A Different Kind of Murder Story

There’s an interview with Walter Mosley in this week’s Las Vegas Mercury. Mosley was in town last week for the Vegas Valley Book Fest (yeah, people read here — sheesh!), and gave a great talk on “the literary life”. During the signing, my girlfriend asked him to put some “words of wisdom” for a young writer in my copy of Futureland; after responding with “I have no wisdom” (which I thought was a great response), he wrote simply “Write every day”.

In any case, the interview covers a lot of the same ground as the Q&A session after his talk, and is interesting in its own right, but what really struck me is his last statement. One of Mosley’s least-known works is Working on the Chain Gang: Shaking Off the Dead Hand of History, an essay on race and politics on the cusp of the 21st century. Readers of Mosley’s books shouldn’t be surprised to find that Mosley has a complex and nuanced take on modern politics; what might surprise them is how very Marxist his understandings are. This is the book that made me from a mere reader into a devoted fan — and is the book I chose to ask him to sign when I met him last week.

In the Mercury interview, Mosley discusses our obligations, as Americans, to the Iraqi people, and our responsibilities in this ongoing war against them:

The thing I don’t get is this: There’s a guy who has a wife and two kids living in Baghdad, and one day bombs start falling. Every sixth or seventh week a bomb kills a member of the family. Then someone tells him, “Oh, no. There were no weapons of mass destruction.” Not only have you killed his whole family because of a guy he didn’t even vote for, but the excuse [Bush] gave for killing his family was false. I am an American, and whatever America does, it’s my responsibility. I as an American am not right to have killed that man’s family. America needs to understand that we are committing a crime by murdering a man’s family.

I know it’s not proper, in these days of Burly-Man politicking and punditry, to think in terms of morality and ethics (unless, of course, God is your bitch), but in this short statement, Mosley does far more to sum up the problems involved in America’s bid for Empire than all the Friedman’s, Kaplan’s, Hitchen’s, and other Burly-Men combined.

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