Follow by Email

Friday, October 20, 2017

Victoria & Abdul: Why a Movie that Bends over Backward to be Politically Correct is Hated by Leftists

Victoria & Abdul (2017) is a sweet little movie that wants to be liked but that can't help but offend. Attacks on Victoria & Abdul from left-wing, grievance-mongering, race-mongering reviewers tell us much about how the left manipulates history, prostitutes art, and imprisons the human heart to keep hate alive, and to anathemize objective facts. Hypocritical, counterfactual, and anti-human Marxist myth-making marches on in critical pans of Victoria & Abdul.

There is a massive amount of media devoted to Victoria, queen of the empire on which the sun never set. It seems incredible that there might be a previously obscure chapter in Queen Victoria's life, but there is. In her final thirteen years on earth, Victoria Regina Imperatrix took to her ample bosom a dark-skinned, India-born, Muslim commoner, Abdul Karim. In 1887, when Karim was 24 and Victoria was 68, Karim was tapped to present Victoria with a medal. He kissed her feet. She noticed how tall and good looking he was. They became so close that they once spent a night alone together at Glas-allt-Shiel, her isolated Scottish "cottage," actually a modest mansion. Victoria had previously spent a night alone there with John Brown. After Brown died, a broken-hearted Victoria swore she would never return to Glas-allt-Shiel. But she did. With Karim.

Victoria's household resented Karim. When many threatened to resign unless she axed him, the staid, plump, elderly monarch flew into a rage and swept the contents of her desk onto the floor. After Victoria died, in 1901 at age 81, Karim was the last person to see her remains before the solemn closure of her coffin. She had stipulated that he be among the intimate mourners at her funeral, along with her close family members.

Immediately after Victoria's death, guards barged into Karim's home and burned her letters to him, as his sobbing wife looked on. Victoria's son Bertie, son to be King Edward VII, sent Karim and his wife packing back to India. Victoria's daughter Beatrice erased Karim's presence from Victoria's diaries.

During a 2003 visit to Osborne House, Victoria's summer retreat, journalist Shrabani Basu saw portraits of an alleged "servant." Basu was intrigued. "He didn't look a servant … He was painted to look like a nobleman. He was holding a book, looking sideways. Something about that expression struck me … I saw another portrait of him looking rather gentle."

Basu traveled to Windsor Castle to study Victoria's Hindustani journals, where Victoria practiced her lessons in this foreign language. Basu assumes that previous researchers, not able to read the script, or speak the language, simply ignored these thirteen volumes of Victoria's writing. Blotting paper fell out of the journals; they had not been opened in one hundred years. Basu discovered the intimacy of Victoria and Abdul's relationship. Victoria, for example, signed her surviving communications to Basu with, "Your dearest friend" and "Your dearest mother." Victoria kept Karim's portrait in her dressing room. Basu also uncovered Karim's journal. In it, Karim praises Queen Victoria as kind and just.

Basu's 2010 book, Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen's Closest Confidant, shows that, coached by Karim, Victoria favored Muslims over Hindus. Karim argued that since Muslims were a minority, they were mistreated by majority Hindus. When Hindus and Muslims clashed over Muharram processions honoring Hussain, Victoria wrote to the Viceroy arguing the Muslims' case. "The Mohamedans are by far the most loyal of the Indian people." 

Victoria & Abdul the movie is based on Basu's book. It's directed by Stephen Frears, who also made My Beautiful Launderette, The Queen, and Florence Foster Jenkins. It stars Judi Dench – who else – as Victoria, and Bollywood newcomer Ali Fazal as Karim. Victoria & Abdul is sumptuously produced and gorgeous to look at. You are always inside a castle or on a Scottish heath.

Judi Dench is, of course, superb as Victoria. Ali Fazal is as adorable as a puppy. He's eager and unsophisticated. Like the real Karim, he is imperfect. He eagerly takes to wearing pompous, exotic costumes with lots of medals on his chest. He sways Victoria toward his own group, Muslims, in a way that is not always completely honest or helpful to the queen. He is sterile, Victoria's doctor discovers, because, like the real Abdul, he has VD. These two imperfect and very different people enter into a convincing relationship. There are deeply moving scenes where Victoria talks about how lonely she is, and where Abdul mourns her after her passing. I cried several times. I laughed and I was moved.

Victoria & Abdul realizes that it is telling a story that leftists will love to hate. Abdul, a brown-skinned, Muslim, oppressed Indian, comes to love his oppressor, Queen Victoria, a white, Christian, European monarch who is depicted as kind and loving. There is no way that story could pass the Political Correctness purity test.

The filmmakers tried hard to forfend the hate with revisions to real history. These PC fixes are as obvious as ugly patches sewn onto an exquisite gown so that the wearer can pass safely beyond an enforcer who demands that all be equally ugly.

Politically Correct, historically revisionist patch # 1: It is true that Victoria's family and household objected to Karim. The film posits only one possible motivation for this hostility: whites are uniquely and uniformly ignorant, racist xenophobes and Islamophobes. The film places the burden of this stereotype on Bertie, Prince of Wales, Victoria's oldest son. In the film, Bertie is depicted by comedian and leftist political activist Eddie Izzard as an anally-fixated, bug-eyed, rageaholic, white supremacist. In the past, Minstrel Shows marketed racist images of blacks. Today, Politically Correct entertainment gives us Minstrel Show whites, all privilege, ignorance, and sputtering racist hatred.

Izzard, to his credit, acknowledges in an interview that he played Bertie as a "two-dimensional battering ram." Izzard knows that Bertie might have had complex reasons for resisting Karim. "It doesn't matter what color skin [Karim] had, what sex … If he's making Queen Victoria live longer, he's stopping me from being king." This complexity does not, alas, make it into the final film.

According to historians, the real Bertie was nothing like the Minstrel Show white supremacist of Victoria & Abdul. Bertie was a charming and genial world traveler who made friends wherever he went. He was also a notorious womanizer. The Daily Mail dubbed him "Dirty Bertie" and claimed that a piece of furniture, the "armchair of love," consisting "of brocaded seats and bronze stirrups carved in elaborate Neo-Rococo style," was invented so that Bertie could have sex with two women at once.

