Saturday, November 10, 2007

RIP Norman Mailer: January 31, 1923 - November 10, 2007

Caption: Author Norman Mailer speaks at an anti-war rally at the bandshell in New York's Central Park, in this March 26, 1966 file photo. Mailer, the macho prince of American letters who for decades reigned as the country's literary conscience and provocateur, died of renal failure early Saturday, his literary executor said. He was 84. (AP Photo/David Pickoff)
You can read the article here (see also here) Undoubtedly, one of those rare prominent voices against empire has been silenced. I first recall encountering his work in conjunction with my then-budding interest in the Beat Era. Fascinating writer and equally fascinating individual.

A selection from his 2003 essay, "The White Man Unburdened," offering a provocative description of the subtext for the Iraq War (and perhaps the War on Terra more broadly):

They would prove quintessential morale-builders to a core element of American life—those tens of millions of Americans who had been spiritually wounded by 9/11. They could also serve an even larger group, which had once been near to 50 percent of the population, and remained key to the President's political footing. This group had taken a real beating. As a matter of collective ego, the good average white American male had had very little to nourish his morale since the job market had gone bad, nothing, in fact, unless he happened to be a member of the armed forces. There, it was certainly different. The armed forces had become the paradigmatic equal of a great young athlete looking to test his true size. Could it be that there was a bozo out in the boondocks who was made to order, and his name was Iraq? Iraq had a tough rep, but not much was left to him inside. A dream opponent. A desert war is designed for an air force whose state-of-the-art is comparable in perfection to a top-flight fashion model on a runway. Yes, we would liberate the Iraqis.

So we went ahead against all obstacles—of which the UN was the first. Wantonly, shamelessly, proudly, exuberantly, at least one half of our prodigiously divided America could hardly wait for the new war. We understood that our television was going to be terrific. And it was. Sanitized but terrific—which is, after all, exactly what network and good cable television are supposed to be.

And there were other factors for using our military skills, minor but significant: these reasons return us to the ongoing malaise of the white American male. He had been taking a daily drubbing over the last thirty years. For better or worse, the women's movement has had its breakthrough successes and the old, easy white male ego has withered in the glare. Even the consolation of rooting for his team on TV had been skewed. For many, there was now measurably less reward in watching sports than there used to be, a clear and declarable loss. The great white stars of yesteryear were for the most part gone, gone in football, in basketball, in boxing, and half gone in baseball. Black genius now prevailed in all these sports (and the Hispanics were coming up fast; even the Asians were beginning to make their mark). We white men were now left with half of tennis (at least its male half), and might also point to ice hockey, skiing, soccer, golf (with the notable exception of the Tiger), as well as lacrosse, track, swimming, and the World Wrestling Federation—remnants of a once great and glorious white athletic centrality.

Justin Raimondo also has a few kind words for Mailer.

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