower of "tweets." One even reacted to "thoughts and prayers" by hectoring us to "Stop thinking. Stop praying." The NY Daily News went with a front-page editorial:

A piece of actual good advice came from here:

Chris Murphy @ChrisMurphyCT
Your "thoughts" should be about steps to take to stop this carnage. Your "prayers" should be for forgiveness if you do nothing - again.
but maybe not in the sense the "tweeter" intended. As it became clear that the killers were motivated by jihadist beliefs -- a sentiment notably absent from most of the commentary, and even the police and news reports had to be dragged kicking toward the conclusion by the accumulating evidence -- hey, maybe it was workplace violence and the killers just happened to be muslim! -- the steps needed to stop the carnage also became clearer. The first to suggest anything addressing the actual cause of the slaughter was Donald Trump who, as usual, jumped the shark and nuked the fridge and suggested banning all muslim immigration. This despite the fact that one of the two killers in San Bernadino and Nidal Hassan at Ft. Hood were born in America.

But wait! (TOF hears your cries) What about that fruitcake in Colorado, the racist in Charleston SC, the mentally ill young man in Newton CT, and others. They were not jihadis like these two or like or Major Hassan at Ft. Hood and possibly Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez in Chattanooga.

Solutions require we address causes, not symptoms; and different causes oft require different solutions. There is no one-size-fits-all even if the end results are similar. But about this subject perhaps more in a later post.


32 comments:

  1. Well, of course there is a simple solution, TOF!
    Go thru the US neighborhood by neighborhood surrounding them with APC borne SWAT teams and let the cops kick in every door looking for guns. As long as they're there they might as well grab all the cash they can find alleging that it is drug-related ("civil" forfeiture don't you know).

    ReplyDelete
  2. The first to suggest anything addressing the actual cause of the slaughter was Donald Trump who, as usual, jumped the shark and nuked the fridge and suggested banning all muslim immigration.

    Why do you not think it's a good idea to ban muslim immigration?

    Born in the country or not, why should we be letting more muslims in?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's like banning Irish Catholics ca. 1850. Irish Catholics were not the problem. Fenians were the problem.

      It's like banning guns. Guns are not the problem. Killers are the problem.

      It's like banning Italian Catholics ca. 1900. Italian Catholics were not the problem. The Mafia was the problem.

      It's set theory. The number of jihadis is to the number of muslims as the number of guns used in the commission of crimes is to the number of guns.

      It's also counterproductive. Think about the substantial number of recruits the British ginned up for the Irish Republican Brotherhood by their actions in the wake of the 98.

      Delete
    2. Not even Trump would do anything like the British did in the '98.

      I don't necessarily think the comparison is entirely apt, however. Fenians were not at war with everyone who wasn't Irish Catholic, they were at war with the British and the Irish Protestants. The Islamists are at war with everyone who's not a Muslim—and ISIS is even at war with most Muslims. (And if it comes to that, Britain would've been all right limiting the immigration of Irishmen in 1850.)

      Likewise, the Mafia is not within an order of magnitude as dangerous as ISIS is. ISIS doesn't kill people for ratting on them or other interference in their criminal enterprises, they kill people for basically "not being members of ISIS".

      I still don't think you can really block all immigration by Muslims-as-such (though you could require vetting for people coming from Muslim countries, directly or indirectly, that would, in practice, block most Muslim immigration), but only because there is a "no religious test" provision in the Constitution.

      Delete
    3. That's great, except in this case it's that Muslims are not the problem, but Islam is. Good people are expressing belief in an ideology that is violent and wants everybody else to be either a muslim or dead, and has been at war with western civilization since its inception.

      If somebody expresses belief in such an ideology we can and should keep them from entering our country.