Bertie was no hidebound stick-in-the-mud when it came to relations between persons of different races, religions, or classes. The BBC records that during his eight-month stay in India, Bertie objected to use of the word "n - - - - r." "Less than three weeks after his arrival in Bombay, the Prince protested formally to Lord Granville, then Foreign Secretary, that just 'because a man has a black face and a different religion than our own, there is no reason why he should be treated as a brute.'" The success of Bertie's mission contributed to Victoria's being named Empress of India. In an era of increasing anti-Semitism, Bertie's "close friends were as often Catholic or Jewish, nouveau riche or foreign, as old-school British aristocrats … He was concerned for the poor … and always interested in new things, from electricity to motorcars." At the dedication of the Royal College of Music, which he helped bring into existence, Bertie said, "Class can no longer stand apart from class ... I claim for music that it produces that union of feeling which I much desire to promote." Historian Lord Esher summed Bertie up as "kind and debonair and not undignified – but too human."

Abdul Karim was not the only man from the subcontinent who would rise in the British Empire. General Maharaja Sir Ganga Singh was a progressive Indian princely ruler. He was one of the first to outlaw child marriage. He served in the British army in China during the Boxer Rebellion. Singh served as aide-de-camp to Bertie's son during Bertie's coronation as King Edward VII. Singh became a member of the British Imperial War Cabinet during WW I. Neither Singh's success nor Karim's erases the existence of racism, but that men like Singh and Karim were able to become close to members of the royal family, including the badly caricatured Bertie, shows that Victoria & Abdul is rewriting history to meet current, Politically Correct demands.

Bertie had reasons to resent and compete with Karim, reasons that have nothing to do with religion or color. Queen Victoria expressed hostility toward her own son. She kept him out of office. Until Prince Charles, that more recent royal disappointment, Bertie was the longest serving heir apparent. Why did Victoria have a problem with her own son? During a walk in the rain, his father Albert remonstrated with teenage Bertie over his clandestine affair with actress Nellie Clifden. Albert died three weeks later. Victoria blamed Bertie for the death of her beloved cousin and spouse.

Historian and Bertie biographer Jane Ridley writes, "Relations with her eldest son Bertie … were especially fraught. From the start, he was a disappointment … His parents considered him a halfwit. Victoria remarked: 'Handsome I cannot think him, with that painfully small and narrow head, those immense features and total want of chin.' … She could not bear to have him near her. 'I never can look at him without a shudder.' … As Prince of Wales, Bertie lurched from one scandal to another. In spite of his repeated requests, Victoria never allowed him access to government documents." Karim saw government documents daily.

The heartbreaking relationship between Victoria and Bertie, rejecting mother and needy son, loved by every woman he met except his mother, is a terribly poignant, human story, one too many commoners could identify with. This story is erased in Victoria & Abdul, as thoroughly as Trotsky is airbrushed out of Soviet photos. The real story is replaced with the narrative demanded by Political Correctness: the Minstrel Show white supremacist Islamophobe.

Anyone with two brain cells to rub together will recognize other reasons for hostility to Karim, reasons not explored by the film. Victoria was a tremendously powerful person. Royal households – just like those occupied by commoners – are always riven by jockeying. Princess Diana was no Muslim commoner; the royals hated and plotted against her nonetheless.

The film doesn't explore one possible motivation Victoria may have had, consciously or unconsciously, for favoring Karim. Karim was a foreigner, of a different social class, language, and faith. He was unlikely to form alliances with anyone in the household but her. She had Karim all to herself. Monopolizing him, she could gift him with vulnerability she showed few others. She could allow herself to be as loving and open with him as she was with few others. Historian Ridley writes, "Being a daughter of Queen Victoria was like playing an endless game of musical chairs – there was always one who was out of favour. There was always a favourite, too."

We don't have to guess at this. We know that when Victoria elevated her Scottish ghillie, or servant, John Brown to favorite status, he was met with hostility and resentment, just as was Karim. Victoria's relationship to Brown was condemned as "contrary to etiquette and even decency." Just as after Karim's death, after Brown's death, Bertie tried to destroy evidence of Brown's relationship with his mother, smashing busts and statues of Brown that Victoria had commissioned. Brown was, of course, white, European, and Christian.

Bertie is not the only Brit slandered as a thorough white supremacist. In the September 15, 2017 edition of the Daily Mail, Richard Ingrams, the grandson of Queen Victoria's physician, Dr. James Reid, writes to say that his grandfather would never have spoken the racist words he is depicted as speaking in the film. "My grandfather would never have said [obscene and racist words]. He was a proper Scottish doctor not a racist."

Politically Correct, historically revisionist patch # 2: Karim traveled to England with another subcontinental Muslim, Mohammed Buksh. Buksh was an experienced servant, used to catering to the whims of the powerful, no matter their creed or color. He had worked for the Rana of Dholepore, the head of a princely state. He had managed the home of Major-General Sir Thomas Dennehy, an officer who had suppressed rebels during the 1857 Mutiny against British rule. Basu writes that Buksh was a man of "practiced elegance" and an "almost princely" appearance who approached Queen Victoria "reverentially." He was a man with a "very smiling expression," "portly and good natured." In photos, a hint of humor sparkles in his eyes. Like Karim, upon meeting Victoria, Buksh kissed her feet. Also like Karim, Buksh performed, with other members of the royal household, in costumed tableaux as a form of amusement. With Karim, Buksh "watched in wonder" at the decoration of the Osborne House Christmas Tree.

Victoria elevated Karim, while Buksh remained a waiter. But Victoria was solicitous of Buksh as well. Basu writes, "She did not want Karim and Buksh to suffer either on account of the weather or prejudice and wanted her household to have no doubt about the fact that the Indian servants occupied a special place in her heart. She wanted them to feel welcome in the Palace … Knowing that Karim and Buksh came from warmer climes, the Queen worried about how they would cope with the Highland weather. She felt they should let their bodies adjust slowly to the cold and instructed them not to put on their thickest underclothes at once." She also gave special instructions for their rooms, to make sure that they would not get too cold.

