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power to change everything

One year ago, I couldn’t have told you how World War II began. Sure, I’d studied it in high school history classes, but that was more than twenty years ago.

Having immersed myself in history and politics for the last year, I understand more now. Most significantly, I understand how economic distress fueled Hitler’s rise.

Germans were not a uniquely evil people. They were a distressed people, susceptible–in those specific circumstances–to finding both the wrong villains and extraordinarily wrong solutions.

On Sunday, I wrote about how neoliberalism created the conditions for the weekend’s tragedy in Charlottesville.

Yesterday, a dear friend replied that she’d seen the pictures. The racists she’d seen pictured weren’t economically oppressed, but well dressed and clean shaven. They were privileged.

I’d reply today the same as I replied yesterday. That is to say, I’d reply by noting I’m no fan of privilege theory, which conceals (grave systemic failures) much more than it reveals (anything actionable).

But I wondered: How could I express the pain of enduring economic squeeze to those who haven’t yet felt it? Read more…

The meth apartment

A meth lab burned down near my sister’s house a couple of days ago. Two people died and dozens more were displaced.

Many terrible things have happened in my sister’s neighborhood, so that she’s understandably distraught. Her friends are urging her to move, which she very much wants to.

I’m sad for her, and I’m sad beyond her.

About a year ago, I came to the shocking conclusion that history is actually important. I saw that my failure to follow history or politics had left me with a lot of illusions–delusions?–about what my country has been, is, and is en route to be.

I’ve gone through four of the five stages of grief: Read more…

witness

Last night, I cried when someone said “th.”

Of course, I didn’t cry because the sound “th” is especially poignant when spoken aloud.

My tears ran deeper than that.

wpid-img_20110505_180026Many years ago, I ran into Joss Whedon at an L.A. comic book store. I began shaking, realizing who stood to my right. Joss Whedon! Creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Angel! Two shows that totally shaped my real life!

I told him why I was sad, and asked if he’d mind signing my journal.

He signed.

It was important I have his signature. Read more…

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.

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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…

my playlist

I’ve been building and rebuilding a playlist in my mind the last couple of weeks. I’ll write about it someday, I’m sure, I thought. When I’ve finally gotten it right-enough.

Without pressure or hurry, it could have been months before I solidified the playlist. But then I read a post that got me fired up, and I found my playlist.

The post bemoaned how everything is a competition now: singing, playing instruments, sports, politics. Everyone’s in it to win it. Period. Read more…

On margin hearts

This morning, I finished William Deresiewicz’s Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite. I daresay I drew more hearts in the margins of its final chapters than in total throughout all the other books I’ve read this last year.

Most of what I read doesn’t really warrant being smattered with ♥♥♥. It’s mostly grim, and blunt, and important for me to keep reading no matter how much it hurts my figurative heart when I do.

Some of what I’ve read goes beyond describing what’s wrong and into envisioning what “right” might look like. It’s those visions of something better for all that inspire me to draw hearts in the margin of my non-fiction reads. My highlighter hearts are the opposite of all my furious, borderline hopeless margin notes, which speak to the hard work I’m doing with my head. Margin hearts, on the other hand, reflect the hard work that I’m doing with my heart: finding the chutes of green among the rubble of American inequity and militarism, searching for and attuning myself to voices of hope with dust still heavy in the air.

sample shelf.png

Books are oriented three different ways on my in-progress shelf. The leftmost books, with words falling down like rain, are books I’ve already finished reading. Books with words climbing upward are ones I’ve begun, but have set aside for the moment. The remainder, I’ve yet to start reading. 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…

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