Over a decade ago, I first read about the rock-bottom level of W’s support at 28% as a rough estimate of current bugfuck crazy levels. I took that to heart and have repeated it as wisdom, so I’m not shocked that there are people cheering for caging children.
(Afraid? Yes. Still.)
What has been a pleasant surprise is seeing people building capacity to resist. That capacity wasn’t nearly enough during 43’s term to hold him back, and it wasn’t there to sustain the Occupy movement.*
Now we’re a third of the way through a Presidential term, and people successfully pushed hard enough to make a public policy change. It’s still a bad policy–I’ll still be at a pro-immigration rally after work today–but the spiritual boost people get from publicly backing an authoritarian down and the corresponding morale drop on the other side is pure power. If it’s used well, if politicians don’t drain all the effort into electoral politics only, this can be a turning point.
It’s not a position I’d’ve chosen to get into. The suffering at the border and elsewhere isn’t “worth it” for change. But it’s not a position we chose, is it? It’s where we’ve been forced to by cruel humanoids. That suffering is on their heads.
If we miss this moment, if we fail to learn electoral politics can’t be won without a robust non-electoral political movement to maintain us during the times we are out of power–and to remind politicians who claim they are on our side that they can’t pee on our leg when they are in power and expect us to thank them for the rain–then the suffering from that will be on our heads, and quite a few of us will fully deserve what we get from it (though most of us will not).
This is not the 2018 I’d hoped for, but it has great potential. Or you can call it high stakes. Pretty much the same.
*The Occupiers themselves weren’t the problem. They were plenty determined. It was a support failure.
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.
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.
Marie Antoinette: Melania or Ivanka? Neither, says Slate’s Matthew Dessem: It’s Kim Kardashian. It’s a slick piece of understandably sharp mockery. As Dessem asks, “In the long term, has anyone ever been glad they lent their celebrity to Donald Trump?”
That’s a fair question, and I’ll answer it: Kim Kardashian is glad, because Alice Johnson now has a better chance of being pardoned.
Dessem doesn’t quite get the “optics”–and is there a more cold clinical hateful way to describe the care with which a human being presents herself in search of justice for another?–of Kim Kardashian asking Donald Trump to show mercy to Alice Johnson.
There’s a lot to be said for representation and empowerment stories, whether fantastic or realistic, but when someone has spent twenty years behind bars on a bullshit charge, denying those bars’ existence doesn’t get a body out of jail.
This is a very different kind of story, in a very long tradition of those on bottom appealing to those on top for mercy. It doesn’t cast Kim Kardashian in the leading role. She has a piece of paper in her mind. She’s going to see the warden, going to free her friend.
I don’t know what was on Kim Kardashian’s piece of paper. I don’t know if it was a bail receipt, a poll result, a Kanye tweet, a well-timed insult, a Tennessee bondsman’s guarantee, a letter of recommendation, a role for Melania on TV, a gratuitous link to Formation. I expect she said whatever she had to say, just like going there to ask was what she had to do.
If you can look down on her for that, then you’re a better man than I.
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.)