What does Victoria & Abdul the movie do with Mohammed Buksh, this counterrevolutionary member of the lumpenproletariat? That is, this man who appears to thrive as a content member of the working class, who shows no interest in rising up and overturning the oppressive, colonialist structure? Who, rather, makes his living by meeting the needs of the powerful, whether they be Indian or British? Who does not hire a lawyer and sue for damages after witnessing the erection of an infidel Christmas tree?

The movie violates the real Mohammed Buksh's real life, and turns him into a screeching, potty-mouthed, verbal bomb-throwing social justice warrior. Throughout the film, Buksh is shown cursing the English and reprimanding his colleague for being nice to them. Buksh calls Karim an "Uncle Tom," a twentieth-century insult whose anachronism highlights the filmmakers' ahistorical agenda. Buksh is played by Adeel Akhtar, whose stock-in-trade is to appear forever simmeringly furious and aggrieved. As Buksh, Akhtar, who chooses to live in England rather than his father's homeland of Pakistan, delivers a scatological critique of the British Empire. Buksh is shivering in a freezing room and coughing up blood. Bertie sees that Buksh is cold, and offers no blanket. He sees that Buksh is sick and offers no doctor. Bertie promises Buksh that he will never allow him to return to India. Buksh must die in exile. So much for Bertie's historic statements against race prejudice, and Victoria's concern that Buksh be warm enough in her alien climate.

Not just the British royals, but the real Buksh himself is defamed here. Most Indians, like most poor people everywhere, did what they could to survive within the system they were born into. Buksh probably had not read Marx. Chances are working for rich Indians was as much of a PITA as working for rich Brits. Such a man would be of little value to the Politically Correct. The Marxist vanguard could see in Buksh only a member of the lumpenproletariat, that segment of the poor who refuse to adopt revolutionary consciousness. To them, Buksh could only be an ungrateful class traitor, a collaborator with the oppressor. In the real world, go-along and get-along Mohammed Buksh was as authentic an Indian as Nehru, the nationalist revolutionary.

Victoria & Abdul's final reality adjustment is to offer a gauzy, soft-focus, whitewashed Islam. Gender apartheid is merely cute. Karim's wife and mother-in-law appear in full black burkas, their faces invisible, their voices inaudible. The evil white Islamophobes of the court are horrified. Victoria declares the burkas "dignified." Later there is a cute joke where Dr. Reid attempts to minister to Karim's wife, but can't get past her burka. There is nothing dignified or cute about forcibly enshrouding and silencing half of the human race, on the grounds that women are responsible for sexual assault, and they can fend off that assault by dressing in mobile prisons. Karim soothes Victoria's poignant mourning about her lonely old age by quoting to her a Koran verse on the value of service.

You might think that with all these Politically Correct historical revisions, Victoria & Abdul might find favor with the left. Think again.

Highly decorated, Pakistan-born Bilal Qureshi rants in the Washington Post, "Why Does Hollywood Keep Churning Out Racist Fantasies Like 'Victoria & Abdul'?" Qureshi is an NPR journalist working on a memoir about Muslim identity. But of course. In his author photo, he is wearing a pea cap and spectacles and looking terminally unhappy.

Victoria & Abdul is "a travesty of the highest order. The film is elegant and warm and entirely misleading. Its charming inoffensiveness is at the root of its insidious politics." "Victoria's empire was born in blood" Qureshi rails. The Brits "brutally crushed" Indians. A "brutal famine" took Indian lives. Rather than depicting Englishmen, oh, say, flogging sepoys, the film shows "hazy and cliched scenes of exotic marketplaces and in the distant tourist views of a glimmering Taj Mahal." Karim himself is merely a "Manic Pixie Dream Brownie," "an object of exotic eroticism" in an "exotic freak show." "Imagine a film about slavery in America that shows the ways a whimsical, poetic slave could enliven massuh's melancholia without addressing the structural reason for said condition."

Rohan Naahar in The Hindustani Times calls Victoria & Abdul "disgusting," "distorted," and "obnoxious" because it "ignores" the brutal murder, torture and blah, blah, blah that undergird the Raj. Since you don't see a sepoy being flogged in every scene, the movie is "fake." Director Stephen Frears is also to blame because he "in my opinion, directs too many films." Frears refuses "to make intelligent statements about the controversial practices of the British Raj and class divide." Naahar admits that veteran Judi Dench commands the screen, and that newcomer Fazal turns in a fine performance. But, Naahar warns, "Don't be taken in by the delightful sight of Queen Victoria speaking in broken Hindi, and don't fall for a dreamy-eyed Ali Fazal reciting the decadent history of the Taj Mahal. Victoria & Abdul is a shameful attempt to normalise evil … behind those sparkling white teeth, there is a snake's tongue … there is centuries of subtext; of oppression, murder, and the deeply flawed belief that one sort of human being is better than the other." Queen Victoria is responsible "for killing thousands of his countrymen … and looting his country so mercilessly, that it would never be able to recover," but "history is written by the victor." Abdul "comes across like Samuel L Jackson's turncoat character from Django Unchained."

Andrea Gronvall writing in The Chicago Reader evokes Brexit in the very first sentence of her review. In her final sentence, Gronvall accuses Victoria & Abdul of "Orientalism," a capital offense. The film's "demeaning portrait of Abdul reinforces the Orientalism it purports to lampoon."

Rob Thomas, in the Madison, Wisconsin Capital Times writes, "Spike Lee once coined a phrase called 'Magical Negro,' describing an African-American character who exists in a movie largely to improve the life of a white main character … Victoria & Abdul may be the first in a well-meaning but misguided new subgenre of 'Magical Muslim' movies, featuring Muslim characters that are heroic and inspiring to white audiences."

Daniel Barnes in the Sacramento News and Review says, "It's sort of like Driving Miss Daisy, only way more racist." David Edelstein, writing in Vulture, brandishes his Politically Correct bona fides. The only scene in the movie he liked was the film's most artificial one – the one in which Buksh is a proto-Bolshevik. "Only Akhtar's interrogation scene hits home – his morbid satisfaction at Bertie's rage is superb."

Marxist, race-mongering and grievance-mongering critiques of Victoria & Abdul can be summed up thus: India was a happy, prosperous country of united and homogenous Indians before England came along and ruined everything. Victoria was a virtual Hitler presiding over a veritable Holocaust of Indians. Depicting a friendship between an Indian and an English person is, thus, obscene. The only appropriate response Abdul should have had to evil, white, Christian, European Victoria would be to cut her throat and embolden the enslaved masses by exhibiting her head on a pole.

