Random Stuff Billy Likes: French-Algerian War, Battlestar Galactica, and Lord of the Rings Editions

This will drive to distraction those of you who wonder why I sometimes post the things I do on a blog called LakelandLocal. But, in the words of Rhett, “Frankly, my dears…” Actually, this will be brief. I’ve been remiss in posting over the last week – thanks to work and household toilet tragedies. So I wanted to throw a little something out there. File this under the “I live here and find these things compelling” definition of local.

1) Not that I like the French-Algerian War, which occurred well before I was conceived, between 1954 and 1962. But I cannot recommend enough the classic history of the conflict, “A Savage War of Peace,” written by Alistair Horne. I’ve just finished reading it. If you care at all (and you should) about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the occupation of Iraq, the relationship between a professional military and its civilian government, and the meaning or lack of meaning of terms like good and evil in the context of war and resistance to illegitimate authority, read this book.

In his song/poem “Democracy,” the poet/songwriter Leonard Cohen writes of “the homicidal bitchin’
that goes down in every kitchen to determine who will serve and who will eat.” It’s maybe the barest essence of human nature, which Horne’s history captures with breathtaking complexity and dispassion. “A Savage War of Peace” also makes it clear there’s nothing especially unique about our times, our enemies, or even ourselves. As they say on Battlestar Galactica (BSG geeks unite), all this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.

2) Sort of along those lines, in honor of the news that President Obama (heh) plans to close Gitmo and ban torture (or so it seems), go all nerd with me and check out this passage from “The Two Towers,” the second book of “The Lord of the Rings” series, which I’m reading to my little boy right now. Faramir, a soldier of Gondor, tells Frodo:

“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the Men of Numenor; and I would have her loved for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom. Not feared, save as men may fear the dignity of a man, old and wise…”

Good stuff.