Lincoln – the film

Last night we went to the film Lincoln, starring Daniel Day Lewis. This was an extremely enjoyable film and certainly made one think. The year is 1865 and Lincoln, like Barak Obama, has just been elected for a second term.

So much of the film is familiar. Congress holds the president to ransom; the forces of conservatism are pitched against the forces of “radicalism”, or liberalism. The film covers Lincoln’s last months as he stands on the threshold of history. The thirteenth amendment to the constitution was to abolish slavery in the United States. Other amendments were added later, building on this, the most radical of all amendments to the constitution. The most surprising this about this film is the fact that Lincoln was a republican and it was the Republican party that was most in favour of the abolition of slavery, the Democrats were opposed. And yet, nearly 100 years later, it is a Democrat president, John F Kennedy who finally brings full civil rights to Black Americans and finally, the first black president is also a Democrat. How things change over time.

At the crucial vote to pass the Thirteenth amendment, the speaker elects to cast his vote, for as he says, history is being made. Now, it is impossible to imagine a world where the United States had not legislated against slavery.

The film does no favours to the American political system. Then as now, the system is open the bribery and corruption – then as now the votes of Congressmen can be bought. And the film certainly does no favours to those who are on the religious right. How can anyone say that slavery is ordained by God? And yet the religious right did.

Yann Martel: Beatrice and Virgil – First thoughts

I am really struggling with this book – normally I pick up a book and begin reading. The plot will unfold and by the third chapter I will have the map of the unknown country described by the author in my head. But here it is a different story. I was struggling so much that I have had to resort to reading reviews etc. just to be able to grasp what this book is about.

The book is an attempt to show how the holocaust can be depicted in art – or perhaps how it should be depicted in various forms of art.

Who are Beatrice and Virgil? These are the guides in Dante’s Divine Comedy. But here they are a donkey and a howler monkey, occupying the space between not alive and not dead.

The more reviews I read, the more confused I become. The main protagonist is an author called Henry who wrote an absurdly successful book and now is struggling to launch another magnum opus. And out of the blue, another Henry, this one a taxidermist, contacts Henry about a play he is trying to write. The characters are in fact stuffed animals in the taxidermist’s shop and the play is called “The 20th Century Shirt”. And the big question to be answered “How are we going to talk about what happened to us one day when it is over”? And so the allusions to the holocaust and representations in art.

This is a book that has to be read carefully and I am proceeding slowly. My problem is that this is a digital library book and expires in 3 days. Perhaps I will renew it.

Aleppo now and during the Armenian Genocide

“in late August (2012) Human Rights Watch reported that targeted artillery shelling and bombing raids on ten bakeries specifically in Aleppo, “killing and maiming scores of civilians who were waiting for bread.”

Aleppo is no stranger to human misery and degradation as a totalitarian regime inflicts its wrath on a people. Today we watch as brutality after brutality is inflicted on the Syrian people for daring to challenge those on power. The Assad clan is supported by Iran and now it seems that it is getting backup and support from North Korea. In 1915, 97 years ago, it was the Armenian people who were the victims as they were marched from their communities into the Syrian and Palestinian desert to be left to die.

The saddest thing of all is that the lessons of this brutal genocide were learnt well by those who wish to perpetuate evil. The shortcomings and inefficiencies of the genocide were analysed by the Nazis, so that there systematic slaughter of the Jews could be more effective and consume less resources. The lesson that brutality can win has been taken to heart by those who run Iran and certainly was learnt by Saddam Hussein and now by Assad in Syria. Can we learn how to prevent such massacres and abuses of human dignity?

When I was a little girl, I was taught the Catechism at school, and we were told that each and every human being is made in the image and likeness of God. If more people truly believed that and let that inform there actions and decisions, then maybe, just maybe, the world would change. It would be very sad to think that genocides are always going to be part of human history.

Aleppo 1915

Picture from the Devolution X Blog article about Armenia