Let's examine this criticism.

First, there was no India. There were various kingdoms and empires in the Indian subcontinent. India has the second-highest number of languages of any nation on earth: 780. There are 22 official languages. One could find fifteen different languages in several different alphabets on modern Indian banknotes. Naahar's reference to Karim's "countrymen" is a nationalist fantasy with no historical substance.

Abdul Karim was a Muslim in a land with majority Hindus and centuries of genocidal Muslim-on-Hindu conflict. After independence from England, Karim's surviving relatives fled. His wife paid for this flight with her life, as did many others. The partition of the Raj into Pakistan and India displaced fifteen million people. Hindu v Muslim massacres killed more than a million. There is no peace between Pakistan and India to this day, and some predict this conflict, dating back 1,300 years to the Muslim Conquest – before England came into political being – to be the one most likely to produce nuclear war.

Indians' first significant rebellion against the British Empire was not about any feeling of standing up for one's "countrymen" against "oppression." It was not about the universal rights of man. Far from it. Hindus' clinging to the reactionary, oppressive, and superstitious caste system sparked the 1857 Mutiny. The British modified their own practices to cater to Hindus' focus on caste. Resentments simmered. The Enfield rifle required greased cartridges. Rumors circulated. Hindus said the grease was cow fat. Muslims suspected it was pig fat. Contact with either fat would compromise the soul of the soldier using the gun. These primitive foci, not an urge to uplift the downtrodden, feed the hungry, educate the orphan, or, God forbid, liberate women motivated mutineers. Gandhi's revolution was more liberatory. Note that among Gandhi's influences, including his own mother and the Bhagavad Gita, were Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, Thoreau, an American, and Tolstoy, a European.

Rohan Naahar insists that England ruined India. The Empire's impact on India is hotly debated. Not a few Indians will argue that the Empire did India some good, in the form of democracy, the English language, railroads, bureaucracy, surveys and maps, and educational institutions. The Empire worked to eradicate sati, or widow burning, and female infanticide, which remains, alas, a signature custom in India and Pakistan.

In any case it wasn't the British Empire that did the worst damage India has ever seen, as Naahar insists. For that we have to turn to Karim's Muslim forebears. As Will Durant famously wrote, "The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex of order and freedom, culture and peace, can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within." When, in the eighth century, Muhammad bin Qasim didn't murder enough subcontinental infidels, his superior, al-Hajjaj, reminded him of the essential Islamic commandment. "The great God says in the Koran 47.4: 'Oh True believers, when you encounter the unbelievers, strike off their heads.' The above command of the Great God is a great command and must be respected and followed. You should not be so fond of showing mercy, as to nullify the virtue of the act. Henceforth grant pardon to no one of the enemy and spare none of them, or else all will consider you a weak-minded man." Qasim obeyed. He massacred more Hindus. In the fourteenth century, Tamerlane, the Sword of Islam, destroyed Delhi. The city did not recover for a century afterward. The Mughal Empire praised by Bilal claimed descent from Tamerlane. It was creaky, without popular support, and ready to collapse when the British Empire stepped in to administer the subcontinent.

Famines? Injustice? Exploitation? Poverty? Fabulously wealthy, uncaring monarchs? All have been part and parcel of life in the Indian subcontinent before and after the Empire's presence. Indian rulers have been notorious for their extravagant wealth and their lack of interest in the welfare of those they ruled. There have been dog weddings, Rolls Royce fleets used in garbage collection, diamond-soled shoes, and rulers paid their weight in gold. One of the worst famines on the subcontinent occurred in 1974, after Muslim Pakistan made war on Muslim Bangladesh. "In the aftermath of the Pakistani army's rampage last March, a special team of inspectors from the World Bank observed that some cities looked 'like the morning after a nuclear attack,'" TIME magazine reported.

As for poverty, hopelessness, and injustice, certainly Hindu India's most wretched institution, that of caste, has crushed more lives than the British Empire ever did.

If Victoria & Abdul's Politically Correct detractors really cared about justice and equality, they would not champion the Mughal Empire or burkas and they would not be imagining into existence an enlightened, liberated, democratic, peaceful, just, non-British India that never existed. They would not be insisting that only white-skinned people can be racist or can represent an imperialism that destroys the lives of the poor.

The fact is that Victoria & Abdul's Politically Correct detractors don't care about justice or equality or the lives of the poor. Rather, they care about one thing: demonizing white, Christian, Europeans and sanitizing, indeed, sanctifying, their own as blameless victims and virtue exemplars. Qureshi and Naahar rant that the ugly side of the British Empire is not depicted as vividly as it should be in Victoria & Abdul. Their complaint is insane; the film is rife with ahistorical, counterfactual, racist, evil whites. In any case, the Empire's many sins have been graphically depicted in other, higher profile films. Watch, for example, here, the 1919 Armritsar Massacre, unflinchingly depicted in the Academy-Award-winning 1982 hagiography, Gandhi.

In a sense, Qureshi and Naahar are correct. There is much that is unspoken in Victoria & Abdul. When Karim quotes the Koran to the queen, he fails to mention that it commands that he be unkind to her (66:9, 48:29), permits him to rape her (33:50), and orders him to kill her (9:5). Nowhere in the film is it mentioned that Karim's fellow Muslims raided the British Isles, and indeed all of Christian Europe for slaves for over a thousand years, taking, by one estimate, fifteen million European slaves, castrating the males, excising the females' genitals and forcing them into sex slavery. These raids continued into Victoria's lifetime, declining after the Barbary Wars and the 1830 French invasion of Algiers.

Me? I loved Victoria & Abdul. Unlike critics who have a Political Correctness stick up their fundaments, I am actually capable of recognizing a film's aesthetic merits while disagreeing with some of its premises. I recommend Soy Cuba / I Am Cuba to anyone who will listen. It's anti-American Soviet propaganda and a piece of uniquely virtuosic filmmaking.

