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the power of “s”

A few weeks ago, I read briefly from Michael Harrington’s Socialism. Early on, he used the word “socialisms.”

I stared at the word for a couple of minutes. For all the times I’ve read, heard, and spoken the word “socialism,” this was my first time encountering it with an “s” at the end.

The “s” highlighted how little I actually know about socialism. It taunted me with the implication that, as Neil Postman might caution, I knew little enough of socialism’s histories to know an “s” could even belong there.

Another book made me think about the power of “s” to provoke deeper reflection. Called Late American Holocausts, it forced me to confront the idea of multiple holocausts. As an American, I’d grown up with the idea there was but one.

Of course, without even having begun reading the book, I could already see precisely why many Americans are taught that there was only The Holocaust … in which Americans were the victors, fighting evil, self-nominated, for the good of the world.

(The script hasn’t changed much, and–despite the tens of millions of people killed by America, its allies, and its arms sale recipients–American leaders still portray America as the lone, brave cowboy out bringing justice to the world. (Bah!))

Where else does an “s” invite deeper inquiry?

After “soldier,” for one. Who are the individual soldiers who sacrificed so much of their selves so that so few could gain vast riches? How do their stories vary? How do their losses ripple out to impact those who love them and must also face the daily consequences of those losses–of safety, of limb, of life? Who are these millions sacrificed by those who will never directly understand the individual costs of war?

And “war”? There’s another one. Though I didn’t see it until a few months ago, to read the word “war” and glide over it is to trivialize it. There is no one, uniform war. Each individual war killS and woundS different personS, placeS, and dreamS in dramatically different wayS.

Little has done so much for my seeing more clearly what is than the pluralizing letter “s,” which challenges me to explore the stories concealed by words used in misleading singular.

beyond resisting

My sister Rachael recently texted me to gloat that Naomi Klein would be in Portland, Oregon to promote her new book. She didn’t type “neener-neener,” but she might as well have.

There’s no way she’s visiting Portland and not L.A.! I thought. I dropped everything and searched her publisher’s events page. Nada.

When I saw an announcement including an L.A. date, I messaged Rache again. “LOS ANGELES!!!” I said.

“I get to see her first,” Rache replied.

(Neener-neener.)

Who is Naomi Klein, exactly? Apart from being author of The Shock Doctrine, she’s an inspiration to both Rache and me.

Klein looks brutality squarely in the face, assesses it, and writes about it without losing either her passion or compassion. For a couple of decades now, she has looked into the abyss without becoming it.

She’s been a light along a very, very dark journey (of history and politics) I’ve been making for about a year. I’ve read her words and heard her podcasts and thought, “I hope I can emulate her someday. I hope I, too, can choose to look upon the darkness and see within it the possibility of greater love.”

My sister listened to Klein speak in Portland on Monday. I listened, alternately tearful and laughing, in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

nine two

Far from resenting my sister for hearing Klein first, I was grateful to listen and know Rache had heard the same heart, the same compassion, the same entreaty.  Read more…

Knowledge is a quest

When I began striving to speak Politics late last year, I had the notion that “politics” was a separate subject distinct from all others. The first few months, then, it was very easy to practice; everything I read was new to me and fairly easily summarized, and so I wrote almost daily.

After a few months, I started feeling like politics wasn’t really separate or distinct from anything else. Rather, it was a part of everything, and everything was a part of it. The “politics” books on my bookshelf weren’t on separate, discrete topics, but on different aspects of an interconnected everything I could only barely fathom and definitely could not articulate. The books’ covers only created an illusion of disconnectedness between the books themselves, as well as everything they attempted to represent.

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The beginning

I found it much harder to write about politics once I discerned politics wasn’t an isolated body of knowledge. Before, I’d thought politics was one thread running through a quilt. After I saw that politics was made of many subjects, moments, feelings, and experiences, I despaired of distinguishing what was related and what wasn’t, because each thread within the quilt contained elements of different subjects.