      Delete
    4. It would not be counterproductive, it will save bloodshed in the long run. To be Muslim is to be an adherent of an ideology and worldview that is antithetical and fundamentally incompatible with Western civilization in a way that no Irish or Italian Catholic could ever be. The latter, even those of a criminal bent, are part of Western culture--heck, the Irish Catholics saved Western civilization--and they uphold it in everything they do--even whey they break the law because they know, and everyone knows, they are transgressing the norms of our society. A Muslim, on the other hand, adheres to our norms only when they are a significant minority and only on sufferance. As soon as they reach critical mass, they form "no-go" zones and work to establish sharia within their own and the wider community. Most make little to no contribution to Western civilization, the rest work actively to undermine it. Continue to increase Muslim immigration and eventually there can be only one of two results. Either America becomes part of the House of Submission or there will be blood in the streets as the remnant of Christendom finally wakes up to the threat. Islam has been at war with the West from its founding and will continue to be at war until the end of days. In the meantime it makes no sense to welcome the enemy into our midst.

      As for the constitutionality of keeping Muslims out, there is no "no religious test" for immigration. There is no right to immigrate to our country. It is constitutional and within the law to keep anyone and everyone out on any basis. And when it comes to any enemy who wishes to destroy all that we hold dear, it is also simple common sense.

      Delete
    5. Absolutely, and we have passed laws to keep out the Chinese, Japanese, and others who were not sufficiently "Western" in the 1920s. As for the Irish Catholics, a brief study of the literature from the Know Nothing era reveals that they were in fact seen as the enemy of "Western" (by which they meant Anglo-Protestant) civilization. Nast's well-known cartoon, The American River Ganges, shows a stalwart Protestant teacher, Bible tucked in his belt, arms spread wide, protecting a groups of cowering children on the riverbank as Catholic bishops crawl out of the river on all fours, their miters modified to resemble crocodile jaws. The Protestant-Republican revulsion against Catholics had its roots in a belief that the Catholics, especially the Irish Catholics, just didn't (and couldn't) "get" America:

      Blind allegiance to an infallible monarch figure perplexed Protestant Republicans. They viewed American Catholics’ allegiance to the religious figurehead across the ocean as antithetical to American origins that rejected monarchs. As Heuston and others have made clear, the Irish-American’s devotion to a pope was clear evidence to Protestants that American Catholics had no desire to assimilate into American culture and behave as independently-thinking individuals.
      https://thomasnastcartoons.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/american-river-ganges-sept-1871.jpg?w=474&h=322

      Delete
    6. It is strange when people claim that Islam was anti-Western from the beginning as Islam is tied up with Western intellectual tradition.
      https://isistatic.org/journal-archive/ir/33_01/tkacz.pdf
      Glancing through the Summa Contra Gentiles gives the clear impression that there was a lively intellectual debate concerning Aristotle between the Scholastics and Muslim philosophers such as Averroes and Avicenna.
      Speaking only from what I know of the medieval intellectual tradition, Islam would do well to return to its roots, renew the study of Aristotle, and abandon the occassionalist errors of Al-Ghazali.

      Delete
    7. Sure, Nast was wrong. That doesn't have anything to do with modern Muslims. The circumstances are enormously different.

      As for the intellectual basis of Islam, I invite you to look at this article from John C. Wright: http://www.everyjoe.com/2015/10/14/lifestyle/know-your-history-mohammedanism/

      Delete
    8. It does not follow that just because Irish Catholics assimilated peacefully to American culture that Saudi Wahabists will do the same. Nor were the Chinese, Japanese or European Catholics flying airplanes into skyscrapers, shooting up Christmas parties, killing servicemen in the streets with meat cleavers, etc., and then justifying the mass slaughter on the basis of ideological foundations that they share with the majority of their co-religionists. If they had been, I'd doubt TOF or any other reasonable person would be criticizing our forefather's immigration policies--or equating my views with that of Nast. Dismiss those views as bigoted if you will, but don't complain when your grandchildren begin to pay the jizya or switch their day of worship to Friday.