In Victoria & Abdul, Judi Dench is 82 years old and she looks it. She wears no visible makeup. Her hair is thin and gray, her skin is sagging and wrinkly, and her body is large. Dench's fearlessness in looking like an 82-year-old woman is much more impressive than Jane Fonda's insistence on still being the glamor girl, although Fonda's success at that is impressive in its own way. It is richly rewarding for this old lady movie fan to see an 82-year-old woman command both an empire and the movie screen. This movie says loudly and clearly much more than the tacky male fantasy Wonder Woman ever could, that women's lives matter.

Queen Victoria's granddaughter, Czarina Alexandra, directly oppressed my grandmother, who, like most of her Polish peasant neighbors, lived on cabbage and never learned to read. It is not easy for me to feel sympathy for a member of the British royal family. It is not even easy for me to see them as human in the same way that I am human.

I loved Victoria & Abdul because it opened even the most anarchist, bomb-throwing chambers of my heart. Even the most powerful, most obscenely wealthy woman in the world was also a human being. Even she was lonely. As Victoria says in the film, "We are all prisoners, Mr. Karim." For one moment, I completely understood this woman utterly separate from me in class, space, and time.

The Bilal Qureshis and Rohan Naahars, the Marxists, the race and grievance mongers, like all soulless totalitarians, want to vitiate art. Hitler, and his "Exhibition of Degenerate Art," Fidel Castro, and his "Words to the Intellectuals," the Soviets, in their destruction of artists like Wladyslaw Strzeminski, Mao, who said that there is no such thing as art for art's sake, all have the same goal: to parasitize art, to prostitute it so that they can use its power to meet their own demands.

They insist that the viewer not allow art to do to her what it can do: to make her feel with her fellow human being. To make her understand her fellow human being.

The Naahars and the Qureshis are even more priggish, obsessive, anti-human and controlling than the film depicts the Victorian English as being. They do not want an upper class white woman to arouse love or loyalty in a Muslim commoner. They insist that that woman not be moved by the Muslim commoner. They want us to hate each other. They want us to be at each other's throats. And that's why they hate this movie, no matter how hard it tries to meet their politically correct demands.

Danusha Goska is the author of Save Send Delete

This piece appears at FrontPageMag here

Friday, October 13, 2017

Alone in the Universe: October 12, 2017

Yesterday, October 12, 2017, was my birthday, meaning, no cards, no cake, no candles, no calls. No presents, no invitations, no "I know today is your birthday and I know it's always hard for you. Want to talk about it?"

My birthday mostly exists to drive home to me that I am alone, have always been alone, and will always be alone.

And so this blog about aloneness.

Has anyone ever been as alone as I am?

My birthday is the same date as traditional Columbus Day, an international and, of late, controversial holiday, to which I am sentimentally attached. Lately people have been attacking Columbus Day, and I stepped up and reposted a previous piece arguing against the New Age, Politically Correct insistence that white men are uniquely evil and that Native Americans were and are superior.

A reader wrote to remind me of the Crow Creek Massacre.

Some Indians were living in a settlement, complete with a protective moat and stockade. Invaders came. The Indians were massacred and their remains left for researchers to study. Invaders scalped them. Tore out their tongues. Left their bodies to rot in the sun, without decent burial. There are relatively few remains of fertile females. Probably taken as sex slaves. This all happened, researchers say, in the 1300s, well before Europeans arrived in North America.

Reading the researchers' account was really disturbing. I could picture myself in that village, facing the invaders, being dragged out and bludgeoned.

People. What we humans do to each other.

When I think of this Crow Creek massacre, I feel so sad and so overwhelmed. I think of many things, including, how lonely it feels. Lonely as in unconnected. Lonely as in without gravestone, commemoration, without the balm of meaning. We don't even have names for these victims. They were just anonymous human flesh slaughtered like animals.

Meaning can make almost anything unbearable. Being alone strips you of meaning. Yesterday meant nothing to anyone but me.

I should be grateful. I have, so far, eluded the scalping tomahawk. Although I see, in this morning's news, that Trump has managed to cut off funding for health care for folks like me: working poor, pre-existing condition, chronically ill, and old. I have recently received my second cancer diagnosis. If what I am reading is true, I have just lost access to necessary treatment and monitoring. How many of us will our fellow citizens dispatch to more civilized mass graves?

I wasn't always this alone. When I was younger, prettier, less poor, more shy – thus less challenging – and more conventional, there were more people in my life.

I remember when I first began writing. That drove people away, especially men.

I remember when I got sick with the inner ear ailment. Friends evaporated like dew.

Three apologies.

First apology. G was in my life twenty-five years ago. Twenty-five years! That's more years than my brother Phil, who was killed on my birthday, had on earth.

After I was struck by the inner ear disorder, G rejected my friendship. She did so quite articulately. She called me up and said, "You are facing many hardships, and I don't like hearing about it. If you can't be more upbeat, goodbye." It was one of those phone calls that is so stunning that I remember exactly where I was standing when I received it.

G contacted me a few months back. She had found me through Facebook. My name is unusual and easily googled. She sent me a friend request, and a rather tepid apology for her behavior over twenty years ago.

I did not respond. As a Christian, I am supposed to offer forgiveness. Let Jesus forgive G. I feel zero forgiveness for G and I do not want to reward her with my presence in her life. She has proven herself unworthy.

Second apology. R was adorable. He had the cutest Scottish accent. He had a heart of gold. We were lovers.

My brother Mike died and I was sad. It was my second brother to die, in the prime of life, in a relatively short time. In addition to being sad, I was also, slowly but surely, finding my voice as a writer in those days. I spoke. I expressed my opinion.

R broke up with me. He said he couldn't handle my sadness over my brother's death, and he was put off by how verbal and intelligent I was.

I was young, and I thought I'd find another lover easily enough, so I did not hold it against him.

Years later, he wrote to apologize, to tell me that he had still had feelings for me, and that he was about to marry a woman, about whom he said, "Every idea she has in her head, I put there." I suspect that they are very happy.

Third apology. I adored E. He backed away from me when I was going through a difficult time. Years later he wrote to apologize. He said that he had gone to grad school, and had been targeted, for no good reason, by the higherups, and he suddenly understood the difficult time I had been going through. He said that his friends had begun to back away from him the way that he remembered himself backing away from me. He said that he suddenly realized how venally he had behaved, and how much it must have hurt me.

