Liberal Intolerance?

Speaking of intolerance, what’s your view on the LGBTQ community Mr. Santorum?

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Recent events at Cornell University sparks a new wave of criticism of Liberals’ intolerance of conservative values. During his speech hosted by the Cornell Republicans, former congressman and presidential candidate Rick Santorum was repeatedly interrupted by  some of the students, despite the administrator’s warning. At one point Santorum responded to the chanting of “shame” in the audience: “I suspect that all of the people that just stood will walk around this campus and talk about tolerance, and all of them will tell you you have to celebrate what? Diversity! Right? Celebrate diversity. Preach tolerance. But when it comes to anybody that disagrees with them, there is no tolerance.”

Quite a sermon on diversity that comes out of someone as intolerant of diversity as you, Mr. Santorum. Now you know how it feels.

While I agree it is extremely disrespectful to heckle a guest speaker, I have no sympathy for Santorum. He gets all the disrespect that he deserves. Santorum’s hate speech against LGBTQ community and foreign immigrants seeks to disenfranchise a significant portion of the population, and it is exactly the kind of protests against his bigoted opinions that helps preserve the diversity that we cherish today. There is a reason that college is a bastion of liberalism, because the people who actually go to college hopefully learn to understand the value of diversity, as well as scientific facts for that matter, and do whatever they can to preserve it. So luckily for us, Santorum’s preaching of intolerance will not go uninterrupted.

Liberals may be intolerant, but they are only intolerant of the people who refuse to respect diversity for no valid reason. I bet those people think they are pretty smart using what they consider to be the “catchphrases” in liberal vernacular such as “tolerance” and “diversity” against liberals, but do they  really not see the TRUE IRONY here? Before they cast themselves as the victims of liberal intolerance, conservatives should first learn to truly respect the diversity of the people, no matter their race, their gender, their religion, their background, their sexual orientation – because unlike political orientation, these are the things that we cannot choose. But we can choose to have at least a grasp on reality.

The Collapse of Civilization

And because he is president, people who look to the United States as guidance will lose their faith in this country, or worse, believe in him.

I have encountered many optimistic statements concerning Trump’s presidency. Some argue that since the United States has a federal political system with checks and balances, Trump might not be able to make any significant changes in his term. While I appreciate the spirit of viewing this political travesty with as much positive attitude as is physically possible, but I have to differ. Besides bolstered by Congress Republican majority, he is going to appoint a Supreme Court justice, and no less importantly, exert a substantial impact on US culture and the identities of out future generations. And that is what I am worried about.

While Trump has been a deeply divisive force for as long as he has been in his political campaign, anyone with sound judgment will take his word with a grain, nay, 6 pounds of salt. But against all odds he has become president. Those who have opposed him before might be able to hold up their integrity and soundness of mind, but what about those who already support him, or the innocent children who still possess a at least a shred of respect for authority? His presidency means at least 4 years of bullshitting like claiming climate change is a hoax, vaccination causes autism. And because he is president, people who look to the United States as guidance will lose their faith in this country, or worse, believe in him. How many children will die of measles, mumps and rubella because their parents, brainwashed by Trump based on a fraudulent paper retracted years ago, refuse to give them vaccinations? How many countries, following United States’ precedence, will terminate their anti-climate change policies, until in less than 30 years our planet becomes a dump? I don’t even want to mention the kind of hellhole that the marginalized population of this country are going to live in, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, women, LGBTQ community, because of the culture of discrimination propagated by the president himself. And it has already begun.

This generation might survive, because it at least has some part of that cherished value of equality inculcated in the the society thanks to the hundreds of years of sacrifice from people who have fought valiantly, selflessly for that right. But what about the next, which is doomed to live in a culture intrinsically against everything we hold dear, what will they believe in? Is 250 years of progress going to be negated by this ridiculous man who has no grasp of reality except for his own?

God forbid if we have just elected our very own Hitler. Talk about legacy. And for those of you who think that liberals’ intolerance of Trump supporters is against the core value of democracy and freedom of speech, I have one thing to say – if you support Hitler, I can call you Nazi. This is how democracy works. As of now Trump is yet to catch up with Hitler in his atrocities. But I really don’t know how long this will remain to be true.

Myths and Facts about China – Dog-Eating

You have the right to feel uncomfortable about anything, but don’t be sanctimonious.

First off, dog eating – yes, that is a fact. Although not common, it is practiced, and thousands of dogs are killed each year. Before you jump in to condemn it as an abominable crime against human’s best friends, one quick question: are you a vegan? If the answer is yes, that you condemn all forms of torture and slaughter of animals equally, you have my deepest respect. I agree that animals deserve better, and we have no right to subject them to human will, but I confess it is my weakness that I simply don’t have the will to eliminate all meat product from my menu permanently.  But if you feast on animal flesh no less than I do, be it turkey, pork or beef, and you are appalled by the idea of dog eating –  that is the textbook definition of hypocrisy.

