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Ariel Dorfman, The Donald (Duck, Not Trump) Chronicle

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I first posted a piece by Ariel Dorfman at TomDispatch in October 2004 and began my introduction this way: “I met him in the spring of 1980 soon after he arrived in the United States. He had already been in exile from Pinochet’s Chile for seven years. I was an editor at Pantheon Books when one day he swept into my office, tall and exuberant, with his youngest son in a stroller. At the time, I knew his name only because it sat next to that of a man named Armand Mattelart on the cover of How to Read Donald Duck, an account — both Marxist and amusing — the two had written for the Allende government on the impact of Disney comics in the Third World. Soon after we began to talk, he launched into a critique of Babar, the French elephant whose adventures were chronicled for children by Jean de Brunhoff. I was particularly interested because de Brunhoff’s books had been icons of my childhood.”

And we’ve never stopped talking. But when he first walked into my office more than 40 years ago, despite his grim experiences in Chile, I doubt either of us could have imagined the world we now find ourselves in. Yes, he already had plenty to say about Donald Duck (and Walt Disney). But honestly, could we have dreamed of an America in which the other Donald — and you know just who I mean! — had already been this country’s president for four years and now stands a reasonable chance of returning to the White House in 2025 and turning the U.S. into a distinctly authoritarian-style state (with all too much help from various right-wing think tanks)? Only the other day, he stated quite clearly that, if president again, he wouldn’t hesitate to target anyone he considered an opponent with the full power of a transformed state. And given his attitude toward climate change and fossil fuels, he would undoubtedly play a grim role in the further transformation of this planet into a living hell.

In the context of Dorfman’s piece today about Donald Duck and our Disneyesque planet, think of that Donald of “ours” as the ultimate American quackpot.

And in the increasingly flaming world of fire and war we now live in, after you’ve read Dorfman’s article (while you’re at it, don’t miss his remarkable new novel The Suicide Museum), my one piece of advice is, as its title suggests: Duck! Tom


Walt Disney and Salvador Allende Are Still Fighting for Our Souls

This year marks the anniversaries of two drastically different events that loomed all too large in my life. The first occurred a century ago in Hollywood: on October 16, 1923, Walt Disney signed into being the corporation that bears his name. The second took place in Santiago, Chile, on September 11, 1973, when socialist President Salvador Allende died in a military coup that overthrew his democratically elected government.

Those two disparate occurrences got me thinking about how the anniversaries of a long-dead American who revolutionized popular culture globally and a slain Chilean leader whose inspiring political revolution failed might illuminate -- and I hope you won't find this too startling -- the dilemma that apocalyptic climate change poses to humanity.

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Rebecca Gordon, The Hamster Wheel of War

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How repetitive history sometimes seems when it comes to slaughter! The response to having 1,200 people in your country, including at least 29 children, brutally killed is to slaughter 5,000 or more children in the land where your enemy is hiding. Does that make any sense at all? And keep in mind that, when it comes to the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza, that 5,000 is no more than a holding figure for what could, in the weeks to come, prove to be thousands more kids dead (and who knows how many more wounded ones), some slaughtered by bombs, missiles, and bullets, some undoubtedly succumbing to starvation and disease. We’re already talking about significantly more dead children than the total number of those killed in conflicts globally in 2022. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has all too accurately labeled Gaza “a graveyard for children.” (But given what’s happening, it will undoubtedly be a “graveyard” without tombstones or monuments.)

Tell me if that makes sense. What did any children ever do to deserve such a fate? Could this truly be, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims, evidence of “the battle of civilization against barbarism”? Does such ongoing slaughter — including staggering numbers of air strikes against Gaza, the destruction of much of its housing and its hospitals, the displacement of nearly 1.7 million of its 2.3 million people, and the denial of the most basic human needs (food, fuel, and water) — add up to a reasonable response to the nightmare of Hamas’s October 7th attack? And honestly, has “the essential nation” on this planet, as President Biden likes to call the United States, done faintly what’s necessary to bring things under control (rather than rushing yet more weapons to Israel and two aircraft carrier task forces, troops, and planes to the region, creating the possibility of an even wider war of some sort to come)?

Given such a nightmare, doesn’t it make sense to think about other ways to face the violence that seems such an essential part of the human condition? In that context, let TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon explore the idea of a nonviolent response to our violent world. Tom

Is It Time (Once Again) for Nonviolent Rebellion?

On Ending Dreams of Revenge in Israel, Palestine, and Elsewhere

When I was in my early twenties, I seriously considered murdering someone. He had given my best friend genital herpes, which many health practitioners then believed was the agent responsible for causing cervical cancer in women. (It wasn't.)

Back in the 1970s, though, I believed that, by infecting my friend, he might have set in motion a process that would someday kill her. That he was an arrogant jerk made it that much easier for me to contemplate murdering him. But there was a larger context to my private dream of revenge. My anger was also fed by a growing awareness that so many of us were just then acquiring of the history of systematic patriarchal threats to, and constraints on, the lives of women. And in those heady days of second-wave radical feminism, I could imagine killing that man as a legitimate response, however brutal, to the male violence that seemed to surround me, and as part of a larger uprising of women.

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Engelhardt, World War III?

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[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Just a reminder, as you read my latest piece about our ever-more-beleaguered planet. Do consider lending a hand to this ever-more-beleaguered website. There’s no way I’ll be able to adequately thank those of you who have offered TomDispatch regular monthly donations and those who give from time to time, but believe me, you’ve made all the difference. I’m only hoping that there are more of you out there keeping up with this site who, as the year winds down, might think about giving us something. If so, please check out our donation page and then do your damnedest. A million thanks in advance! Tom]

A Slow-Motion Gaza

Or How to Carbonize Planet Earth

Imagine this: humanity in its time on Earth has already come up with two distinct ways of destroying this planet and everything on it. The first is, of course, nuclear weapons, which once again surfaced in the ongoing nightmare in the Middle East. (An Israeli minister recently threatened to nuke Gaza.) The second, you won't be surprised to learn, is what we've come to call "climate change" or "global warming" -- the burning, that is, of fossil fuels to desperately overheat our already flaming world. In its own fashion, that could be considered a slow-motion version of the nuking of the planet.

Put another way, in some grim sense, all of us now live in Gaza. (Most of us just don't know it yet.)

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