It was a beautiful letter. We are no longer in touch. Some broken things can't be fixed. I still think of E, and only with fondness. He had eyes the color of Sleeping Beauty turquoise. That is what I remember, and that sweet sound of his voice.



And being alone.

Happy Birthday to me.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

For Indigenous Peoples' Day a.k.a. Columbus Day

I used to, on some level, accept the popular notion that Native Americans were more spiritual and in tune with nature than European Americans, and that it was European Americans who brought war, sexism, and environmental degradation to an otherwise innocent, peaceful and Edenic Native America.

As a kid I bought slim paperbacks from the Scholastic Book Club that taught me that Native Americans planted dead fish in their agricultural fields in order to fertilize them. I learned that North American Indians didn't have the wheel, bronze, iron, or steel, or writing. They cooked acorns by dropping hot stones into holes dug in the ground and filled with water. The acorns had to be soaked in advance in order to leech them of toxins. I thought of how cumbersome and time-consuming that cooking method would be, and how bland a meal a soaked acorn would provide.

In popular culture, Native Americans were the spiritual and natural corrective to modern Americans, who were seen as greedy and divorced from nature. On TV, Iron Eyes Cody witnessed American pollution and a visible tear flowed down his creased and weathered cheek. Of course Iron Eyes Cody was actually Sicilian but hey. The commercial meant well.

Chief Seattle was alleged to have given an eloquent speech about protecting the environment. He compared the Native American harmony with nature and the White Man's greed. Chief Seattle's environmental speech is a hoax. The version most people know was written by a white, Christian man from Texas.

My environmentalist and Politically Correct friends were deeply offended by the "kill theory" of megafauna extinction. How did wooly mammoths and saber toothed tigers disappear? Native Americans probably wiped them out. That's one theory, the "kill" theory. Other theories are the "chill" theory – cold weather killed the megafauna, and the "ill" theory. They died from disease. The kill theory depicted Native Americans as just like all other humans – not "in harmony with nature" but eager to exploit nature and heedless of the long term consequences of such exploitation.

Christy Turner is a forensic anthropologist specializing in teeth. Native Americans have different teeth than European Americans. Their teeth are shovel shaped.

Turner was working his way through a box of bones in an Arizona museum in the 1970s when he said to himself "Holy Smokes." He suddenly realized that these human bones were the remains of a meal. These Native Americans had been butchered, cooked, and eaten. The bones showed typical evidence like cutting at key points to remove meat from bone. Diners had lopped off the tops of human skulls and placed them, face out, around fires in order to cook up and gain access to tasty brains. Before eating these peoples' brains, the diners had gazed at their agonized, slaughtered faces staring out at them from the cook fire.

Turner dated this horror repast, this cannibal cafeteria, between 900 AD and 1150 AD – three hundred years before Columbus arrived in North America. He found seventy-two sites with cannibal remains. Tons of human meat.

At one site, the cannibals slaughtered a family, butchered them, cooked them, ate them, and then crapped their remains out into the most sacred and beloved spot in a home – the family hearth – the source of heat, light, sustenance, and companionship. A coprolite, or fossilized feces, was found in the family hearth. It contained human remains, proof positive of Turner's cannibalism theory.

Turner published his research. He called the cannibals "thugs" and "Charles Manson types"

He was demonized. How dare you, you nasty white man named "Christy" as in the evil Christian Church (yes Turner's critics did say things like this), how dare you vilify Native Americans? Turner is hated to this day.

I was shocked when I read Turner's research. On some level I really believed that Native Americans were kinder and gentler and more spiritual.

I went to the National Museum of the American Indian run by the Smithsonian Institution. I learned there that Pizarro was able to conquer the Inca Empire with fewer than two hundred Spanish soldiers. Native American soldiers fought with him against the Inca. There must have been some mighty hatred for the Inca on the part of their Native American neighbors.

The Aztecs bragged of sacrificing 80,000 victims at the re-consecration of Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan in 1487. A review of a museum show of Aztec art called it "chilling" and "terrifying." Writing in "The Guardian," journalist Laura Cumming called Aztec art

"the most alien of all art. There are no images of moving animals, as in the caves of Lascaux. There are no accounts of great deeds, or commemorations of great leaders as in the art of the Pharaohs. Unlike just about every other culture in history, the Aztecs did not represent women, or women with babies, or, indeed, children at all. Nor, to be fair, did they ever depict men except as priests or warriors half-skeletonised in the jaws of death.

If they had any interest in the human spirit, in friendship, sex or emotion, then they certainly never showed it. The last thing you would expect from them would be anything as human or intimate as a portrait…As far as I can see, pretty much the entire purpose of Aztec art was to scare the living daylights out of everyone who saw it…Even the flea is monumentalised in stone because it lives by sucking blood.

It is impossible to look at all these objects without seeing them as the emblems and tools of a vast, putrid slaughterhouse. Nothing in Aztec art speaks of humanity or beauty. There is no attempt to inspire the sacrificial victim with rewarding images of the afterlife or to celebrate the gifts of the gods."

Obviously Ms. Cumming did not receive the memo on Political Correctness or Cultural Relativism.

Some promote Native Americans as gender heroes. The idea is that sexism is a modern invention, or that Christianity is to blame, and the further one gets from civilization and Christianity, the better things get for women and homosexuals, or "two spirit" people or berdaches.

Others acknowledge that it's not that simple. The Amazonian Yanomami is one of the most remote tribes on earth. They are very violent, including towards women. Gang rape is a fact of life. Husbands beat and burn their wives to establish dominance. According to David Good, who was born of a Yanomami mother and an anthropologist father, the language has no word for "love." When his anthropologist father left the village, his mother was gang raped by over 20 men. She had no husband to protect her.

I recently re-watched John Ford's classic 1956 western "The Searchers." The film is so rich whenever I watch it I simultaneously google various features of the story. "The Searchers" depicts settlers in 1860s Texas. Comanche warriors raid a homestead, murder four family members and kidnap the youngest, Debbie, to raise as one of their own and eventually marry her off to Scar, the chief. The plot is inspired by the kidnapping of Cynthia Ann Parker who was the mother of Quanah Parker, the last chief of the Comanche.