Where would I start, and where would I leave off? I had no idea, but that didn’t seem like a good reason to stop. If I persevered, I might get better at seeing which threads ran closest together, and someday expressing those connections with any clarity.

Several times recently, I’ve written about former NYU professor Neil Postman. Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death was required reading for three of my husband’s American Studies courses at Yale. As I began my quest for understanding, Anthony told me I’d really appreciate the book. Read more…

Strategic racism, in quotes

Last week,

I read a book*

that demonstrated

how U.S. political

“colorblind” racist strategy

has been crafted to

achieve horrible ends

by concealed

means

I can’t share

my whole post

on the matter, yet,

so now, I leave you

with a few related quotes

(and a holdover link)

*  Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class

The world is not atomized

To be clear, I DID IT, TOO

Several years ago, I briefly joined a Facebook group for administrators of inspirational pages. I was deeply discomfited by the group, members of which spent much more time talking about how to get more page and post likes than how to inspire people. The proper formula at that time was just the right quote pasted on just the right pretty picture; many admins were perturbed when sharing algorithms changed so that Facebook began sharing fewer pictures.

Troubled, I wrote that I didn’t feel inspiration resided in the number of people able to see a post. Maybe one person who really needed to see a post would see it, and than an “unsuccessful” post would’ve made a world of difference to that one person. The good it worked on them would ripple outward in lovely ways, so that a post’s reach would go far beyond what some statistic on Facebook revealed.

Each post I read there left me more unnerved. I couldn’t articulate the feeling then, but it was a sensation like: We’re putting numbers over people. This technology is turning us into marketers and targets, not humans engaging with other humans.

I left the group. I eventually left Facebook, too, and found myself better able to see human beings in all their splendor after doing so.

I was on and off Twitter. I even ended up deleting my Instagram account last November, after realizing that, too, was somehow messing up how I perceived real people. In December, I wrote in “Sunlight & friends“:

Something delightful happened after I deleted my Instagram account last month: I stopped thinking of my friends as the two-dimensional representations they share there, and started remembering them as who my heart knows them to be.

I hadn’t even realized I’d been boiling them down to their most superficial selves until I was no longer doing it.

Reading a copy of Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business last week, I was floored to find old concerns addressed with such deference to history, present, and future. That’s to say, in 1985, a scholar I’d never heard of was publishing a book that’d help 2017 me begin to find words for things I felt silly for finding disturbing. Read more…

Love hard, y’all

I’m writing a post for my other blog, but it involves addressing a lot of complicated, dark history. Completing it will take a lot of time and energy I don’t have now.

I do have to say something now.

Y’all, love yourself. Love your neighbor. Don’t withhold that love–not for how someone is voting, for the color of their skin, for their unkind acts, for where they live in the world.

Just love each other. Hard.

This is a political message. It absolutely is. Because, see, our collective fear is being exploited. Right now, this very moment, the United States is preparing to take acts of war against Russia, all on pretense. 

This is not an ahistorical act. This is a profoundly historical act that has to do with power, a power that adheres to neither me nor you.

(If you’d like to understand more about where I’m coming from before I finish writing my next post, please, please begin reading The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism and understand that we’re witnessing the next shock being generated right now. Look into the TPP, TiSA, and TTiP to understand who benefits when we citizens consumers lose.)

Love is a revolutionary act. Truly. So please, for the love of god, listen. Love. Reach out, especially to those whom it’s hard for you to hear.

Don’t allow your fear to be exploited for destruction.

Please love each other. Hard. Unequivocally.

Love.

a hand hearts

Categories: history, Love, politics, Uncategorized Tags: , ,

History, books, and happy surprises

Have you ever unexpectedly run into a friend while far away from home?

You know that awesome rush you get from seeing someone you love somewhere totally new?

How the world seems both enormous and infinitesimal as you hug?

I got a rush a little like that while reading a few days ago. Read more…

Categories: Books, history Tags: , ,
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