      Delete
    9. There is no serious existential threat to America or its way of life ("pay the jizya or switch their day of worship") from terrorism; less, if anything, than there was from the Apache or Comanche. What there is, is the same threat those two tribes, and their raiding, posed: the threat of a few hundred to a few thousand Americans being deprived of life, limb, liberty, or property. That threat is certainly worth mobilizing troops and changing laws, but it's not remotely worth the existential panic people seem to be experiencing.

      And as for demographics, Hasidic Jews are more of a demographic "threat" than Muslims are. The only people with a serious chance of taking over this country by breeding are from the one part of the world without a major Islamic presence, Latin America.

      Delete
    10. Not all Wahhabis are jihadists. Not all followers of Hanbali fiqh are Wahhabis. Not all Sunnis follow the Hanbali fiqh. Not all muslims are Sunni. If you wish to bar immigration by jihadists as we would by IRA or Tamil Tigers or members of the National Socialist Party -- which did engage in mass slaughter -- then you have a case.

      I would be wary of assessing "ideological" foundations based on a fundamentalist interpretation of an English translation of a text from another civilization. It's bad enough when they do it with the Bible. Just as one must consider Biblical calls for genocide in the light of how actual rabbis and the Magisterium of the Catholics actually understand the text, one must consider what the fiqh of the four madhabs has to say about texts in their own religion. Hanbali is the most conservative, so you can start with that one. However, the Hanafi madhab, based at al-Azhar University in Cairo is the most widespread.

      This essay by an Evangelical Christian Arab explains things: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/01/challenging-radical-islam

      Delete
    11. I don't think we're talking about a small number here, though; these thoughts are widespread in the muslim community, which statistics bear out.

      Moreover, I see no particular moral issue with banning certain religions from immigrating. Were it up to King Malcolm, I would let in Christian refugees then establish somewhere actually in the middle east for everybody else who needs to escape mass slaughter. I'd close regular old immigration entirely.

      Would some muslims lie about being Christian? Maybe, but I imagine the screening would be much stronger.

      Delete
    12. Let’s return to the original question, which was “Why do you not think it’s a good idea to ban muslim immigration . . . why should we be letting more muslims in?” TOF doesn’t directly answer why he thinks it’s a good idea to keep admitting Muslims to our country, but his responses suggest that he believes we have a moral obligation to do so, that we should allow in everyone who wishes to immigrate to the United States, with the exception of criminal and violent elements. (I’m sure he has a more nuanced position, but that is what arises from his comments made so far.) Thus, we can properly exclude Fenians, the Mafia, Jihadists, etc., but if you wish to exclude others, at least on an ethnic or religious basis, you are at best misguided, at worst a bigot on the same plane as our cartoonist friend, Thomas Nast, because most people, regardless of their particular ethnic or religious identity, are not violent revolutionaries or criminals.

      I reject that any country has a moral duty to allow non-citizens into that country, even if they are obviously peaceful and practically perfect in every way. I say that as a legal immigrant to this country and a naturalized citizen. I had no right to come here and no right to become a citizen. That was a privilege extended to me, and had the United States withdrawn that opportunity before I had the chance to accept it, I could not have justifiably complained. I do believe all countries have certain moral responsibilities, but they run primarily to the citizens and residents already living within its geographic bounds. See, e.g., the preamble to the U.S. Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to . . . insure domestic Tranquility . . . and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity . . . .” This is an embodiment of the law of special beneficence (see, e.g., C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man). Yes, we owe something to all of humanity (“Do to others what you want them to do to you”), but we owe special concern and care first to the individual members of our family, then to our clan, village and tribe, then to our nation or country, then (to the extent it exists) to the civilization in which we have been nurtured. What moral obligation exits to follow a course of action that will undercut the strength of one’s nation, one’s state, one’s civilization? The greatest peace, tranquility, and prosperity exist when a people share a common culture and worldview—that is why nations exist in the first place and always will—and then act to safeguard the hard won benefits of the past generations. Such a culture and well-being cannot be maintained without some level of exclusion. To admit everyone is to cease to be who you are today.

