I fondly remember the death of Richard M. Nixon, on Earth Day, 1994, like the planet finally taking out trash gone rancid decades ago. It’s rare that a death makes me happy, but this one did. He was an actively evil man who got away with it and died old and free with a clear record.
Gil Scott-Heron wrote those words and he did not die free and clear.
In the liner notes to Winter In America, Gil Scott-Heron made the earliest on-record call for the impeachment of Richard Nixon that I am personally aware of. There may be an earlier one, but I haven’t seen it, though I have seen later ones which claimed to be first. The same country that showed Nixon mercy because he had phlebitis showed Gil Scott-Heron–who said of phlebitis, “Rats bite us. No pardon in the ghetto”–to prison for crack addiction. Gil Scott-Heron died too young on parole with a felony record.
“I wanted clever and funny instead of angry and mean,” he said in an interview in Lakeville, Connecticut, at a reunion of his boarding school Hotchkiss.
So the rich boss is a Hotchkiss man. How appropriate! Was he angry when he fired cartoonist Rob Rogers? Or was he just mean? Because if he was just mean, and not angry, he’s not a hypocrite. He’s still mean, though, still rich and powerful, willing and able to hurt people.
I realize many of my friends have faith in wealthy people and their market ventures, to make wise decisions that lead to more for everyone. I have a similar faith. I believe wealthy people make wise decisions that lead to more for themselves.
The markets are rising for a reason: Wealthy people of all persuasions can see profit on the horizon. They will not save you.
Why is it, for all of our supposed intellectualism on a wide range of subjects, most Unitarian Universalists show absolutely no curiosity regarding religion itself?
This is true enough. I’d qualify it by adding there are Unitarian Universalists who effectively practice another religion and have some interest in their own. Very few of them have the sort of wide-ranging curiosity about religion she’s talking about.
What I had noticed is that most Unitarian Universalists I’ve met are particularly uninterested in Unitarian Universalism. They aren’t interested in Unitarianism or Universalism, either. I’m not sure this is internalized anti-intellectualism, but that’s my working theory.
For a comedy fan, YouTube and late-night talk shows are the perfect combination. All the monologues, all the skits and sketches, none of the boring interviews. Just the laughs, and the hard thoughts sometimes behind them.
My current favorite of the late-night comedians isn’t a host but a writer-actor, Amber Ruffin, a writer on Late Night with Seth Meyers. Meyers is very funny, and he’s confident enough in his abilities to put his writers on stage with him. At least weekly the woman writers–most of the sketch/skit acting is done by women–are on the show, with good juicy parts, often upstaging Meyers. Here he’s playing straight man so Ruffin can be top banana:
There is so much to love in that sketch. Ruffin pulls laughs out of unpleasant places. Her girlish demeanor is a great pivot point. She can go from there to sarcastic, contrarian, sexy, angry, almost anywhere. Here she makes the hugest move with it: At the time of the Charlottesville attack, a frightening time, she shows us how she guards her soft spots with a happy “Come oooooon!” Most comedians don’t ever get to that level of public insight. She’s early in her career and doing it in front of a national audience.
Until I started to write this, I did not know that in 2014, Ruffin became the first black woman to write for a network late-night talk show, but I had figured she’s on track to be the first black woman–and maybe the first woman–with a late-night network talk show.
If you’ve read a lot of inside stuff about Unitarian Universalism the last few years, you’ve noticed ministers (and others, but a lot of ministers) decrying the “antiauthoritarianism” of rank-and-file Unitarian Universalists.
Equating “antiauthoritarianism” with “antiauthority” is just as dishonest as the people who try to equate “spirituality” and “spiritualism”, and in just the same word-warping manner.
So here’s the good news: I haven’t seen one such use of “anti-authoritarian” since the last election. As Samuel Johnson said, “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” Looking authoritarianism in the eye reminds the weary and forgetful of the virtues of standing firm and saying no, middle finger and all.
It’s a small blessing, but I’m not in a position to turn anything down!
At the end, after repeating a story to us, she says:
I told this story to a roomful of people the other night and someone asked me after how the story ends. I had to admit to him that as a formal matter, the story ends where I ended it: the madness and the markings. But the truth is that the story doesn’t end so much as invite us into it, to contend with it on its own terms.
That’s true, but incomplete. The story, the telling of the story, the very existence of the story is itself the ending of the story. Consider: What if the plan in the story had gone terribly wrong? Who would be left to tell it? That the story is told shows the plan was successful enough that this piece of knowledge passed from those two men, through that time, to us.
Of course, it’s just a story. It’s not like history, a story which is more than just a story. But stories is what people do. We consume stories. We tell our stories; we tell the stories of others; we make up stories when we run out. The person who told that story lived; the writer who created that narrator lived. Choose to read this story as one of coming through the storm.
(Personal to Ms. Lithwick: I’d love to know what children’s record the version of the story you know comes from.)