The Relevant Sting of John Grisham’s The Appeal—Book Review

There’s good beach reading and there’s bad beach reading. I found a copy of John Grisham’s The Appeal at a beach condo this year and elected to read it, having never heard about it before. While Grisham’s legal thrillers aren’t the most literary around, you can always count on them to be well researched and executed. This is no less true of his sprawling 2008 novel.

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8 Reason A Christmas Carol is Not As Individualist As You May Think

While one of the most famous Christmas stories of all time, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol sometimes comes under criticism for weakly addressing the problem of poverty. The complaint goes like this: Ebenezer Scrooge is but one person who learns an individual lesson, and that lesson is for private individuals to be a bit more charitable. One day a year. Thus, the Dickens classic tosses a breadcrumb to the poor, but doesn’t do a thing to address serious social ills. A sentimental tale, but a moral flop. Continue reading

What Clint Smith and Frederick Douglass Taught Me About Critical Race Theory

“Oppression doesn’t disappear just because you decided not to teach us that chapter.”

I decided to write this post reflecting on the first July 4th celebration since the government officially recognized Juneteenth.

I’ve been following Clint Smith for some time now, after his Crash Course video series popped up on my YouTube feed at the same time that I read an article about him in Poets & Writers.

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Flip a Coin; Choose Your Necropolis

A lot of people this year have been tired of it. Not really liking their options. Politically speaking. For a lot of us, both seem pretty bad.

So then you’ll hear someone say, “neither are the best option, but one is far better than the other.” Of course, such an opinion will come naturally. You’ll also hear someone say “the two parties, Republican and Democrat, couldn’t be any different from one another.”

And is that true?

In some way, yes. You look at their platforms and talking points. What one says it’s pro, the other says it’s anti. At least, when you get to frame the language. But what does it mean for them to be so different? Is it simply a matter of comparing their talking points and determining they are as distinct as good and evil?

The two sides of a quarter could not be any further opposed to one another:

  • At any given time, they are always facing opposite directions.
  • One has a face, the other has something other than a face.
  • They have opposite slogans on them.
  • You can’t really look at both at the same time.
  • When someone flips a coin and calls “heads or tails,” the choices are distinct and there is no problem telling them apart.

The two sides of a quarter can’t exist without each other, and will always be part of the same coin. No matter which side you’re looking at, you’re looking at the same worth. You’re looking at the same substance. You’re looking at faces of the same subject.

Ultimately, this is what the two-party system in America has become.

They both give in to corporate lobbying, they both ignore the national debt, and they both contain hypocrites lacking in integrity.

But which side is for life, and which side is for death? In the abortion debate, for example, most Republicans want abortion to be as difficult as legally possible to obtain. Most Democrats want abortion to be easy to obtain. So then that must mean one side is clearly for life and the other is not, right?

It might seem like that. But there are pro choice Republicans and pro life Democrats. There are Democrats who believe that less abortions will happen if it is legalized and healthcare is robust. There are Republicans who believe that less abortions will happen simply if The Supreme Court makes it illegal across all 50 states. I’ve never heard anyone from either of those parties say they love abortions.

But life is about more than birth. Where do these parties stand on protecting the public from all manner of death? Or letting people protect themselves? What are their stances on warfare? For example, did you know that drone strikes have been known to kill children? That abortions were committed when the atomic bombs were dropped in Japan? Did you know that as much as 4% of people on death row are estimated to be innocent? The list of complications could go on.

And I haven’t even brought up how both parties choose to respond to a pandemic.

These two major parties are sides of a singular party-coin one could call a necropolis. What is a necropolis? It’s a city of the dead. The term can refer to a cemetery, but also to a civilization thriving off death.

An extreme example of this would be the world of, say, Mad Max. Or ancient Egypt. The death of some is almost worshipped as essential to the life of others.

In any world where death is celebrated as essential to a society’s thriving, you have a necropolis. Allowing the murder of babies? Necropolis. Perpetually sending young men and women off to war? Necropolis. Euthanizing the old and infirm? Necropolis. Overworking the poor until they die from poor health like broken machine parts? Necropolis. Tearing families and neighborhoods apart with oppression, robbing them of their resources, poisoning them, deceiving them, perpetuating conditions that lead to civil unrest, depriving people of meaning? Necropolis.

Ultimately, for all its fireworks, the American society is such as this. And it has long been such. Consider the following quote:

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. it is it’s natural manure.
-Thomas Jefferson

According to Jefferson, owner of slaves (that is, treating humans only as bio power), liberty requires a cycle of killing. In the same letter from which this quote derives, Jefferson asks, “what signify a few lives lost in a century or two?” Under this logic, killing a few people every century, under any circumstances, would probably justify a heap of liberty. After all, some people are just manure.

In the book of John we are told, “Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people.” The great irony is that Caiaphas’ willingness to kill one innocent man to preserve peace, though true, was only true because of the resurrection of the Christ. Caiphas held to a pro-death principle, but the principle of Christ is life. His death does nothing without life returning. And though his death was a necessary step, those who killed him were not noble, not in the right. By resurrecting, Jesus defies Necropolis.

Both major political parties have their own ways of trying to calculate the worth of other human beings and placing limits on life. Both parties accept ideologies of subjugating the bodies of others and limiting the population’s natural growth. Both parties have tendencies to view human lives according to their utility.

Both parties validate the American empire and culture’s ways of producing and exporting death with efficiency and a far reach. Be it fast food or endless warring or gun violence. We attach the logic of martyrdom to unborn children, to young soldiers fighting for oil prices, to children murdered in a school, to immigrants dying on the border, to the vulnerable dying from a pandemic. And regardless of rhetoric, both parties end up catering to interests that perpetuate necro-power.

That’s not to say that other civilizations aren’t worse, but boy do we tell ourselves we know better. But ask any number of people who subscribe to one major party or another, and there is at least one group of people they would celebrate the death of.

So if you feel like you need to make a political choice soon, remember first of all that you can choose to refuse these choices, and not participate in a system of death. But if you want to participate, there are also more than two options. For example, there is the Libertarian party, or the American Solidarity Party. These are just two examples that have been gaining popularity in recent years (and votes).

It’s one thing to accept that death is an inevitable part of life. It’s quite another to necessitate death in the pursuit of prosperity and personal liberty.

Choose your own necropolis. Or choose something else. Flip a coin. You’ll likely get opposites…of the same hunk of metal.