The Empty Shield


By Giacomo Donis

A people’s history and the horror of war: Howard Zinn meets Apocalypse Now. Political autobiography. 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.

Giacomo Donis, born in 1950 in the USA, living in Venice, Italy since 1972, made and sold thousands of beautiful inexpensive earrings for ten years to survive and then prosper, before forging ahead into the slave’s life: thirty years translating philosophers, marxists, and art critics. The Empty Shield is his first book, to be followed by its companion volume, An Abyss of Dreams: Tails of the Night of the


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