From Politics

On Stephen Brophy

I knew Stephen Brophy for about fifteen years, but I only knew him well in the past three or four. It was my great pleasure to have coffee with him several times a month at Pavement and later in his apartment at our co-op. He was my neighbor, my friend, my mentor in radical politics, and my advisor in love and life. So I want to tell you a little about my experience of this extraordinary person. Read more

Trump hates literature!

This is what has befallen the Little Free Library near my house since it was erected by the Mass Historical Society about two months ago.

  1. Its glass door was broken.
  2. Its replacement Plexiglas door was broken.
  3. Its replacement cellophane door was ripped from the staples.
  4. A large quantity of water was dumped into the library, damaging its floor as well as the books inside.

Who does this to a little free library? Who?

(a) Drunken Red Sox fans?
(b) Trump!

I consulted T, who replied, “I’m thinking either someone who hates libraries, or someone who hates free things. An illiterate capitalist.”

Me: A nice segue into the title of this post.
T: It could be someone who hates little things too.

Artistic responsibility

I wrote this originally for the Race & Fiction Writing member page, but I’m moving it here since it’s something I really care about. Emoji smiley face.

A few of us discussed the matter of Dana Schutz’s painting at the April meeting. For me, the issue comes down to artistic freedom versus artistic responsibility. (One of our values being “both/and,” I’ll note that these are not necessarily in opposition.) Something I realized after the meeting was that while I had taken pains to present both points of view in the handout posted here, in fact the artistic freedom (“for the painting”) argument is amply represented in our white-dominated culture. What’s lacking, I feel, is a broadly understood argument for artistic responsibility. Therefore, I recommend that interested folks check out “The Case Against Dana Schutz” by Josephine Livingstone and Lovia Gyarkye at The New Republic. Speaking personally, the great effort it took to open my mind to the idea that I should, need and ought not to write on whatever subject inspires me—to take on board that I might not have a right to do that, and, perhaps more to the point, that I can lovingly and thoughtfully choose not to—the very difficulty of taking that step reminds me how powerful white supremacy is.

Edit: A letter from L.M. Williams in the April 24 issue of The New Yorker makes the point with clarity.

Much has been said in Schutz’s defense about art as empathy and the importance of resisting self-censorship. These are fail-safe points in discussions of artistic freedom, and they sidestep a foundational problem: the decision to make art without regard for the lives involved, and no matter the consequences. Even well-intentioned artistic empathy can become a form of trespass when it comes uninvited and replays the damage done to the people with whom the artist seeks to stand. The kind of racist violence depicted in “Open Casket” still happens, and still goes unpunished. Protesters, in asking, “Where are the images of Till’s murderers?,” are asking why America memorializes hate crimes against its black citizens by gazing at the victims instead of by holding the perpetrators accountable.

March to fascism no. 3 and last

I had my best laugh of the week yesterday while listening to NPR. In a solemn voice, the presenter read out the recent Presidential tweet about “the very sacred election process.” I guffawed aloud upon hearing this. Thanks, Trump!

Anway, I’m retiring my three-post March to Fascism tag. See, when I started it on January third, I really thought we all needed to keep a sharp and educated eye on the White House in order to recognize and call out signs of incipient despotism. That turned out to be totally untrue. A three-year-old under a blanket could recognize this administration’s incipient despotism. The lunacy of it all is in my face every single day from morning to night. I recommend VSB and Luvvie as commentators who can ease the pain for a few moments at a time by expressing our national predicament with concision, insight and outrage.

March to fascism no. 1

I thought I’d better start collecting these because, you know.

“America Becomes a Stan” by Paul Krugman

Americans used to find the antics of these regimes, with their tinpot dictators, funny. But who’s laughing now?

“Trump private security force ‘playing with fire’” by Kenneth P. Vogel

Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks declined to respond to a series of questions about the private security officials, who is paying them, their relationship with the Secret Service, whether they’re armed and what their roles will be after inauguration.

The backpack incident

Ever been smacked in the head by your own whiteness, assuming you are white?

I’m in the supermarket waiting to buy a pound of salmon when I realize someone is trying to get my attention. “Ma’am? Ma’am?” she says to me. She is a brown-skinned woman with her hair in a ponytail. “I was just admiring your”—here I assume she’s going to say “coat,” as I am wearing a truly awesome garnet-colored vintage bouclé coat—“backpack.”

The thing about my backpack is until recently it said “Black Lives Matter,” discreetly, in Sharpied letters on gray canvas. Last week I got a paint pen and operated on the letters until they were much more noticeable. Aha! I think. “Oh, thanks!” I say. Read more

Reading white supremacy against the grain

I read a jaw-dropping book by Howard Jacobson called J. Jacobson is known for writing about what Philip Roth terms “that topic called The Jews.” So this dystopian fantasy set in some kind of Anglo-Teutonic coastal village seems like a real departure at first. Until you notice that every single character has a Jewish name. And that a very Jewish sense of dread hangs over everything. And that the one word never used in the book is “Jew.” Read more

Rewatching “The Wire”

If you follow my Twitter, you may know I’m getting #divorced. So far it’s going pretty well. Not to say I haven’t had some major feels, and more feel things will probably come my way, but overall, I can’t complain. Not when my alimony is being paid in pulps.

One of the things I decided to do for myself this post-divoss winter was re-watch every episode of “The Wire.” I couldn’t remember when I saw it originally, so I searched my Gmail, which is keeping my history for me (here’s a disturbing quote on that subject from the greatest zombie book ever). Apparently I first watched the show in the spring and summer of 2010. So it’s been over four years, and in that time I’ve rewatched Season One once. I finished S1 for the third time last week and yesterday moved on to Season Two. It was Ta-Nehisi Coates’s spirited Twitter defense of S2 that made me want to do the whole thing all over again, but I still find this season less compelling, and for the same reason I did originally: because it’s less Black. Read more