Links That Changed Me January 2021
Since my university opted to give us an eternally long break (almost two months!) and cancel spring breaks and reading weeks for the coming semester, I have spent a lot more time than usual reading articles. I had high hopes of reading the first book in a fantasy series, but it can be hard to settle into world-creation when you’re staying with family, and when white supremacist extremists stage a coup at the Capitol.
Whenever significant political or social events occur that trigger my trauma response, I have to work really hard to control what type of media and information I consume. I tend to put myself on a social media break within hours or days, because the constant influx of self-branding and press releases (especially the ones that are just a sweeping “Do better!” to no target in particular) send me into a cascade of overwhelm.
One thing I’ve been thinking about is how “White people, get your house in order” messaging has so preoccupied the last four years of my “activism” that I’ve failed to take on more effective strategies. Despite my best, most persistent, most pressing attempts at making my family turn away from Trumpism, they are more entrenched than ever.
I wish that, instead of trying to ameliorate my own guilt by forming them in my own image, I had focused in on the community work that I can more readily control. I wish I had been able to see that the transformation I was trying to work in my family was, in so many ways, about redeeming my own identity. I haven’t given up on the work of transformation, but I can’t do that work in good faith while my own ego is tangled up with their ways of being (there’s an article below that helped me solidify some of these ideas). It turns out you can’t make people agree with you just because they love you.
In news-related news, I have really enjoyed getting the morning news brief from New York Times. It’s a way to make sure I know the gist of what’s going on without spiraling. You can sign up for the daily email without paying for a subscription.
I’m not including a ton of think-pieces/articles on the attempted coup only because I assume that most of you have done quite a bit of reading on it already.
What I’ve Been Reading
“Promises of soul, purpose, and togetherness may sound nice coming from the figures and networks we’ve come to rely on for a sense of belonging, but without the shared goals or implied mutuality of actual communities, these PR-approved overtures are simply exploiting an urgent need. Brands parading as people and people parading as brands—the LARPing we’ve come to recognize as discourse—isn’t the answer to our collective estrangement from shared meaning.”
“Deciding which people to keep in or out of one’s life has become an important strategy to achieve that happiness. While there’s nothing especially modern about family conflict or a desire to feel insulated from it, conceptualizing the estrangement of a family member as an expression of personal growth as it is commonly done today is almost certainly new.”
“Cahoots teams work in 12-hour shifts, mostly responding without the police. Each van is staffed by a medic (usually an EMT or a nurse) and a crisis worker, typically someone with a background in mental-health support or street outreach, who takes the lead in conversation and de-escalation. Most people at White Bird make $18 an hour (it’s a “nonhierarchical” organization; internal decisions are made by consensus), and some have day jobs elsewhere.”
Note: this is definitely not the last word on policing reform and/or abolition, but perhaps serves as an alternative model with real-life case studies.
“One core feature of Trumpism is that it forces you to betray every other commitment you might have: to the truth, moral character, the Sermon on the Mount, conservative principles, the Constitution. In defeat, some people are finally not willing to sacrifice all else on Trump’s altar.”
“He knew, as I’m sure others knew, that riots would not rewrite the Constitution. They aren’t meant to. But on the platforms, where these images will be shared and reshared as evidence of victory, the figures with the big followings will amass a bigger audience and greater influence. It will not matter that the mob did not directly change the results of the election. “We were there,” they will say, recounting a version of events that puts them at the center of the action. Like any good influencer knows, it’s all in the framing.”
”This world is full of conflicts and full of things that cannot be reconciled,’ Cohen has said, ‘but there are moments when we can transcend the dualistic system and reconcile and embrace the whole mess, and that’s what I mean by ‘Hallelujah.’ That regardless of what the impossibility of the situation is, there is a moment when you open your mouth and you throw open your arms and you embrace the thing and you just say, ‘Hallelujah! Blessed is the name.’…”
“Still, brands continue to promulgate the illusion that the entire issue rests with greedy factory owners. This is simply not true. I’m not saying that all garment factories are paragons of virtue. But even the best suppliers and factories in the world cannot operate, much less pay their employees fairly and provide a safe working environment, in these conditions. In short, disrespect and exploitation of suppliers mean disrespect and exploitation of garment workers.”
MLK’s last speech, in which he addressed striking sanitation workers, was delivered on April 3, 1968, the day before he was murdered.
“It’s all right to talk about ‘long white robes over yonder,’ in all of its symbolism. But ultimately people want some suits and dresses and shoes to wear down here. It’s all right to talk about ‘streets flowing with milk and honey,’ but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here, and his children who can’t eat three square meals a day. It’s all right to talk about the new Jerusalem, but one day, God’s preachers must talk about the New York, the new Atlanta, the new Philadelphia, the new Los Angeles, the new Memphis, Tennessee. This is what we have to do.”
I leave you with two links:
- A slightly belated Christmas carol, courtesy of the virtual choir of which I am a member
- This recycled cutting board, which looks boring but has really good reviews (has anyone tried it?)