Hell is Other People

There’s a lot to think about in Boston right now.

There was a bombing and a shooting.  Two ethnic Chechens were implicated in the bombing, and one of them is in custody right now, to likely face a farce of an “enemy combatant” trial as soon as the feds are done fabricating a tie to international terrorist groups.  [EDIT: He got a regular trial, thank the stars.] Hateful mooks have been subjecting an Indian-American family to a torrent of threats and insults because their son went missing a few months ago and was also suspected, forcing them to shut down the site they used to help them find him.

Amidst all of the maneuvering, it’d have been easy to miss a few tidbits that highlight the ongoing nightmare of being a nonbeliever in the United States.

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Hell is Other People

In Praise of Optimus Primal

I like cartoons.

I’ve spent more time than I care to admit watching shows like ReBoot, Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles, Justice League, Gundam Wing, and Yu Yu Hakusho.  Epic battles, powerful attacks, cunning strategy—it all thrills me to no end.  I derive great joy from absurdist yet political comedies like Rocko’s Modern Life and light, cheerful fare like Toradora!, but there’s a special place in my heart for shows about heroic struggle, deadly peril, and defeating enemies in violent and explosive ways.

But I have a problem with a lot of those very same shows (animated and otherwise), a problem that’s separate (but intertwined with) their often rampant sexism and erasure of just about every minority.

They’re not shows about heroes winning.  They’re shows about villains losing.

Think about it.

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In Praise of Optimus Primal

Shifty Lines: Kosovo and Transnistria

The Balkan Peninsula of southeastern Europe has been a focal point in world history since the times of Classical antiquity.  While historians speak of the Balkan Peninsula and its eponymous mountains as one of several cradles of Western civilization, recent history places the region in a different light.  The modern Balkans are best known for economic hardship and decades of genocidal war.  While the entire region might be highlighted as a place where some lines desperately need shifting, two areas in particular deserve specific attention.  These two breakaway regions present curiously linked yet strikingly dissimilar scenarios: Kosovo and Transnistria.

Both stories start with the decline of the Roman Empire.  Rome’s influence encompassed the peninsula and most of the region surrounding the Black Sea.  As the Roman and Byzantine Empires declined, “barbarian” groups moved into their periphery.  In the west, these groups were primarily Germanic, and their descendants comprise a great deal of modern England, Germany, and Austria’s genetic makeup.  Their Romanized kin became the French.  The eastern invaders were the ancestors of the Slavic people.  The Slavs eventually established themselves as Rome’s successors via the Kievan Rus, which became part of the Russian and Ukrainian cultural identities.  Before that, the Slavs moved into the Balkans, conquering and assimilating the Romanized peoples of the western, Adriatic coast in particular.  This invasion separated the Eastern Romance speakers—the ancestors of modern Romanians—from the rest of the Romance-speaking world.  This also brought the Slavs into contact with the other Balkan peoples, in particular the Greeks and Albanians.

The interplay between Slavic and other Balkan ethnicities sets the stage for the Kosovar and Transnistrian conflicts, among others.

This map highlights Kosovo and Transnistria (red), the countries from which they seceded (blue), and other countries involved in the conflicts.  (Adapted from Wikimedia Commons.)

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Shifty Lines: Kosovo and Transnistria