      Muslim immigration does not strengthen our country, nor does it build or shore up the crumbling foundations of Western civilization. It does the exact opposite. The call of the muezzin is not the equivalent of a Bach concerto. The more Muslims in our country, the greater the influence that Sharia will have on our law and politics and the more converts they will win. And it isn’t peaceful Christians and Jews who are radicalized to join violent jihad in the name of Allah, it is the peaceful Muslim who just yesterday was your neighbor. It is a simple numbers game: the more Muslims in your midst, the greater the likelihood of Islamic violence and the less likely you retain your Western, Christian, liberal democratic rights.

      Delete
    13. @malcolmthecynic

      A question worth raising: Though Mr Wright is a decent fellow most of the time, why should I believe a retired attorney offering only his word on a topic he is not an expert in against a philosopher and scholar of medieval philosophy who offers a bibliography?

      Delete
    14. As always, I am hesitant to engage in commenting because of its futility. However, I live in the largest Muslim country in the world, which by the way, has enshrined religious freedom in its constitution. I think I should take a bit of exception to some of these ridiculously ignorant comments. Amazingly enough, Indonesia, with almost 200,000,000 Muslims has not become radicalized. "They" have also not killed me or any other Christians or Buddhists lately. Almost as if there were differences between moderate and extremist Muslims!

      Has anyone here actually met any Muslims? I mean, like, ANY Muslims? Or are we all just opining about "news" that we saw on the talking picture box?

      Let's think just for a second.

      Did we stop Christian immigration when the Rwandan genocide and Croatian war of independence were happening? By my count, Christian fundamentalists murdered around a million folks during that decade. Not too nice ... quite a lot more than Muslim fundamentalists have killed in the last several decades combined. Why not? Because there are Christian moderates, Christian fundamentalists, and folks who use Christianity for their own nationalist or personal purposes ... unless you want to use the same criteria we seem to be applying to Muslims. In that case, Christianity is a genocidal religion. It is likely to attack followers of any faith at will, use bombs on the helpless (IRA), to topple nations and install dictators (USA), to enslave entire populations (Africa) and deal in wholesale forced conversion (South America anyone?)

      Wait ... that's not fair!!! So not fair. Those were different kinds of Christians. But Muslims, they are all extremists. And SCARY! The only kind of Muslims on the talking picture box are the massacre-y kind.

      [Important notice: If you watch television outside of the U.S., you might notice another kind of Muslim often shows up. The "dead civilian" or "dead child" kind. On American television, we show numbers instead of pictures and use the words "collateral damage" instead of "dead kid". Less traumatic. Weirdly enough, if you watch Arabic television, you might notice that all the Christians who show up are the naked kind and the massacre-y kind. Almost as if the media plays to your fears and directs your attention to things that will cause you to watch commercials and buy stuff.]

      Delete

    15. Do we remember "religious freedom"? The United States seems to have been founded by people of various perspectives whose countries had participated in brutal religious war for a hundred years. America was made up of angry Anabaptists, murdering Lutherans, crazy Calvinists, Dutch Presbyterian, even those worshipers of the Great Harlot, the plundering Papists (sorry TOF ... no offense towards the Pap ... I mean, Catholics :D ). People from different cultures and languages. They were totally non-compatible, but they decided to make a new kind of nation free from discrimination. That means freedom of access, "give us your poor your tired, etc" It's one package. Easy enough? Well, not easy to do (and not easy to spread to all groups), but we seem to have accomplished it for the most part.

      "They don't provide any benefit to our country". Great comment. Let's send all those Muslim engineers at Texas Instruments and Sandia National Laboratories back home then. Let's give YouTube (co-founder Jawid Karim) to some other, more tolerant country. Or, for non-Muslim immigrants that were also from scary places: Einstein. Why on earth would we accept people from Germany? I mean talk about different culture? "They" killed most of Europe. Twice! SCARY! Imagine the tweets! Ban the Germans! Go home, Harrison Ford, and take your crazy STAR WARS with you.