Every American knows how we are supposed to react to "The Searchers" now. Back in 1956, when it was first made, Americans were supposed unquestioningly to accept the film's depiction of the Comanche as scary warriors who did horrible things to captives, especially women captives.

Now we are supposed to doubt and mock that official narrative. We are supposed to understand the Comanche as noble warriors defending their homeland against white, Euro-American Christians, who are supposed to be the real savages.

That's not what I found out through Google. What I found out through Google was pretty nightmarish.

The Comanche were no more native to Texas than the European Americans. They had started out in Wyoming. Europeans brought horses to the Americans, horses that had previously been driven to extinction in North America by kill, ill, or chill.

The Comanche adopted the horse and a mentality of "total war." They made furious war on other Native Americans, including the Apache, whom they "nearly exterminated" according to S. C. Gwynne, author of "Empire of the Summer Moon."

In "The Searchers," John Ford never shows or tells exactly what the Comanche did to their captives and their slaves. One can find out, though, through a Google search. I read material that utterly shocked me. The Comanche did things that even the Nazis, as far as I know, did not do. I don't want to repeat the worst things. I'll just repeat one death – they took a white slave captive's baby, tied a rope to him, and dragged his infant body through cactus plants until he died.

One sixteen year old captive was repeatedly burned over eighteen months until her face was roasted away and her body was covered with bruises and burns.

One captive, Rachel Plummer, turned on her tormenter and began beating the Comanche. Once the captive had the upper hand, she nearly beat the Comanche to death. She reported that other Comanche stood around and watched their fellow tribeswoman being beaten to death by a white captive, and enjoyed it as an entertaining spectacle.

Once the captive had defeated the Comanche woman and she lay prostrate, no other Comanche would help her. The white captive did so, dragging her to a shelter and dressing her wounds. Plummer reported that beating a Comanche nearly to death earned her status in the tribe, and after that she was treated as an equal. S. C. Gwynne characterizes the Comanche as possessed of a "demonic immorality." Their enthusiastically sadistic rapes "border on criminal perversion if not some very advanced form of evil."

After reading about the Comanche, I had a taboo thought. "I'm glad the Comanche lost."

Mind. I'm not saying that the conquest of the Americas was not a bloodbath initiated by Europeans on less developed and often defenseless Native Americans. Of course I acknowledge the massive human suffering and injustice. And most tribes were not the Comanche or the Anasazi cannibals or Aztecs.

But in this one case, the case of European settlers in Texas v the Comanche, I'm glad the Comanche lost. If their way of life is accurately depicted in the accounts I read, a way of life in which constant war, enslavement of non-Comanche, rape and torture were central features, I'm glad that that culture was defeated.

This conclusion is totally at odds with the Politically Correct worldview that insists that Europeans and Christians as the source of problems like sexism, cruelty and war. It's totally at odds with the centuries-old concept of the Noble Savage.

David Good, the son of an anthropologist father and a Yanomami mother, reports an anecdote.

"I remember the wife of a very prominent anthropologist — I was 12 or 13 at the time — asking me what I wanted for Christmas. I said, 'A Nintendo 64 with Super Mario Bros.' She looked at me in horror and said, 'Oh, my God. You're a typical American kid. I thought you'd be different.'"

Danusha Goska is the author of Save Send Delete

 This piece appears at FrontPageMag here

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Ten Reasons Why I Am No Longer a Leftist by Danusha Goska

"Ten Reasons Why I Am No Longer a Leftist" ran in American Thinker on July 21, 2014, here. In the three years since, it has not stopped being circulated. Every few months or so, another website picks it up (without informing me) and I receive new mail from readers. 

"Ten Reasons" was even refuted on Daily Kos on March 9, 2017. The bravely anonymous author says he could find his liberal self nowhere in the piece. He had to ask himself, "Is this what my friend thinks of me?" Yes, my anonymous comrade, it *is* what your friends think of you, and that you were totally unaware of that is not testimony to your powers of observation now, is it? 

Anyway, since everyone else is re-running this piece, I may as well, too. 

BTW, I made one change. I'll inform you of that change at the bottom of the piece. 

Ten Reasons I Am No Longer a Leftist 

How far left was I? So far left my beloved uncle was a card-carrying member of the Communist Party in a Communist country. When I returned to his Slovak village to buy him a mass card, the priest refused to sell me one. So far left that a self-identified terrorist proposed marriage to me. So far left I was a two-time Peace Corps volunteer and I have a degree from UC Berkeley. So far left that my Teamster mother used to tell anyone who would listen that she voted for Gus Hall, Communist Party chairman, for president. I wore a button saying "Eat the Rich." To me it wasn't a metaphor.

I voted Republican in the last presidential election.

Below are the top ten reasons I am no longer a leftist. This is not a rigorous comparison of theories. This list is idiosyncratic, impressionistic, and intuitive. It's an accounting of the milestones on my herky-jerky journey.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Nabeel Qureshi 1983-2017

Nabeel Qureshi 1983-2017
Reflections on a Fallen Counter-Jihadi

September 11, 2001, was one of the happiest mornings of my life. I was seated at a computer, with a view of a green Indiana lawn. I had worked long and hard to get here: writing my dissertation on Polish-Jewish relations. I had spent years of my life eating, sleeping, and breathing Polish-Jewish relations.

In addition to my academic writing, I also broadcast short editorials via radio and I published in local print media. Anyone who heard or read me probably concluded, correctly, that I was a lifelong liberal. I spoke against misogyny and bigotry and for gay rights. I did not know a single person who voted Republican. David Horowitz was recognized, in my social circle, as Satan incarnate.

I stood up from the computer to take my breakfast break. I turned on NPR. Bob Edwards announced that one, no, now, two planes had flown into the World Trade Center.

You know that old line, "There are two kinds of people in this world"? Here's one such division. There are two kinds of people in this world. Some people had no idea why planes had flown into the World Trade Center. Some of us immediately knew why. I knew immediately.

Years before, in the 1980s, I had worked on a campus in Paterson, NJ. Passaic County has one of America's largest Muslim populations. I grew up with Muslims and count Muslims among my friends.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Movies I Watched with My Sister Antoinette

You do not know how you will remember your loved ones until after they have died.

