Arthur Miller, Andrew Sullivan and God

I read Longbow Papers every day, and I always have a reaction to what Joseph Bosco says, sometimes good, sometimes not so good, but he always gets me to think.

On US domestic politics we see pretty much eye to eye, and on the CCP and other Communism-related topics we disagree completely. All that said, I immensely enjoyed his piece today on the hypocrisy of US politics (ab)using god and religion to garner votes. Great insights, and a deeply disturbing issue to those of us who see this as a sort of quicksand. After all the pandering, how will guilty politicians like Bush and Dean get out of the mess? Already, Bush is beholden to the religious right and it’s not pretty.

On the other hand, I disagreed with his recent assault on Andrew Sullivan, much as I love poking holes in Sully’s arguments.

I have to say that Sullivan is correct in slamming Arthur Miller for dining and socializing with Fidel Castro. As much as I revered Castro and Che back in college, after learning of the misery Castro has inflicted on so many of his people I can no longer see him as the somewhat cuddly, daring revolutionary of past impressions.

The litany of Castro’s sins is no secret, so I’m not sure why someone as brilliant as Joseph would just let it go. We are talking about a Very Bad Man here, and for Miller to hang out with him gives liberals an even worse name than they’ve already got (fairly or unfairly).

The other point where I definitely take issue with Joseph is on the greatness of Arthur Miller, of whom he writes, “Long after Sullivan passes from this rock, Mr. Miller will be revered as one of the greatest writers America produced in the 20th Century! Perhaps only a dozen writers in that century belong in the strata of wordsmanship that Miller inhabits.”

Sorry, but in my mind Miller was, is and always will be a second-rate writer who wrote one or two excellent plays, in particular Death of a Salesman. The Crucible is a great shocker and very powerful, but I don’t believe it will be remembered as a great play by those less intimately familiar with the McCarthy Era. He is dwarfed by truly great playwrights like Eugene O’Neill and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s all but forgotten over the next couple of generations.

Lastly, I agree with Joseph that Sullivan’s “tick-tock” bullshit is weird and tasteless. But I don’t believe he is actively wishing death upon anyone. He is saying that one day this generation will pass on and its Vietnam-mentality will perish with them. Bad news is, Andrew, that one day your neo-con generation will pass on and be replaced by another breed of liberal or whatever. Tick-tock. Again, it’s weird and tasteless, but it’s typical Sullivan.

To reiterate, I enjoy reading Joseph’s blog immensely and he’s one of the bloggers I am hoping to meet personally before I head back home for good. With respect, I take issue too with his beautifully written essay on “The greatness of China,” but that discussion will have to wait until I’ve got a little more stamina.

The Discussion: 11 Comments

I agree with you completely regarding Miller (and Castro). One of the best dozen writers of the 20th century???? Hah!

January 8, 2004 @ 11:39 am | Comment

Hi Richard … and welcome back from hospital. I’ve been away on holiday.

