Thursday, June 26, 2008

Fiesta de San Fermin

I’ll be going to Pamplona in July for theFiesta de San Fermin, traveling as a member of thePena de Los Gatos, an American club that travels to Fiesta every year. While I spent several months in Spain near Malaga, this will be my first time up in Basque country. The Fiesta, as everyone knows, was made famous by my grandfather’s novel The Sun Also Rises with its decadent tale of emasculated males and sexually hyperactive females. It’s a great story, one of Hemingway’s best. There’s something in it for everyone, his descriptive style, his crisp dialog, the carnival atmosphere of the Fiesta itself and, as always in his works, his fascination with androgyny, or as the protagonist of The Garden of Eden put it, finding “a more African sexuality, one that goes beyond all tribal law.”

There was always more to Ernest’s character than met the eye. There was another side to him that most of his admirers never see, one that had a great deal more to my cross-dressing, transsexual father, Gregory, than the macho image that most have of him.

I can’t say for sure, but I suspect that many things haven’t changed about the Fiesta de San Fermin from my grandfather’s days. There was something very primitive about it that attracted him, a non-stop, no-holds-barred quality that for him must have been healing.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Then and now

There’s a lot said for the early 1970’s. It was an age of transition from a period of Cultural Revolution to one of Pet Rocks, Saturday Night Fever and Mood Rings. A peace treaty between the USA and Vietnam was signed in 1973 and by 1975 American sailors were ditching the last helicopters to make it out of Saigon off the flight deck of the USS Enterprise. But for me, at least, what was truly inspiring about those years was a US Congress that still had the balls to stand up to a criminal in the oval office when needed. They actually took the constitution of the United States seriously and when it became clear that Richard Nixon had broken the law and betrayed his oath of office to defend that very same constitution they knew that they had no other choice but to impeach the man. Anyone who was old enough, and I was 13 at the time, remembers the Watergate congressional hearings and the long line of administration officials who testified and who were often sent to jail for their crimes. We were all mesmerized at this spectacle of a government being held accountable for its sins. It was something that you, honestly, rarely saw, anywhere in the world and in spite of the horrors of the Vietnam War and the political assassinations of the 1960’s we could at least say as American that there was still room for hope. It was evident that our fundamental democratic values had survived and the proof was there on our television screens.

Thirty-five years later, things have taken a turn for the worse, to put it mildly. We still have congressional hearings. US congressmen have to do something with their time, so when the spirit moves them they “investigate” and make a show of trying to set the wrongs of the nation right. Last week a Senate Armed Services Committee probe heard testimony regarding US military torture of prisoners of war. One of the most damaging comments to emerge from the hearing came from retired Major General Antonio Taguba. Taguba was the officer the Pentagon put in charge of the investigation of the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo torture scandals and he is even more convinced than ever that serious human rights violations were committed by the United States government. In a report, prepared by the group Physicians for Human Rights, Taguba stated “After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

Now, this is from a man who was a career military officer and someone who would still be serving if he hadn’t been forced to retire because he told the truth in 2004. His statement is an example of the same sort of moral clarity that guided the US Congress back in 1973, and were America’s present day politicians even remotely like those of the seventies you could be sure that Bush and his henchmen would have been impeached. Not only that, but committing war crimes is a Federal offense because of international treaties that the USA has signed against torture. So, in addition to seeing Bush and Cheney kicked out of office we would also have the pleasure of seeing them tried for murder. Many men have died in the vast Neocon galaxy of clandestine gulags and it used to be that if you killed someone in the United States you would pay for your crime with your life. But not any longer. America has become a forgiving nation, at least as far as the high and mighty are concerned.

No one will ever send Bush or Cheney or Rumsfeld to prison. They are the law. They’re not just above it. They represent the system in its entirety, Democrats included.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What I do

This is my very first posting, and before I start I'd like to thank my wife, Ornella, for encouraging me to do this. She's been after me for months, no, make that years to get a blog set up. Up to now I've been writing for other sites, magazines and a few newspapers, mostly in Italy.

I live in Montreal, in the Hochelaga/Maisonneuve neighborhood. It's a very french part of town where hardly anyone speaks English. All the Quebec nationalists on the island live out here. It's a poor section of the city, many families are on welfare, but the people are very friendly. As for the weather, in the summer it's very green with lots of trees and overgrown gardens. The winters, on the other hand, tend to be brutal. They last about five months out of the year and are extremely cold and full of snow.

I'm not from Montreal. I'm not even a Canadian. I was born in Miami and spent most of my childhood there. The other big chunk of my life was spent in Europe. Twenty-two years in Italy and a year in Spain.

While in Milan I started and finished Strange Tribe, a memoir about my father Gregory Hemingway and his dad, Ernest Hemingway. Click here to see a review from which I think gives you a pretty good feel for the book.

Bene, per oggi questo e' tutto.