You may find it difficult to stomach the thought that the animals that are frolicking in millions of people’s households, enjoying every right as the beloved member of the family, are caged in tiny cells to be slaughtered and served on dinner tables. Well, so do I. But does the death of a hog, which is an even more sensitive animal than a dog, strike anything in you at all? Many hogs live in even more deplorable conditions than dogs, subject to prolonged torture and overfed each day just to be slaughtered for their tasty flesh.

In fairness, China’s per capita meat consumption is only half that of an average US citizen. But surely dogs deserve better – they have been humans’ loyal friends and servants for thousand of years, and what have pigs ever done to even compare with that? Dogs are indeed known for their benevolent and servile nature, which was cultivated when humans began to domesticate them from savage wolves, crossbreeding them excessively for their cuteness and servility, until they have lost the ability to survive in the wild on their own and have to rely on their masters. It is the most successful enslavement. Maybe they are happier as pets than as wild animals, maybe they are not, there’s no way to find out. What we do know is that in domesticating them we have assumed the role of a superior being, taking our ability to force our will on nature as justification for our right to do so. It certainly would be cruel to strip them of their natural instincts only to feed on them, but then again, the people that eat dogs today are not the ones that domesticated them in the first place. So what makes dog eating different from eating other species of animals is exactly the kind of human arrogance that presumes other animals should naturally be subject to our will. Ironic isn’t it

To the Bard Who Died on This Date, 400 years ago

Everything about his plays is fatefully aware that it is in a play, a means to a predestined end.

Much like many other literature enthusiasts, I find myself falling in and out of love with Shakespeare again and again and again. My main quarrel with Shakespeare, which incidentally is also my main quarrel with George Orwell, has to be that despite his creative vision, there is always a flagrant sense of intentionality to all of the characters, that their fate is already laid out no matter what complications may arise, as if the characters exist for the service of the plot alone and don’t have their own momentum. Othello is always meant to die, because a sketchy character such as Iago does not exist outside of his function as a plot device to consummate a tragic ending as befits a tragedy. Coriolanus has to die, because anyone so unversed in earthly matters has no place in a happy ending.

They all have to die in the end, or if it is in a comedy, they all have to fall in love. This kind of fatalistic design satisfies the purpose of the crowd who buy the tickets to enjoy a good show, but it simply isn’t good enough to convince anyone that any of it exists outside the show at all.

This reminds me of the disappointing ending to Marquez’s masterpiece. I remember my frustration as I read toward the end of A Hundred Years of Solitude, as Aureliano reads the decrepit parchment of Melquiades that has prophesied the fate and falling apart of the Buendias family up till the moment that he is reading it.

Yes, it is a neat ending – everything is blown out of the face of the earth and not a dust is left – I can’t think of anything neater than this. But there also comes the disillusion. The whole story up till then has been gilded in the guileless yet brutal incisivenss about life characteristic of Marquez’s writing. It is surreal, it is like something out of this world, but with the ending it is pulled back into the narrow-minded realm of a fiction writer, because it has become self-aware. The corny allegory and attempt at irony embodied in the specious ending is merely perfunctory, reminding you that it has to end somehow, and for some reason this is the way to go.

The same disillusion haunted me when my respect for Shakespeare hit rock bottom for the God-knows-how-many time. Everything about his plays is fatefully aware that it is in a play, a means to a predestined end.

But perhaps that is the purpose. Shakespeare wanders in the life of the people, he sympathizes with them, and he wants to tell their stories and convince them that there is poetry in them. Before they have to go back to their abusive masters or be married off to a foreign lord they have never met, the apprentices and the ladies could laugh and cry and wonder, at least for the three hours in the theater, at another life that entirely belongs to them. As for us, even though we are cut out from Shakespeare’s era, and we do not have the privilege to enjoy Shakespeare in the mentality of the audience for whom he has composed the plays, we are able to watch and marvel, more than ever, knowing that those exact same poetic lines have tumbled on the lips of actors 400 years ago, disquieted the dreams of kings and queens, and exhorted tears that have seeped deep into the earth.

War Fantasies

“So it goes”. Life, death, sex, massacre. It is easy to romanticize war because it is unreal to many of us. It is a jumbling of mangled emotions, too hollow to be taken seriously and too restive to be neglected. It is the modern tragedy of Don Quixote.

