Tuesday, November 20, 2001

‘Wholly honorable’
“Jefferson Davis’s life and conduct following the [Civil Wars] end would have to be judged by any standard as wholly honorable. He was captured and imprisoned for two years at Fortress Monroe, and his treatment was seen by many as unnecessarily severe.
“Upon his release, he and his now-impoverished family, their property destroyed by Federal troops, had to make do as best they could. He steadfastly refused, despite his poverty, to accept money collected for him after the war. His uprightness in this and other matters is quite striking. Throughout it all, the affection in which he was held throughout the South did not diminish, but grew.
“Davis and his family were at last granted a blessed haven at the estate of the widowed Sarah Dorsey, who venerated him as the great man of the age. Davis was given the leisure to write his lengthy ‘Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government,’ the principal theme of which that the cause was no less right and just at the end than it had been at the beginning.
“Upon his death in 1889, public observances of mourning took place all across the former Confederacy.
“It is now possible to conclude that no other man could have managed the affairs of the Confederacy nearly as well as Jefferson Davis.”
Eric L. McKitrick, writing on “The Good Loser,” in the Nov. 29 issue of the New York Review of Books

Terror providers’
“‘Terrorist’ is such an ugly word. Why don’t we call Osama bin Laden a ‘terror provider?’
“The country that freaked out over a few bottles of Tylenol was bound to go berserk over one of the most spectacular crimes of all time. A few days later, I spent nearly two hours waiting in line at an airport before my flight to Los Angeles was cancelled. Enormous precautions were being taken, at incalculable cost, against an exact repetition of the deed whose whole effect depended on surprise. Folks, they aren’t going to try the same stunt twice.
“I don’t want war with the Muslim world, and it sounds nice to repeat the comforting slogan that Islam is ‘a religion of peace.’ But we should bear in mind that the Prophet himself ordered the beheading of the Jewish men of Beni Quraidha who refused to adopt the new faith; the widows and children were sold into slavery. For centuries thereafter, Islam grew by conquest. Its achievements are not to be despised; but neither are they to be sentimentalized.”
Joseph Sobran, writing on “Real News of the Month,” in his November newsletter

Tame evil
“To be something more than escapism, fantasy depends on a vision of evil that is powerful, mysterious and in some sense compelling. Consider Voldemort (I know, I shouldn’t even use his name), the evil wizard who plays the Satan role in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. As the killer of Harry’s parents and inflictor of the scar that marks Harry as special, Voldemort has a kind of claim on the precocious young wizard. We know perfectly well that Harry will never submit to Voldemort’s dark powers but there is still a special urgency, a subliminal tingle, to their encounters.
“I have no investment in the purity or accuracy of Chris Columbus’ film version of ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,’ although it strikes me, in fact, as a faithful and appealing adaptation. As any reasonable person would have expected, it’s a big and often sloppy Hollywood production with some bad computer graphics, a syrupy score from John Williams and a focus on storybook adventure rather than Rowling’s oddball characters. Columbus and screenwriter Steve Kloves take Rowling’s tame conception of evil and make it tamer still; when Voldemort finally makes an appearance, he looks like a crypt-monster left over from ‘The Mummy Returns.’”
Andrew O’Hehir, writing on “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” Friday in Salon at www.salon.com

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