February 2017

James Joyce's Flight from France, 1940

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Why Didn't He Accept An Irish Passport?


Much has been written about the Joyce family's status as enemy aliens once Germany conquered France in 1940. Joyce, a British citizen living in Paris, became an enemy alien once the Nazis took control. Joyce wanted to flee to Switzerland, but as a newly-minted enemy alien with a special needs daughter, it wasn't easy. What Richard Ellman fails to mention in his biography--I don't think he knew--is that Joyce was offered Irish citizenship (not much of a stretch given his birth in Dublin) and he refused it. Ireland was a neutral country in WWII. Why would Joyce refuse an Irish passport under these circumstances?
Here's a thoughtful answer from Bruce Arnold's "The Scandal of Ulysses: The Life and Afterlife of a Twentieth Century Masterpiece":
"Joyce was forty years old when Ireland became independent, and he never visited the independent state from its birth to his own death. He was an awkward customer as far as Ireland was concerned, had been throughout most of his life, and was to remain so for some time to come. From the days before World War I, when the prospective publisher of Dubliners had got cold feet and had either burnt or shredded the entire first edition of the book, Joyce's writings had been increasingly embarrassing to Ireland. His fame and reputation were not of a character which could be easily accommodated within the narrow, censorious and bigoted atmosphere which had developed in Ireland during the first two decades of independence. With the exception of a few enlightened spirits, he was regarded with suspicion and distaste.
It was certainly not politic, on the occasion of his death, for the state to become involved in the obsequies. Lord Derwent's presence at the graveside, and the absence of any diplomat from the Irish Free State, emphasised that, both technically and from choice, the writer being buried was British. Joyce was bom British, carried a British passport all his life, was married in London and had his solicitor and agent there as well. He got most of his money from British patrons of his art. Lord Derwent made a speech that implicitly claimed the great man as a British writer. "Of all the injustices Britain has heaped upon Ireland" he said,"Ireland will continue to enjoy the lasting revenge of product masterpieces of English literature." There was some justification for the ambiguities implicit in Lord Derwent's presence and the words he spoke. Though the fact of Joyce having been born British was shared with all other Irish people in 1882, the fact that he retained throughout his life his British identity was a matter of deliberate choice and personal advantage. Through the moderated good offices of George Moore, who admired Joyce's style, Joyce had obtained a Civil List pension from the British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith; there had been help from W.B. Yeats. Moreover all his working activity, his publishing aspirations, and his interest in an academic and popular reputation, as far as the British Isles and the British Empire were concerned, were focused on London, not Dublin. It should be pointed out, however, that, while the British banned Ulysses, Ireland never did. But then, Ireland had more subtle ways of registering its reservations. In truth, Joyce was neither British nor Irish, either practically or emotionally. He already belonged to the world."
So the answer is, he feared the loss of his pension were he to de-nationalize, and he wasn't sure of the financial impact were he to lose his British financial patrons. It's ironic that Joyce is celebrated today by a country whose nationality he rejected.

Just Another Country?

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The Ninth Circuit is Playing with Fire



It should be obvious to any objective observer that Donald Trump is unlike any previous chief executive the country has ever seen. I use the term "executive" because in business, executives issue orders and they expect them to be obeyed. Trump issued an executive order preventing nationals from seven countries from entering the United States. Two American states sued. The Ninth Circuit has issued a ruling which strongly suggests that Trump's ruling is based on unlawful discrimination against Muslims; that entry-seekers are denied counsel and thus due process and that his national security claims have no basis in fact. 

Faced with the risk of Maryland seceding from the Union, Abraham declared martial law and suspended habeas corpus. Lincoln's acts were adjudged unconstitutional. No matter. The judiciary lacked the Union Army to enforce its orders, as Lincoln himself wryly noted.
Trump and his advisors is well-aware of this precedent. Imagine if he were to declare, as Commander in Chief, that international airports are now under military jurisdiction. Passengers from the seven nations will be quarantined as suspect enemy aliens until proven otherwise. Would the military obey the Commander in Chief? There is little chance that they would do anything else. 

The danger to the nation is overwhelming. Since 1789, since
Marbury v. Madison, the United States has operated under the rule of law with the judiciary as final arbiters over whether a proposed act of the government may be permitted. "In times of war, the Roman proverb goes, the laws are silent." Lincoln, a lawyer, knew this. Trump, a chief executive knows it as well. 

In times of war, the laws are silent.


It matters little whether you agree that Trump is right in believing that these seven-nation entry-seekers constitute a clear and present danger to the United States. He believes it and he is the Commander in Chief. If he decides to use the awesome strength of the military to enforce these beliefs, the consequence is a possible collapse of our system. There would, of course, be a few conscientious objectors. These would be rounded up and afforded lodging in the military prison at Ft. Leavenworth, the soon to be ex-home of Chelsea Manning.

If you wanted to travel, you would need a military pass to enter an airport. If you thought that the creation of ubiquitous SWAT teams militarized the United States, you ain't seen nuthin' yet. The power of the military would grow.

All it would take is one general to decide that the president's orders were unconstitutional after all, and that he was taking over the government in an effort to restore order. 

This sort of thing has happened many, many times in our own hemisphere as well as in other countries around the world. 
Would Roosevelt have welcomed Japanese or German tourists in 1942? The thought is preposterous.

The Ninth Circuit and Donald Trump live in two different worlds: the Ninth, in those happy pre-2001 years after the Cold War was won, before Islamic jihadists became the convenient East Asia enemy now that Eurasia is our ally; Eurasia has always been our ally, Goldstein/Bin Laden is conveniently already dead, and the American people have turned to Big Brother to save them. Well, some of them, at least.

Donald Trump lives in the house of war where a newly-declared Islamic caliphate has successfully carried out guerrilla operation after operation and the former CINC was unable to do anything about it except kill Bin Laden. But Bin Laden wasn't the only snake slithering. 

Trump took office on a pledge to do something about ISIS/Da'esh once and for all. If the Ninth Circuit or the judiciary gets in his way, he will not hesitate, like Lincoln, to say,"so what?" And if that happens, the United States will be, in the words of Johnny Rotten,
"Just another country."   

Let's hope this doesn't happen.

The Johnny Rotten quote is taken from the Sex Pistols song, "Anarchy in the U.K." References to Eurasia/East Asia and the baddie "Goldstein" are taken from George Orwell's novel, "1984." Views of the author are his own and do not represent the views of any other person.