-by Giacomo Donis
Michael Moorcock’s New Statesman Book of the Year. A people’s history and the horror of war: Howard Zinn meets Apocalypse Now.
March 1972, about to graduate from NYU. A journey: two days and nights in the New York subway. Love it or leave it. A decision: become a Great Academic Marxist; blow up the Williamsburg Bridge; go into exile. Vietnam Veterans with placards, for and against the war. Seven placard-men at the seven gates of Thebes, brandishing their shields. A decision. Political or personal? Or pure Zen? Mind or no-mind? Kill for peace! Dylan, Hendrix, or the Fugs.
The two Suzukis, or Dogen. Monk and Coltrane! The relation between Hegel’s logic of thinking as such and his logic of practice, which does not exist. The screech of the subway stops. A fork where three roads cross, the realm of shadows, what is to be done?
A Chinese menu? Stab it! Stab it with your fork! But what I, myself, decide is not the point. The point is the question of ‘what a decision is and what making a decision means.’ The answer is ‘never stop asking.’ Ask yourself.
Ask FDR, JFK, LBJ, McNamara and his band, John Kerry, or a Vietnam War veteran of your choice. Ask Nixon, Kissinger Trump! Ask Trump! Ye great decision-makers, have you ever asked yourselves what a decision is and what making a decision means!
That is the question. The Empty Shield asks it. Repeatedly, repetitiously, abysally, and, possibly, once and for all.
“The Empty Shield by Giacomo Donis is an extraordinary political biography. Donis describes how his Marxist politics developed and how renouncing his US citizenship (for Italian) proved harder than leaving the Mafia, with federal agents grilling him and warning how people like him could suffer. It’s a people’s history rather than a conventional memoir.