Vox Populi: Patrick James in Dialogue with Sean Astin

by Phillip Witteveen on August 4, 2014

rsz_1sean_astin_and_meThe T radio V network is exactly what the order of words might suggest: radio in TV. (This is actually their subtitle.) In the case of T radio V’s Vox Populi, it’s the video record of Lord of the Rings actor Sean Astin hosting pundits to talk about current events, and the histories leading up to them. Or, as Astin puts it himself, to “model civil discourse.” On June 19th, he was joined by Professor Patrick James, who made a gift of his recent book The International Relations of Middle Earth to Astin, the erstwhile Samwise Gamgee, with the brief, satisfying aplomb of two little pieces of the universe clicking into place.

Astin had invited James to join Vox Populi to take up a series of gambits in the general rubric the episode was named for: “Crisis in Iraq.” The civil discourse meandered, topically, but Astin found an encompassing ending: “We gotta wrap it up, but just give me a thought [on] the failed state.”

James brought his perspective as a scholar to bear on that encompassing question…

“The center, put simply, does not hold. There really is no Iraq, just as there really was no Yugoslavia. The whole thing was just essentially sitting on paper and voting in the UN. It wasn’t a real country. In the United States, by contrast, try to imagine a sectarian movement in the 21st century or any time fairly close to it. Marching on oil-fields, in this country, just seems kind of bizarre. That’s because there’s a sense of what America is. It has a flag; it has memories; it has a national mythos. It has identifications; it has heroes… try to think of who those Iraqi stories and heroes and legends are…” he shakes his head, “…they don’t exist to unify people.”

As the interview was closing up, James revealed that the segment was being aired to his students, and so Astin put one last line on the record: “Tell them that on the radio you’re on the host said ‘There’s some hope left in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.'”

You can listen to the full interview here (which starts at the 32nd minute), and read more about James’ re-evaluation of Intro to International Relations in accordance with epic fantasy here.

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