And speaking of genocide...

Let's not forget our own troubled history. A new documentary by Don Vasicek reminds us. Check out the trailer for The Sandcreek Massacre. And of course, a book mentioned here earlier, Evan S. Connell's Son of the Morning Star, about the Battle of the Little Bighorn and all the characters and politics that made it. (On that occasion, the guys in feathers won.)

Speaking of beasts...

Check out Karla Huebner's elegant new blog, Rabbits, Toyen, and So Forth. She promises more pictures of Prague, which is certainly picturesque (I used to work there, sort of). Pet the rabbits, but please don't feed the toyen.

Eternal Treblinka?

Charles Patterson's 2002 book Eternal Treblinka is a forcefully and even elegantly written denunciation of killing or harming animals, in the context of a history of slaughterhouses and of 20th century militant vegetarianism. It takes its title from a phrase in a story by Isaac Bashevis Singer, "The Letter Writer": "In relation to [all other creatures], all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka."

The book has forced me to think through my own position. I recognize the logic and respect the commitment in Patterson's book, but I'm not ready to become a vegetarian. There is a fundamental difference, in my mind, between genocide and animal slaughter, between killing human beings to rid the earth of them and killing beasts to provide for human beings. Where animal slaughter is a kind of genocide is in the deliberate exterminations of whole species, as nearly happened to the American bison and did happen to the dodo, the thylacine and many other animals -- all of which I regard as terrible errors, but not crimes comparable to what occurred at Treblinka, Auschwitz and other Lager (or in Cambodia or Rwanda or Darfur more recently). I'll focus my rage and what energy I can summon to defending humans first. But read the book. You may come to a different conclusion. In either case, you will be required to think through these issues more clearly.


Pinter: Torture in name of freedom

From the online edition of The Independent, a speech by Harold Pinter, who the day before yesterday won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He writes,"We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery and degradation to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East'. But, as we all know, we have not been welcomed with the predicted flowers. What we have unleashed is a ferocious and unremitting resistance, mayhem and chaos."

Beautiful mayhem: "Innocent Voices"

The film Voces Inocentes is a gorgeous fable being mis-marketed as a political statement. It's promoters claim it is a denunciation of the forcible recruitment of children in wars, but what it really is is a child's view of flames and violence, filmed in the beautiful colors of El Salvador's picturesque poverty during the war of the 1980s. The memories are those of director Oscar Torres, and they are probably true memories. The movie is a fable not because it deliberately tells untruths, but as a literary form: innocent children beset by monsters who seek to destroy them, but our hero foils the much more powerful monsters by his cleverness and ultimately is saved by a guardian spirit. The monsters are the U.S.-trained Salvadoran army, the guardian spirit who shows up NOT A MOMENT TOO SOON is his Uncle Beto, a selfless leader of the guerrillas in the FMLN. There are moments of very effective acting -- the brutish bus driver, the anguished priest, the resourceful grandmother, the virtuous Beto -- and some spectacular scenes of firefights and of fires. But as a political statement, it comes 20 years too late and is far less effective than Oliver Stone's 1985 Salvador.