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First they came for the tacos: “cultural appropriation” for whites to make burritos

From my latest for the Independent Women’s Forum

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“Evil” Trump: It used to be thought “simplistic” to divide people up between good and evil

My latest op-ed for the Los Angeles Times:

Image result for image trump is hitler

No “complexity” and “ambiguity” here!

“Manichaeans” was a favorite derogatory way to describe GOP President George. W. Bush and his Iraq war supporters in the mid-2000s. The term referred to the followers of Mani, a third-century Persian prophet who founded a highly successful religious movement that rivaled Christianity. Mani was a dualist who believed that the world was divided between the forces of light and good, and the forces of darkness and evil, both locked in a never-ending conflict. Christians, who believe that despite the existence of evil, God and his creation are good, deemed Manichaeism heresy.

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With the speed of a wildfire, the word “Manichaean” spread through the liberal punditry to characterize Bush’s supposedly simplistic and intellectually challenged analysis. Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer promptly ground out a 2004 book about Bush, “The President of Good and Evil.” On a book-tour stop at UCLA, Singer accused the president of engaging in a “childish reading of moral rules.” Singer traced that notion to Bush’s evangelical Christian beliefs, arguing that evangelicals had never managed to eradicate the Manichaean heresy from their primitive mind-sets.

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Then 2016 arrived, and with it, Donald Trump’s winning run for the White House. Suddenly the words “complexity” and “ambiguity” — not to mention “nuanced” — disappeared from the vocabularies of the so-called sophisticates, washed away in the swirling high tide of the return of that simplistic word: “evil.”

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

 

 

My thoughts about “Silence”: I don’t know what it’s trying to say, and that’s its problem

Image result for image silence movie

Garfield as Fr. Rodriques: You can just tell he’s gonna apostasize

I went to see “Silence,” and I’m of two minds.

I’d actually dreaded the experience. Having read Shusaku Endo’s novel and also seen the excellent 1971 Japanese adaptation of the novel (for which Endo himself was a screenwriter), I really wasn’t enthusiastic about viewing extenuated scenes of exquisitely gruesome Japanese torture, of which there was plenty in the 1971 movie–and I’ve also read “Unbroken” and seen “The Bridge on the River Kwai” a number of times, so I can’t really summon up much enthusiasm for boiling Westerners alive and hanging them upside-down in a pit while the blood slowly dripped out of their heads because 17th-century colonialism or whatever. I see your anti-Eurocentrism rant and raise you one Bataan Death March. My husband’s favorite uncle barely survived the Battle of the Coral Sea, so maybe I’m prejudiced.

Even worse, I dreaded seeing a movie whose subject matter might actually be not the brutal persecution of Christians under the Tokogawa Shogunate but Martin Scorsese’s tiresome conflicted views about the Catholicism in which he was raised. OK, Martin, we know you’re an ex-seminarian, so spare us. In any event, I dragged myself to “Silence” and covered my face with my hands during the most ghastly of the slow-mo executions. I’m a Catholic, after all. and I ought to face squarely what can happen to Catholics and their Christian brethren when they stand up for their faith. The 21 Coptic martyrs to ISIS in 2015 are the latest version of the 26 Catholic martyrs in Nagasaki in 1597–except that the lucky Copts were beheaded, not crucified. As the movie progressed, I couldn’t help wondering if I wouldn’t have betrayed Christ myself just to get out of being strapped to a cross for four days until I drowned in the ocean: Give me that fumi-e so I can step on it quick!

It turned out that “Silence” wasn’t as bad a movie as I’d expected–and in fact it had some very fine things going for it. As well as some disturbing negatives.

Pros:

1. The cinematography was spectacularly beautiful. The movie was visually haunting.

2. All the Japanese and Chinese actors were terrific. So was Adam Driver, who stole the movie as Garupe, the Jesuit sidekick who seems like the quieter and weaker counterpart of the more voluble and aggressive Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield)–but proves to be the stronger in every way. The gaunt Driver looked like an El Greco painting from the 17th century–so why didn’t he get the lead? And Liam Neeson is positively Satanic as Fr. Ferreira, the apostate priest turned Japanese Buddhist who employs every trick in the temptation-of-Christ playbook to persuade (successfully) Rodrigues to apostasize, too.

3. The movie treats the Catholic faith and the Catholic sacraments of the characters with extraordinary reverence. The scenes of the old Latin Masses brought tears to my eyes. Thank you, Fr. James Martin, S.J., consultant on matters Catholic and Jesuit for this movie.

