Categories
Essay Excerpt News

Op-Ed: Mitt Romney as Shakespeare’s Coriolanus

In the aftermath of Sandy, it’s time to reevaluate what it means to be dependent on government. (Guernica Magazine, 11/1/12)

EXCERPT: Romney argues that dependency makes Americans “victims” because they believe “that government has a responsibility to care for them,” contrasting their dependency with his independence, not merely as a wealthy private citizen but as a political candidate. In declaring his independence from American voters, Romney is in fact speaking in a classical tradition of warrior-leaders like Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. The play Coriolanus was based on the life of a real Roman leader who had such success in battle that he is re-named for the city of Corioles which he had violently destroyed. Coriolanus returns to Rome, where he decides to run for Senate. But when he refuses to pander to the people to win their votes the Romans run him out of town (with a little egging-on by Coriolanus’ rivals). As Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt writes in his recent book Shakespeare’s Freedom : “It is Coriolanus’ proud refusal to participate in the popular rites of power—specifically the humble soliciting of votes and hence acknowledgement of dependency—that has lead to his exile” (107).

What is particularly troubling about Romney’s case is that the mutual dependency voters take for granted is for him a shameful sense of entitlement.

In Coriolanus, Shakespeare shows what happens when a leader rejects the democratic contract between the voters and the government. And though Shakespeare himself wasn’t quite comfortable with the idea of governance by the masses, Coriolanus demonstrates that it is mutual dependency, at least as much as freedom and independence, that defines democratic values. America’s tripartite system of government ensures that our leaders are necessarily dependent both on each other and on the voters who elect them. As legal scholar Lawrence Lessig wrote in a recent Boston Review article “Democracy After Citizens United,” “The framers intended Congress to be ‘dependent upon the People alone.’ But the private funding of public campaigns has bred within Congress a second, and conflicting, dependency.” [More at Guernica.com]

Categories
Excerpt News

Guernica: Fukushima’s Nuclear Disaster Fortold in 1976

March 11th will mark the one-year anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan. Cleanup is still under way and the level of radiation exposure is still unknown. The massive earthquake and Tsunami that hit Japan are rightly blamed for the disaster at Fukushima but in fact the origins of the problem are far older and more sinister. In 1976 three nuclear engineers resigned from General Electric over massive safety issues they foresaw for nuclear power. The Mark1 reactor they helped design and build was the same reactor that failed at Fukushima. The engineers, Dale G. Bridenbaugh, Richard B. Hubbard and Gregory C. Minor, became known as the “GE Three.” Their defection came just as concerns over nuclear power were beginning to go mainstream, and the GE Three provided expert testimony that helped catalyze America’s first anti-nuclear movement.

Gregory C. Minor’s son, Mark, recalls the incident that finally spooked his father into quitting. Minor had worked on the reactor and control room design for a GE Plant called “Brown’s Ferry” in Alabama. His role at GE was to increase plant security by simplifying the controls and adding layers of defense. “It was stupid human error,” Mark says. The plant had backup plan after backup plan but one employee “went looking for leaks with a candle and caught the electrical system on fire.” [MORE at GuernicaMag.com]

Categories
Books News

Belinda McKeon reads at Litquake

Author and playwright Belinda McKeon reads tomorrow night (Tuesday) at Litquake‘s Young Ireland event here in San Fransisco.  Belinda’s gorgeous debut novel “Solace” came out this fall.

8pm at the Swedish American Hall on 2174 Market Street. Tickets are $10

Categories
Essay News Readings Uncategorized

Essay on Jack Kerouac for The Rumpus


My essay The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at TheRumpus.net

Categories
Essay News Readings

Reading Oct. 13th at the NYPL

The New York Public Library is my Mecca and Medina, it’s the most gorgeous temple to literature I’ve ever seen (unless you count Nature, though would literature be a temple then to nature…hmm).  So to be reading there is a huge, huge thrill.  The reading series is called “Periodically Speaking” and it’s hosted by CLMP (Council for Literary Magazines and Presses) who asks editors from literary magazines to introduce emerging writers from their pages.  I’ll be reading from a piece upcoming in Tin House (Fall Issue, on the shelves Oct 1st). Come!