I read the article by Bosco on “The Greatnest of China” … and it annoyed the hell out of me. He gets stuck into his name sake for his ignorance about China … which he does by way of saying “I don’t know if he’s been to China, ergo he never has.” What kind of nonsense is that? His article is filled with snide little comments that are at best half-truths, and at worst totally misleading. Take for example his comment about how the troops of India and Vietnam have been present on Chinese soil in the 20th Century … I guess he didn’t consider it worthy of mention that China launched wars against both those states. Then there was his comment about Amoy/Xiamen, which (if I read it right) pokes at European imperialism by seeming to imply that it was called Xiamen until western imperialists hoisted the name Amoy onto the city. Or perhaps (his writing is so poor you can’t be sure) he meant it the other way around. In either case, it’s a load of crap. “Amoy” is a name that was used by the west to apply to the city … because it sounds rather similar to how it is pronounced in Xiamenhau, the local dialect. Xiamen is the Mandarin (pinyinised) form. It would be like sneering at the British for calling Hong Kong “Hong Kong” instead of “Xianggang”. How dare they anglicise the name based upon Cantonese! He makes a big deal about how “here I am in China, the great professor in Xiamen” and therefore he knows all about China etc … and goes on about the cultural affinities between Fujian and Taiwan … but since he apparently doesn’t even know what Xiamen is called in the local dialect, it really makes it look like he’s talking through a hole in his arse. Speaking of his comments about Taiwan … yes, he’s right, the two sides of the straight share a language and culture … but he seems to take from this that it is only the “evil” Taiwanese government who is causing problems between the two? In Taiwan there is quite a division between the group who went there in 1949 and who were NOT from Fujian, and the original inhabitants, who share a dialect etc. Given how many other pieces of misleading information he packs that essay with, I’m not inclined to give this guy the benefit of the doubt … I think he knows full well that it is mainly the 1949ers who favour reunification, and it is mainly the native Taiwanese who are increasingly in favour of independence … these self same ones who share the language and culture with Fujian. Take a wild guess which category Chen Shuibian belongs to. What else was there … oh yes, his comments about Japan … go open a history book man! No democracy in Japan before 1945? What? He also seems to fit neatly into a category of critics of USA who attack USA for supporting dictators and attack USA for removing dictators … but you can’t have it both ways! He’s also an enemy of the American constitution … as are so many other Bush haters. They just can’t get over the fact that Bush won, and therefore they keep harping on about how it wasn’t a fair election and how he didn’t have a majority of votes. Well, first off, every constitutional form was followed, and when the result came into dispute the constitution continued to be followed and was decided by judges who were appointed through correct constitutional form. Yes, the judges who decided for Bush were all republican appointees … but does anyone seriously believe that you can get away with appointing political flunkies to the US supreme court? It was a difficult election (and speaking as an outsider) it seems to me that it showed the strength of American democracy … because at the end of the day, Gore accepted Bush as his legitimate leader, and there was never even a thought that the army, civil service etc. might refuse to follow Bush’s orders. That’s what makes democracy work … accepting it when the other guy wins. I would suggest that all those in American who still refuse to accept Bush as their legitimate president should migrate to a country where it is standard practise to refuse to recognise the results of an election, and see how much they enjoy that. They should remember to take pack flak jackets. Secondly, Bush isn’t the first president to have recieved fewer votes than his opponent, yet won the election … the American electoral system never pretends that it is purely a matter of counting up all the votes and whoever gets the most wins. It never has been. Would they be continuing to whine if it had gone the other way around and Gore had won but with fewer votes? No of course they wouldn’t.

Richard … I haven’t read any of this guy’s stuff before I followed your link today … is this guy an ignorant idiot who knows nothing about history … or is he the kind of guy who really doesn’t care what kind of lies and half-truths he spouts so long as it furthers his viewpoint?

I normally try to remain as objective and rational as I can in expressing my views … but that article has got me really worked up … what a load of equine manure!

January 8, 2004 @ 12:04 pm | Comment

Li En, tell us what you really think! Seriously, you raise some of the points that I have in mind for my upcoming commentary on Joseph’s essay. (Though come to think of it, with your comment that may no longer be necessary.)

I am not as hard on him as you are, mainly because I was in his camp on China not that many years ago, and I understand just how easy it was for me, as a liberal American, to fall into this trap (and it was the same trap that made me think of Castro as a benevolent dictator, harsh when needed but essentially a kind and magnanimous man). But this is definitely a point I intend to address as soon as I get back on my feet — giving the CCP a legitimacy that it has never earned and that it does not deserve. But I don’t want to give it all away now.

