Monday, August 20, 2018

Book Review: 'Verses Versus Empire: II - The Obama Era' by Abdiel LeRoy

The handsome actor/former journalist/religion correspondent/author Abdiel LeRoy is a British-American whose life is largely inspired by the Bible, Shakespeare, and the great epic poem, 'Paradise Lost'. As a poet Abdiel embraces giant tasks – the lives of Elijah, Obama, Bush, and Trump in his VERSES VERSUS EMPIRE series, as well as the very fine DUELING THE DRAGON, THE GOURMET GOSPEL, THE CHRISTMAS TREE and now the VERSES VERSUS EMPIRE series. He also has worked as a broadcaster, financial analyst, and market commentator, while his passions also include Argentine Tango, Yoga, and competitive swimming. His voice both as a narrator for dramatic readings and on stage is being recognized as a brave new presence in the politics of the globe. As an actor, Abdiel has embodied most of the major Shakespearean roles, and on stages from New York to London to Beijing, though perhaps his most famous appearance is in the hit short-film series, ‘The Expert.’ He has also staged three one-man shows, including the famous children's tale, ‘Wind in the Willows.

In his Introduction Abdiel shares his approach to Barack Obama the center of this book VERSES VERSUS EMPIRE II: The Obama Era – ‘Prose has failed, and failed spectacularly! However well informed, well reasoned, or well expressed, its rivers of ink hurled at the beast of Empire have merely splashed harmlessly against its brutish side. Let us now, therefore, turn to Poetry. Consider the Creation story: "And God said, 'Let there be Light!' " That's Poetry! And if Poetry can create worlds and universes, then it can certainly change this world! Consider too Poetry's power to convey unpleasant truths, as encapsulated by the Italian poet Torquato Tasso, who likens it to honey brushed on the rim of a cup that convinces a sick child to take his medicine! This second volume in the Verses Versus Empire series begins with the presidential campaigns of 2008 and concludes with the close of Obama's presidency in early 2017. Signature events covered here include: passage of the Affordable Care Act and BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, both in 2010; nuclear disaster at Fukushima and the assassination of Osama bin Laden in 2011; Edward Snowden's revelations about the NSA in 2013; and in 2014, Israel's invasion of Gaza. Victory of the Syriza Party in Greece came in 2015, followed by the murder of Russian opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov, and the Iran nuclear deal. In 2016, popular resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline took centre stage; then in 2017, Donald Trump took up residence at the White House, driving the theme for Volume III in the Verses Versus Empire series. Meanwhile, the world witnessed the rise of ISIS, coupled with intensified Islamophobia; a litany of murder by white cops on black victims (or perhaps just greater awareness of it); and a spate of unjust rulings in the "criminal-justice system", including impunity for those murders! Readers may also observe the consistency of themes between the Bush and Obama agendas — notably ongoing destruction of Constitutional protections, attacks on the environment, and a perpetual war footing sustained by official falsehood. Many of these trends intensified, rather than abated, under Obama, albeit more subtly. By the time he left office, he had accomplished four discreditable records: presiding over the longest war in which the U.S. has ever been involved; killing more people with drone strikes than any previous president; deporting more people than any of his predecessors; and prosecuting more whistleblowers than all previous presidents combined!’

An example of Abdiel’s fine poetry follows – PHARAOHICS

It used to be Al Qaeda, now it's ISIS,
That serves as a convenient enemy
To engineer another wartime crisis
And fill the news with fresh atrocity.

But Isis is a goddess, and her name
Belongs to mythological tradition.
Now is a new myth forged, of baser claim,
Co-opted for imperial imposition.

It is an age-old practice to invent
A foe to dread and make our hearts to fear,
A cause to mask colonial intent
So superficial righteousness appear.

Orwell observed War's purpose to destroy
The fruits of labour, so none may aspire,
Also the false-flag terrorism ploy
By which the ruling oligarchs conspire.

And so the "9/11" myth is milked
From which Islamophobia derived.
The populace is terrorized and bilked,
And all cloaked in Democracy contrived.

War's an addiction, and Obama needs
His fix to follow on the last war's heels,
Another wound while still the last one bleeds,
Another blow before the first blow heals.

Is this the answered prayer of Christian hands
Cupped to receive anointed oil flows,
To seed with bombs of hate the holy lands?
No wonder that the fruit of hatred grows!

"Intelligence" and "training" are the guise
In which to countenance this corporate pact.
Meanwhile, the name of Isis deifies
This sanctioned rape dressed as a holy act!

Abdiel’s wisdom and insights as well as his keen sense of theatrics allows us to consider the state of affairs in this ‘empire’. A different stance and view and only history will reflect the truth of it all. Grady Harp, August 18

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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