Sunday, May 14, 2006

Norman G. Finkelstein, "Haunted House"

Here's another piece from another love of mine: Norman G. Finkelstein, "Haunted House" (MRZine, 13 May 2006). If you have met him, you know he is as razor-sharp and intense in person as his writing is. Where does his edge, his intensity, come from? His mother.
Every night as we watched the news on television my mother would avert her eyes and raise her hand to block the screen when scenes from Vietnam flashed across it. After a few moments the question would invariably come: "Is it over yet?" Not at all given to self-dramatization, she simply couldn't endure the scenes of destruction and death. Whereas most of my friends and their parents eventually came to be against the Vietnam War, the moral urgency of opposition sounded at a different decibel in my home. The war wasn't a subject of intellectual or political argument, even vehement argument. My mother's whole being revolted against it. I wouldn't say she was emotional about the war; she was hysterical. Although knowledgeable about the facts, she detested any intellectualizing of it. Even to engage in debate about Vietnam constituted a moral travesty. It manifested a lack of genuine outrage at, and comprehension of, the unfolding horror: no one who had actually experienced war could or would calmly discuss it. For related reasons she disdained my joining the high school forensics team. The art of debate was to argue with equal passion and skill both sides of a given question. To her mind, it nurtured duplicity, the amoral manipulation of words. (Norman G. Finkelstein, "Haunted House," MRZine, 13 May 2006)

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