      It's "American Spirit" that makes us Americans great ... not the fact that we have accepted the immigrants of the world. (That's sarcasm, by the way. I apologize if it was overly subtle.) Americans are supposed to judge people on their actions, not on the actions of other members of their religion or their country or tribe.

      Even if you reject that line of reasoning, have we no foresight? If we start discriminating against Muslims on the basis of religion, how long before Christians and Jews and Buddhists are discriminated against?

      Finally, are Americans going to really claim the moral high ground on the immigration issue? "they make our land dirty and nasty and gross and just want to kill us all. We Americans belong here. We built this land. We just want peace." One wonders what the Native American perspective on that might be? Or the Filipino, or the Haitian or the Cuban? Oh ... right. Them. That's ... well, that's different. Let's not talk about it.

      Delete
    16. Let’s return to the original question, which was “Why do you not think it’s a good idea to ban muslim immigration . . . why should we be letting more muslims in?”

      Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’

      Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’

      Delete
    17. @Josh:
      1. Most of the German immigration took place long before the World Wars. In fact, there was no "Germany." My own ancestors came from the Grandherzogthum Baden (save one from the Westpfalz). The Germans comprised most of XI Corps in the Army of the Potomac, so Americans had an opportunity to assess their devotion to their new country. Even so, in WW1, German immigrants were subject to severe restrictions and oversight.

      2. The wars of the Yugoslav succession were not religious wars. Croats and Serbs did not get along for a variety of reasons. For example, the grandparents of the Croats had collaborated with the Nazis; the Croats feared the Serbs meant to turn Yugoslavia into Greater Serbia; and so on. And all because long ago the Emperor Diocletian had drawn a line on a map.

      3. There have never been any actual wars of religion in the West. They have all been dynastic or national. It's exemplified in the Irish quip: "If the king of England woke up Hindu, the Irish would be facing Mecca before nightfall." Even within the House of Submission, the wars between the Ottomans and the Safavids was less a case of Sunni v. Shi'a than an echo of the wars between Byzantium and Sassanid, or between Rome and Parthia.

      Delete
    18. To say nothing of the fact the Croats and Serbs in the 1990s Yugoslav conflict were mostly not Christian.

      Consider: when Yugoslavia got its independence, or rather was sewn together out of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, and a couple of other territories, there was no massacre of Bosniaks by Serbs or Croats. This despite those two peoples both being very religious, and the Ottoman atrocities the Bosniaks sometimes collaborated with being living, sometimes very recent memory.

      No, the massacres came at the tail end of half a century of Communism, when the old national hatreds were still around—but the religions that had restrained them had been violently suppressed.

      Delete
    19. I recollect an issue of The Economist I picked up in the airport years ago, before the devolution began. "They're Still the Balkans!" the cover proclaimed. The article covered all the ethnic and national animosities buried under the communist shell.

      Delete
  3. Regarding prayer, I found a surprisingly sympathetic article at The Atlantic; see here.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "The OKC bomber was an atheist, but it would be silly to blame that act on atheism."

    Oddly, more often than not I've heard McVeigh identified as a Christian. Whether they say it has anything to do with his motives or not, the upshot is of course "see, Christians can be terrorists too, why are you singling out the Muslims?" But as to why he's regarded as Christian... I don't know. Maybe it's assumed to come with the Militia Fanatic Package Deal?

    Also: just returned from a trip to Israel. And let me tell you, if there was any doubt in my mind that "you can't stop killing with more guns" was pure sophistry, it vanished on seeing the highly responsible and perspicacious Israeli teens toting AK-47s every block or so.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The theology of the typical "Christian" militia guy is about as Christian as the Nation of Islam is Muslim—or in other words about as much as Scientology is a church. (No I'm not exaggerating, NOI is a UFO religion.)

