Armavirumque, Oct 30, 2003 06:03 PM
by James Panero
Tony Donovan writes in on the pagliaccia:
"Pagliaccio" is the Italian word for "clown" and Camille Paglia, a staunch champion of her Italic ancestry, did more than pay lip service to her etymological kith and kin in her recent Salon.com article referred to recently by Armavirumque.
Ms. Paglia has been one of my favorite critics since I was introduced to her work about 10 years ago. But her commentary vis a vis the Iraqi "war" in her article is - to use an apposite Italian adjective - buffo.
Paglia blames the media for not informing the American public (is there such a thing?) about "...the complexities of Mideastern history or of the assumptions of world Islam." and "...for failing to inform the American people about the ancient history of Mesopotamia and of the vision of Saddam Hussein ---to revive the greatness of Babylon." Had the media been more alert and forthright with its public, she advises, President Bush would not have obtained the backing he has had from Americans.
The complexities of Mideastern history are no more involved than those of European history. Attempting to find an significant connection between the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the current military action in Iraq is like trying to find a connection between the fall of the Bastille and World War II. There may be some link between one event and the other, but it is so tenuous and distant as to be almost meaningless.
The assumptions of world Islam? What exactly does that mean? The only assumptions that matter to Americans (if not Europeans) have been made very clear indeed on a number of occasions and actions appaering under many guises. I think these assumptions are crystal clear to most Americans and if one subscribes to them, America’s reaction has been astonishingly restrained by any standard one wishes to use.
The ancient history of Mesopotamia? Once again, one marvels at Paglia’s sweeping view of history. Ancient Mesopotamia spans about 3 thousand years of B.C history, beginning with the Sumerians who were not a Semitic-speaking people, unlike modern Iraqis. To attempt to find a connection between Ancient Mesopotamia and modern Iraq is as absurd as trying to find a connection between the builders of Stonehendge and the builders of the Tate Gallery in London. In other words, the connection is zilch.
And what about Saddam’s vision of reviving the greatness of Babylon? I never heard of this, but if it’s true, he is more delusional than I ever suspected. Most Arabs I know would guffaw at such a proposition.
Ms. Paglia is on the mark when it comes to domestic issues and was at her greatest as a thorn on the side of feminism gone amock. But when she ventures beyond her familiar American and European shores, she, like so many other commentators, is way beyond her ken.
This article originally appeared in Armavirumque Blog, Oct 30, 2003 06:03 PM
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