An old acquaintance of mine used to bug me on and on about his war fantasies (something I assume every guy would have to some extent sooner or later in his life). Not just any  fantasies – he was very particular in his taste – they were fantasies of himself overlooking the battlefield like something of a Roman god, with war cries booming chariots racing and shields clashing, a good old fashioned Battle of Actium in all its glory.

I dismissed his naiveté with outright albeit slightly unjustified contempt, knowing that war as it is cannot be as neat as they are described in history textbooks. Ironically, I would rather believe in the wars renditioned in fictions, because the war on a grand scale is simply a show, bereaved of its humanity and are therefore too easily exploited as senseless statistics for some military agenda, whereas it doesn’t do nearly as much justice to the individuals that actually die for the war, for something they are too confused to believe in. The battlefield in Iliad and Aeneid is epical, but even if they actually exist, I doubt that it would look very similar in the eyes of the warriors to the pictures in our illusions without the fancy CGIs. If contemporary military practice can be said to be somewhat organized and disciplined thanks to advanced technology, then conventional wars can be described as a scrambling at best.

Ideologies don’t fight the war. Fame, honor, freedom, none of it matters when you are facing the blood, the dead, the splitting din and clamor, the splattering earth. War is fought by crude, slipshod human instincts, governed by a single, almost mechanic force to carry on that precedes everything else, and there is no room for the glorious, only the basest human reflexes in its bare savagery. It is every soul for itself.

To love is to love in single-mindedness, without reason, without compassion, because in fiercely clinging on to it it would have been tantamount to the will to survive. It’s like in For Whom the Bell Tolls when Robert Jordan looks at Maria in her sleep and wishes for her a good night sleep because it is the only wedding ring he could ever afford her.

“I love you. I’ll wait for you. Come back. Come back to me.” In Atonement Robbie holds on to the letters from Cecilia at first with a sense of hope; and then when “the sight of a corpse becomes a banality”, he holds on to them with almost religious rigidity, when their love becomes almost a hallucination that he forces himself to remember.

“So it goes”, like in Slaughterhouse Five. Life, death, sex, massacre. It is easy to romanticize war because it is unreal to many of us. It is a jumbling of mangled emotions, too hollow to be taken seriously and too restive to be neglected. It is the modern tragedy of Don Quixote.

This is a girl’s war fantasy.

Need A Good Fiction to Get High

Readers realize that they can no longer be satisfied by just a good story – they need a dose of heroin that would make them high.

When I first finished reading McEwan’s Atonement, I would never have thought it as the kind of fiction that could ever be translated into films, had I not watched the film in the first place. What is essential in this masterpiece is the montage of abstract conceptions, the expression of which is uniquely endowed in a writer’s command of words, which I thought would be no doubt lost in films. Yet Joe Wright did a surprisingly good job – if the film does not succeed in outlining such mentality, it certainly gives clear evidence for its existence.

The fiction industry and film, or rather the theatrical performance industry, have gone hand in hand over the centuries. Aside from plays that are written for the purpose of performance, fictions and films work in completely different departments. Fictions explore the inner faculties, the moral torment and emotional evolvement to which we have our earliest exposure from Andersen’s fairy tales. Films are concerned primarily with outward expressions, violent actions and striking narratives that move the audience to tears. It is instantaneous, impulsive, and it does not allow time for pauses, compared to the phlegmatic qualities of literature. It has always eluded me how they do so frequently collide, while it seems obvious to me that the feeling of seeing a newborn baby could never be properly depicted on screen.

But hoorah, look at the stream of successful adaptations that have contributed a lucrative sum into the business of Hollywood, and has become such a workaday practice that no one ever bother to compare them with the original work anymore.

But a closer look into more modernist mainstream fictions would reveal a clear trend – the lesser role of the dramatics. Earlier fictions are more or less distinguished by the pronounced effect of a distinct and articulate plot – Victorian romance and Gothic horrors. But as we progress into the age of Fitzgerald and Hemingway, the violent shuffling of fortunes, like in The Count of Monte Cristo, are replaced by a capacity to evoke an authentic sensation that delineates a tableau, a cross-section of a fragment of life itself. Readers realize that they can no longer be satisfied by just a good story – they need a dose of heroin that would make them high.

This is why I would be very interested in seeing a film based of Thomas Pynchon’s Crying of Lot 49. I can’t imagine how the maniacal paranoia in a disintegrative pursuit for the Tristero that reaches down into the heroine’s suppressed intentions and self-abuse could be transpired into moving pictures, to convince the audience of its inevitability despite its absurdity. The film industry has yet to learn from the fiction industry a crucial lesson to make a breakthrough that would rescue it from its current plateau – it’s no longer about what you see; it’s about what you feel.