As any of my readers know, my favorite writer is Charles Dickens. I love him for his compassion, for his humor, for his challenge on behalf of the poor to those who were rich. I know he tended to focus on the social morality within England when he wrote, but I believe that despite this his morality transcends that limitation. When people read Dickens, they see how one person ought to treat another. They see how poverty should not exist, and they see the evils of drunkenness, gambling, and abuse. They see this despite his inimitable humor, and his portrayal of the love which a family can represent. When I read his works I reflect on the fact that in the West most people are no longer poor. I also reflect on what Dickens perhaps only imperfectly saw: that some day all people, whether they live in England or the United States, or in China or India or Africa, will live long lives of plenty, and will live lives of godliness and virtue. I know that I believe in Heaven, but like Dickens I cannot believe that God wishes for people to suffer in this world, either.
Because of this, I have written books about American rural poverty–Poor Folk and eventually Further Tales of Opossum Creek; 3rd World poverty–Brazil, so far; the many different types of Americans–This Land Was Made for You and Me (which I’ve barely begun); my own dysfunctional childhood–Discovering Wonderland; and Donald Trump’s corruption of America–Faust in Love. This is besides my religious poetry: The Bible According to Eve I-IV.
Right now I am focusing on a book which seeks to bring justice to Ukraine, or at least, do my small part to bring justice to Ukraine, but also to convert the Russians themselves to the belief that they can have a working democracy, if only they will stand up to Vladimir Putin as a single body. If they can see themselves in the noble little country of Ukraine, they will see that tyranny is a cancer on any society. If they see the similar plights of the Baltics, Poland, Chechnya, and even the Russian Jews as a mirror of autocratic oppression, they will see that these groups of people are their brothers and sisters, and that the common enemy they all share is both Vladimir Putin but also the remains of the Communist Party. It shouldn’t be true–though I read it is sometimes is in Secondhand Time–that a Russian should admire Joseph Stalin. No, if there are Chinese Communists outside of the country who see Mao as “China’s Hitler,” so, too, Stalin should be seen as “Russia’s Hitler, who murdered millions of innocent Russians.” Secondhand Time explained that the reason people refuse to acknowledge this is because many Russians were forced to act in collusion with the Soviet state to help murder their own friends and family members. Yet they need to know what Jews know about the concentration camps: people acted out of collusion, not of their own free choice.
I have mentioned that my book of stories about this oppression–the Russian Communist kind, Tales of the Land of the Firebird, Parts I and II, and that I sincerely hope I shall write The Autobiography of Mao Zedong and The Shadow of Mao Zedong (the latter of which will include not just China but also countries like Tibet; North Korea; Cambodia; Vietnam (an American soldier “visiting the land where I lost my soul’s real virginity”); and a story recalling the tragedy of the Rape of Nanking (“the atrocities both the Japanese and the Communist regime would as soon forget”).
I hope this doesn’t sound too much like propaganda. I am one of the few unreconstructed Cold Warriors, though I must make the notable exception of the morality of the United States’ role in Vietnam. Honesty compels me to admit, though, that I feel my country needs to be given something of its pride back, and that is why I high light our accomplishments and not just our mistakes. That is why I insist that I comment on the fact that a soldier who visited South Korea was thanked by a South Korean for his fighting the war which made at least half of Korea free.
At the same time I hope to write about a region which in recent years has suffered greatly at the hands of the United States, hoping in my small way to make amends. I wrote a book, Khadijah, about the Iraq War, which I never hope to publish. I felt in the end that it was not sympathetic enough, to either Jews or Muslims (considering my Jewishness the first is particularly shameful). However, after Tales of the Lands of the Firebird Part I, I hope to write a better book: In Honor of Khashoggi. I will describe it in greater detail at a later date.
All of this sounds far off from the ethos of Charles Dickens. Yet perhaps it is not. Dickens wrote in Little Dorrit about the evils of government bureaucracy. The inspiration of this was the mismanagement of that totally unheroic conflict, the Crimean War. There was literally a battle–Longfellow wrote about it–in which the soldiers marched straight into the line of enemy fire, only to discover that when they met their destination they had gained nothing. Then they turned around and walked right towards the area from which they came–again, into the range of enemy fire. The words echo in Longfellow, “there’s was not to reason why” but it made Dickens and the British public mad. Besides, though I have listed all of these projects, do not doubt I shall continue to write about America,
God Bless America,
Land that I love.
Stand beside her, and guide her,
Through the night with the light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
to the oceans, white with foam,
God Bless America,
My home sweet home.