4. The movie bucks the stance of today’s intellectual elites who regard Christian martyrs past and present as ego-trippers in it for the glory. These martyrs, chronically impoverished and exploited peasants regarded as human beasts of burden by their snooty samurai overlords, die humbly for their faith, displaying more raw courage than I’d expect of myself under the circumstances. They were incandescent.

Cons:

1. Did “Silence” really have to be three hours long? There were simply too many repetitive scenes–people trampling on the fumi-e over and over, for example. I actually got bored after a while, especially during the drawn-out denouement. At least a half-hour could have hit the cutting-room floor, probably more–but this is what happens when a director like Scorsese is so famous from his previous movies that he gets to call all the shots on his latest. A film editor should have reined him in.

2. Andrew Garfield. He was simply too pretty and too ebullient for his conflicted lead role. His kind of naive self-confidence worked well in “Hacksaw Ridge,” where the the hero in fact is a naively self-confident Christian whose brute commitment to his faith makes him a hero–but Garfield doesn’t do a good job playing self-doubt.

3. The sceenplay. The movie is kind of pat, suggesting that Rodrigues’ ultimate apostasy, trampling on the fumi-e in order to prevent further torture of Japanese Christians, is WJWHD–what Jesus would have done under the circumstances. And thus that Rodriques is ultimately redeemed. Endo’s novel and the 1971 film version is far more ambivalent about the price that Rodriques pays in order to save his own hide. Scorsese made a big long movie but he didn’t achieve what seems to have been his desired goal: a subtle examination of what it means to be a Christian.

Electoral College liberal debacle: “Hamilton Electors” go Aaron Burr on Hillary Clinton

From my latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

Hamiltonians in Pennsylvania hoping to sway electors to Clinton

Actually, the election was supposed to be over a month and a half ago, on Nov. 8. But supporters of losing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton wouldn’t let go, and decided to turn the formality of the Electoral College’s ratification of the results into a second go-round. Hence, the “Hamilton Elector” campaign. The idea was that Alexander Hamilton had written in Federalist No. 68  that the College was supposed to be a body “of men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation.”

Perusing the Federalist Papers was undoubtedly a first-time experience for the diehard liberals in the Clinton camp. Usually it’s conservatives who champion the limited-government principles enunciated by Hamilton and his proto-Republican Party confreres John Madison and John Jay in those august pamphlets. But the austere Hamilton has been repackaged as an immigrant rap artist, so he’s now a formidable liberal icon. His supporters also now delicately glide over that sexist word “men” in Hamilton’s Federalist 68 as they’ve used his words to insinuate that the Electoral College’s job is to veto their states’ popular votes.

So indeed a record number of  electors went Full Hamilton and either voted or tried to vote against their states’ presidential choice. The only problem–oops!–is that all but two of them used their newfound claim of veto power to vote against Hillary Clinton–not exactly what the Hamilton Elector people had in mind.

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

Hillary Clinton, Bigfoot? Fans report sightings of the elusive hominid in the Chappaqua woods

From my latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum

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A rare photo of the forest-dwelling “Hillary C.”?

From Wikipedia:

“In American folklore, the ‘Hillary C.’ is a simian,[2] ape, or hominid-like creature that is said to inhabit forests, mainly in Westchester County, NY. The ‘Hillary C.’ is usually described as a large, hairy, bipedal humanoid….

“Scientists discount the existence of the Hillary C. and consider it to be a combination of folklore, misidentification, and hoax,[6] rather than a living animal, because of the lack of physical evidence and the large numbers of creatures that would be necessary to maintain a breeding population.[7][8] Occasional new reports of sightings sustain a small group of self-described investigators.[9] Most reports of sightings are attributed to being various animals, particularly black bears.”

Whoa, wait! Did I type in that “Hillary C.” above? Oh, I am so sorry! I meant to say “Bigfoot”! Bigfoot, Bigfoot, Bigfoot! The Sasquatch! And scratch that “Westchester County, NY,” too. I meant to type in “Pacific Northwest.”  I get the “Wests” confused in my head sometimes. My apologies, please!

Here’s why I got so darned mixed up in my mind (from the Washington Post):

“The other day, Carol Meyer and her friend Ellen went walking in the woods of Chappaqua. For all they knew, they might see a coyote or some rare mushrooms or Hillary Clinton.

“’I just have a sense —’ said Ellen, putting on her gloves.