January 8, 2004 @ 1:31 pm | Comment

Hi there, I’m posting this in the hopes someone can help me. I was following a random series of links a few weeks ago, and stumbled upon a blog site by an expat woman living in Japan. She wrote a particularly poignant entry about her homesickness around the Christmas holiday, and how her Japanese friend bought her a “Christmas cake,” as he thought it was a common custom here in the States. No such thing exists, of course, but it was so sweet–I want to find it again. I can’t find it! But it was somewhere in these links of Asian blogs…it’s driving me nuts. If you have any idea of who it could be, I’d appreciate your help.

Thanks a bunch.
Dan Renzi

January 8, 2004 @ 3:48 pm | Comment

Hi Richard,

The comments on China by Mr. Bosco do seem to be a remarkably one-eyed pro-China viewpoint. His approach of not defending China’s record, but rather claiming that the US isn’t perfect either is a bit bizarre – Poverty? Yeah, but there are poor people in the US. Corruption? Yeah, but what about Enron. Political reform? Yeah, but Bush didn’t really win … it’s stretching reality to suggest the two countries are comparable.

Also, I was rather amused that his complaint that his namesake was “eternally attacking the ghost of the seriously flawed—and long deceased—Mao” was followed up by a rant about how evil Chiang Kai Shek was (which of course invalidates any claims to independence for Taiwan!).

January 8, 2004 @ 4:27 pm | Comment

Hi, Folks,

As an American author and journalist of long-standing, I have learned the futility of debating with readers what they think you wrote. So, I will not join the fray.

I did want to drop in only momentarily to confess to two personal truths: 1) I love and support America with every fiber of my being; 2) I am also most definitely “pro” The People’s Republic of China, and have been for almost 50 years.

Thank you

January 8, 2004 @ 5:52 pm | Comment

Thanks for the comments — let’s save the discussion on the China issue for another time when I’m up to it.

January 8, 2004 @ 8:16 pm | Comment

It’s nice to see that Joseph Bosco reads this blog … I would be a lot more inclined to consider your argument if you would get your facts straight … As I said before, your article was riddled with so many half truths, misleading statements and straight out historical inaccuracies that by the time I was done reading it, I simply dismissed the whole thing (and you along with it). Richard will confirm to you that my postings have generally been about understanding the Chinese point of view on various issues and I could hardly be described as “anti-China” … but frankly I think essays like yours do more harm than good. All it does is provide ammunition for your opponents.

Lastly, your comment about loving American is all well and good … I’m sure you’re sincere in your feelings. That’s a perfectly good example of what you’re talking about … attacking people for something they didn’t say. I presume your comment was in reference to what I wrote … but I never accused you have hating your homeland. I don’t love America. I don’t hate it either. To me it’s a foreign country with things to admire and things to criticise. Its constitution is definately one of the things I admire, and the success of the democratic system designed and introduced so many years ago truly astounds me. The founding fathers of your nation were men of genius. I never accused you of hating America … I did accuse you of disrespect for your own constitution, and I stand by my words: there is no other interpretation for your denial of the legitimacy of Bush’s victory. Mind you, in practise, do you really believe he isn’t your legitimate president? Do you refuse to obey all orders originating from his administration … because if he isn’t the legitimate president, none of his laws are legitimate either. No, I didn’t think so.

January 9, 2004 @ 8:56 am | Comment

I’m sorry, but anyone who has been “pro-PRC for fifty years” has an enormous amount of explaining to do.

How many millions have been starved, murdered and tortured by that regime during the last 50 years? How can any decent person support the horrors perpetrated by the PRC?

To make the statement Bosco makes above, he must be either an historical idiot or a moral pygmy.

January 9, 2004 @ 2:54 pm | Comment

I think Bush should not be president and I do not trust Cheney and Rumsfeld. I don’t know about Kerry, but I think i will vote against bush. These people give me a really bad feeling

April 30, 2004 @ 4:55 pm | Comment

I think Bush should not be president and I do not trust Cheney and Rumsfeld. I don’t know about Kerry, but I think i will vote against bush. These people give me a really bad feeling

April 30, 2004 @ 4:55 pm | Comment

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