The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Sunday, August 13, 2017

"Destroy and Rejoice!": In the Wake of Charlottesville

In the last few months, the main item on this blog has been what I call "Anglocat in the TARDIS," my reactions to the episodes of Doctor Who From its pilot in 1963 to, um, however far I get. The reason for this feature is that, in a world that seems to be getting darker, I wanted to write about something fun, and, frankly, I wanted to get my creative juices flowing again, as my second novel has been sluggish in coalescing. So I have been following William Hartnell's exploits as the Doctor, even those that have been lost in whole or in part, and have reached the longest story in the show's history, the twelve-episode saga, The Daleks' Masterplan. Only three episodes survive, but reconstructions using telesnaps and the audio tracks fill the gap. And so I have viewed the first six episodes.

But tonight is not the time to write about them. One day after the horror of Charlottesville, I am not ready yet to return to the pleasant parables of fiction. Because we have some unfinished business.

Back when I wrote about the first episodes of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, I noted that the Daleks were a parable about the Nazis, and, in particular in that story, what defeat at their hands would have meant to Great Britain. I wrote about how the story postulated resistance fighters, collaborators, and those whose wills would be utterly broken.

In a later story, The Chase, the Daleks chant, not yet the repeated "Exterminate!" we expect nowadays but "Exterminate! Seek and Destroy! Destroy and Rejoice!"

It is the only suggestion I can recall in many years as a fan that Daleks could find joy in anything, and that is solely in destruction. There are people of whom I could say the same. Some of them were carrying their ludicrous tiki torches yesterday, seeking to be important the only way they knew how--cruelty. Ambush. Inflicting harm.

They sought the legitimation of a philosophy, and found it in White Nationalism. In neo-Nazism. At last, they had permission to uncover their true and ugly selves.


Back in college, lo these 30 years ago, I had a part in a production of Jean Anouilh's adaptation of Antigone--in which the great dramatist cast the eponymous heroine as the French Resistance, Creon as the Nazi Occupation, and the guards as the collaborators, and did so in such a compelling, psychologically real, manner that both sides embraced it. (This is less inconsistent with Sophocles than you might think; Martha Nussbaum has argued that both Antigone and Creon are simultaneously wrong and right; Werner Jaeger made a similar argument).

In that production, as the chief of the three guards, and the only one given a name, I represented the collaborators. Believe me, it's not a headspace you want to be in.


Yet we find ourselves confronted with the resurgence of explicit advocates for white supremacy, our Nation's darkest taproot, clashing with the people of Charlottesville, who stood up to them almost entirely non-violently, representing once again the better angels of our natures. We must choose. Do we stand against the Nazis and the White Supremacists, as a broad array of unlikely bedfellows such as New York's Andrew Cuomo and Mitt Romney, with Elizabeth Warren and Orrin Hatch. (To name but a few--many strong express condemnations from left and right have been made, and deserve commendation)?

Or do we temporize? Equivocate? Do we hope it goes away until we are engulfed, like the collaborators in Antigone or the Robomen in Terry Nation's science fiction parable?

All of us, old, young, middle aged, will be judged, at least by history. This is our hour.

Where do we stand?

T.H. White, in the depths of the Blitz, wrote in The Once and Future King, that "[t]he fate of this man or that man was less than a drop, although it was a sparkling one, in the great blue motion of the sunlit sea." But those drops, surging together, can carve away landmasses, create new shorelines, and wash away the blood and soil of the past.

Speak up; tell your truths in opposition to the lies of Fascism and White Supremacy.

Make neighbors out of strangers.

Most of all, pay attention to who respond to these events and who temporizes.

And vote.

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