“’You think so?’ said Carol, adjusting her scarf….

“Ellen had already seen her in the woods twice since she lost the presidency, and she wasn’t the only one. Two days after the election, a young woman had spotted Clinton and taken a photo with her that went viral, leading to fake news stories alleging that the whole thing was staged, which was said to prove once again that Hillary Clinton couldn’t do anything that did not strike a false note. But Chappaquaians knew better.”

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

Once a feminist icon, now a “sexualized image”: UN drops Wonder Woman campaign

From my latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

Wonder Woman’s appointment as honorary UN ambassador came to an abrupt end.

Merciful Minerva! Not “culturally…sensitive” enough

Until just yesterday the busty, black-haired DC Comics superheroine clad in her signature red-white-and-blue strapless bodysuit and high-heeled knee-boots was a feminist icon. And what feminist couldn’t love the Amazonian princess who swatted away bullets just by flicking her bracelets? She was perfect: a feminist-separatist (no men on the island of Amazons she hailed from) but also grrrrl-ish-ly glamorous enough to be played on TV by beauty queen Lynda Carter.

Ms. Magazine put Wonder Woman on the cover of its inaugural issue in 1972 to tout such feminist-centric articles as “Money for Housework” and “Body Hair: The Last Frontier.” Then Ms. brought her back again for its 40th-anniversary cover in 2012, just in time to to enlist her against the “war on women” that the GOP was supposedly waging. “Vote As If Your Life Depended on It,” the 2012 cover said.

That was just yesterday. But now it’s today. So, when the U.N. in October decided to make Wonder Woman an honorary ambassador “for the empowerment of girls and women, the reaction was…well, not exactly what you’d expect for a supposed feminist icon. It seems that in just four years, strapless bodysuits and high heels have gone from girrrl-power adornment to symbols of oppression of women. Around 45,000 feminists signed a petition asking the U.N. to fire Wonder Woman and send her back to the mythical isle of Themyscira where she came from:
“Wonder Woman was created 75 years ago. Although the original creators may have intended Wonder Woman to represent a strong and independent “warrior” woman with a feminist message, the reality is that the character’s current iteration is that of a large breasted, white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring body suit with an American flag motif and knee high boots –the epitome of a ‘pin-up’ girl. This is the character that the United Nations has decided to represent a globally important issue – that of gender equality and empowerment of women and girls. It appears that this character will be promoted as the face of sustainable development goal 5 for the United Nations at large.

“At a time when issues such as gender parity in senior roles and the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse of women and girls is at the top of the United Nation’s agenda, including the ‘He for She’ campaign, this appointment is more than surprising. It is alarming that the United Nations would consider using a character with an overtly sexualized image at a time when the headline news in United States and the world is the objectification of women and girls. The image that Wonder Woman projects (life-size cut outs of which have already appeared at UNHQ) is not culturally encompassing or sensitive –attributes the United Nations expects all its staff members to embody in the core value of respect for diversity.”

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

Penn students remove Shakespeare portrait from English dept. wall because not “inclusive”

From my latest blog post for the Independent Women’s Forum:

Bye Bye Bard: A black lesbian poet on the wall is more victimological

From the Daily Pennsylvanian, the student newspaper of the University of Pennsylvania:

“Penn English professor and Department Chair Jed Esty was surprised to find a large portrait of William Shakespeare waiting in his office.

“A group of students removed the iconic portrait from the walls of Fisher- Bennett Hall and delivered it to Esty’s office after an English Department town hall meeting discussing the election, which took place on Thursday December 1. They replaced it with a photo of Audre Lorde, a black female writer.

“The portrait has resided over the main staircase of Fisher-Bennett — home to Penn’s English Department — for years.”

So Donald Trump insipired the Shakespeare portrait-purge. I didn’t realize that he and the Bard of Stratford-on-Avon had so much in common….

What’s fascinating about the Shakespeare/Lorde switcheroo is that the professors who teach in the Penn English Department didn’t seem to mind in the slightest:

“The English department, in an effort to represent more diversity in writing, voted a few years ago to relocate the portrait and replace it….

“Esty, who declined to be interviewed, said in an email to the Daily Pennsylvanian, ‘Students removed the Shakespeare portrait and delivered it to my office as a way of affirming their commitment to a more inclusive mission for the English department.’ He added that the image of Lorde will remain until the department reaches a decision about what to do with the space.”

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by Charlotte Allen