      Delete
    2. The masjid in the Bronx was discussing whether to admit members of the Black Muslim movement to their school and the principle remarked that they should because it would give them an opportunity to convert them to true Islam.

      They were not so nice to the mother of the Shi'ite kids.

      Delete
  5. Off-topic, but: was crushed to learn, a year or so ago, that the original Firestar had gone out of print. Bought it from the dodgy B&N print-on-demand house, because come on, I'd already given my three copies away, and someone's still printing. I really hope you're getting paid for it, though. Chiefly because it's a freaking masterwork, but in addition, if you have financial ties you might be able to do something about the dodginess: it's a mass-market copy, badly scanned in and ballooned to trade-copy proportions, and page 16 is missing, overwritten by page 21.

    I've considered writing a three-season TV screenplay (seasons: the first two-thirds of Firestar, the rest plus Rogue Star, Lodestar plus Falling Stars) then seeing how Tor would deal with it after the fact. Chief stumbling block is, it's very much about the redemption of Generation X. Like, how can Jimmy Poole be an outcast and a tech whiz? Modern nerd appeal is more about fantasy worlds than anything else, but you can't tell me Jimmy wouldn't write video game mods even before the Karr Method got to him. In which case he'd be socially accepted and have a completely different character arc.

    Okay, no, now that I write it down like that, it's simple: he's accepted ONLINE. Offline, he still has terrible social dysfunctions and hygiene. So, it's not so much deep resentment of the world making him an amoral toad, it's being spurred on by the social circle that accepts him. He can still be beat up in high school, even if Chase is now being counseled regularly and cluelessly in case he's a school shooter in the making.

    But yeah, in general, the current high school generation is not composed of envelope-pushers. Way more Jenny Ribbons and, frankly, Felixes and Dotties, all acting out of a sense of social conformity more than anything else. That changes matters so that keeping it strictly to Belinda's canonical Kids seriously undermines the basic thesis, which is "this awesome future could totally happen and here's how." And I love those kids and couldn't write original characters half so well. It's a dilemma.

    Not sure if this would have happened without Styx or not, but: I am writing didactic poetry for a painter friend to illustrate. It's about on par with the "doggerel" you wrote for teen!Styx, subsequently flinching away from pretensions to fully reproduce the really good stuff, but criminy, have you seen the tone-deaf swill that ACTUALLY gets propagated as didactic poetry nowadays?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your kind words. I believe Tor brought out a second edition a couple years ago. (My name was in bigger type. Woo-hoo.) I think it was because the original contract expired and we had asked for the rights back. This new edition enabled them to say, see? it's not out of print after all.

      Delete
  6. Interesting and well expressed comments. As typical of the posts here, there is much to ponder. However, and foremost, I am concerned that big, empty Saudi Arabia rejects these refugees, as do all the peaceful Mediterranean Moslem lands. Very telling, I think.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Refugees wouldn't go to Saudi Arabia, or other Islamic countries, anyway. Wrong flavor of Islam. They'd be out of the frying pan, into the fire.

      Delete
    2. The refugees from Syria are largely Christian, Druse, Alawite, and Shi'ite. None would be welcome in Saudi Arabia, most of whose empty area consists of sand desert anyway. A great many refugees have been accepted by Jordan

      Delete
    3. Expecting Westerners to know Levantine Canaanites from Arabian Bedouins, or Sunni Muslims from Shi'a or Druze? You'll be explaining Feynman diagrams to the cat next.

      Delete
    4. Indeed, indeed Turkey and Jordan have taken in many refugees, perhaps because they cannot avoid doing so. Saudi Arabia already has a notable Shi'ite population on its Persian Gulf coast. There isn't room for more?

      I realize the whole Mideast is a racist, tribal and prejudiced place. Will that go away if they move elsewhere? Likely yes,in one, two or three generations in the USA, if there is enough time and we hold on to enough of the things that made America what she is. How long and difficult that seems.

      Delete