I suffer from a degree of "face blindness" – I find it difficult to recognize faces. And yet my mind spontaneously resurrects my sister's at least once a day. It's as if my consciousness had hands and were running over every pore, her tweezed brows, her green eyes, her fine nose, her sarcastic smile. Sometimes she is a bean-pole teenager. Sometimes a lush, young siren. Then a matron, weighing more than I, which is more than I ever thought my sister would weigh. As I emerge from a car, she looks down from the balcony, smiling an unselfconscious, friendly greeting. I had not seen her in a month. I wish I could return her smile, but I gasp. What a brain tumor can do to a woman's appearance. And then she is gone, and my day continues.

September 23 is her second birthday since her death.

Had I died first, she wouldn't think of me for more than a week. I am ashamed for missing her so much.

Our relationship was imperfect.

A kind of memory I never predicted has punctuated my days. "I watched that movie with Antoinette."

Here are some of the movies we watched together.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Save Rifle Camp Park and Garret Mountain from "Development"

Hi, do you have a minute?

I want to show you something.

Just take my hand, and close your eyes.

Okay, open them now.

See where we are?

Hear the car stereos, the sirens, the trucks hitting potholes, the fights? See the garbage in the streets? And do you smell that? It's the antique sewers.

Hey, watch out! You almost got hit by a Porsche.

He's here to buy drugs.

We are in Paterson, New Jersey. Silk City has seen better days.

That African American gentleman there, the one with the white beard, rising from his park bench and reaching out to shake your hand. He's retired since he had a heart attack. He asks you how you are, and he really wants to hear. He promises to pray for you, and he will. He offers kind advice about living every day to its fullest. His smiling face and compassion prove that many good people still live in Paterson.

It is, though, a tough place to live.

But look up. Five hundred feet. That verdant outcropping. That is Paterson's emerald. You are looking at Garret Mountain and Rifle Camp Park. Take my hand. Let's go.


I hear you. Wow, indeed. It is so different from Paterson, isn't it? Or Woodland Park, or Clifton, the surrounding, endless, megalopolis of traffic jams and sports fields and pushing and shoving.

Here, you can feel the cool breeze clapping through the leaves, rather than heat pounding up from asphalt. You can hear birds sing and water trickle against basalt streambeds, rather than sirens' wail and boom box blast. White and black and brown people, grandparents and children. Teens flying kites. Toddlers eye to eye with their very first frog. Lovers gazing at the rising moon as if they've never seen sky before.

Runners train with all the focus of Rocky Balboa before his big match with Apollo Creed.

A woman is pulling paper out of her pocket and scribbling. She's a writer; she needs this escape to rendezvous with her muse.

We slip into tree cover. Suddenly all sound is muffled. We step silently over moss pillows. The trail is surprisingly steep. Our bodies are dappled with leaf shadow -- just like that dappled fawn in the high grass. Never fear; her doe mother is nearby. We pass three young black men, seated around a big, table-shaped boulder. It's where they come to decompress.

Over there you see some folks with binoculars. Believe it or not, this small park, falling within the boundaries of New Jersey's third most populous city, in America's most densely populated state, is an Audubon-designated, environmentally important area.

Look down around you. You see that this mountain is actually a plateau. It's the remnants of an ancient magma flow. Down below: suburbs, factories, highways. New Jersey is right underneath the Atlantic Flyway, the ancient route birds take north in spring and south in winter. Because this park is an oasis of green surrounded by pavement, birds need Rifle Camp and Garret to feed and rest.

See those dead trees? They feed bugs, and birds eat those bugs. Then those trees crumple into soil, nourishing new life. The grasses, bushes, wetlands and rocks all play their part in making this park a lifeline for one-hundred-fifty species of birds, some of them endangered. Peregrines and bald eagles, red-headed woodpeckers and cerulean warblers. These birds travel from the Arctic to the Amazon, every year. New Jersey's own Garret and Rifle Camp are part of the timeless, border-defying web of life.

Remember when we were back in the city, with all its rush and rules? You couldn't cross the street till the sign said you could. You had to compete with others on the urban sidewalks. Think of how you feel on a sports field. The referee blows his whistle. "You win! You lose!"

We need trees as much as we need civilization. Thousands of years ago, Moses went into the wilderness to encounter God. Today we come to Garret Mountain / Rifle Camp.

When I was a kid, an older immigrant from Spain used to talk to me about how important it was for him to spend time in Rifle Camp Park. I think Rifle Camp gave him a chance to connect with the part of his soul that he left behind when he was a shepherd child in the dry hills beyond Toledo.

One of my neighbors now, a successful artist, a sophisticated professional who works for the city, cherishes this park as her route to inspiration for her abstract paintings.

Another woman I know doesn't get up here as much as she would like. She doesn't have a car and she needs a wheelchair. Even so, she makes it a point, every day, to gaze upward. No matter what she has just heard from the doctors or what hassle she must work through to get the medical care she needs, she finds peace and solace just in the vision. She can then focus on her day to day struggles with renewed vigor.

No, Garret Mountain / Rifle Camp is not, oh, say, Yosemite Valley. There are no spectacular rock faces to climb; no grizzly bears to fear.

This is what Garret Mountain / Rifle Camp Park is. It is a green escape from a concrete jungle. It is a refuge of bird melodies and wind song in a cacophony of blare. It is an essential oasis for a hummingbird so light you could mail ten of them with one first class stamp, a bird traveling a three-thousand-mile highway. It is a water sponge when it rains – it helps to lessen flooding. It is a seal that Passaic County voters protect their environment for future generations. It is a portal to another dimension, where the sun and the clouds create light, where air on the skin ignites pleasure, where manmade rules, from the "Don't Walk" sign to the concept of points and home-runs, are utterly meaningless.

It is the place low-income Paterson, Clifton, and Woodland Park residents can reach. They may never climb Half Dome in Yosemite. They may never "Ooo" and "Aaa" over Yellowstone. They may be so low income they don't have a car to reach Stokes Forest or Norvin Green Forest in western and northern New Jersey.

But they have this, their emerald, their green, their place to exhale. Passaic County Freeholders, don't take away from this generation what previous generations have protected.

Sign the petition to protect Rifle Camp Park from development:

Visit this webpage:

Join up with other cool people who want to protect Garret Mountain and Rifle Camp: