...the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life...

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Okinawa, 1960

Okinawa, 1960, a woman
born Marilyn pets her new dog Skoshi.
She drives an MG.
Her husband’s an aviator, away
whenever typhoons come,
to keep the airplanes safe.
They live in beige government housing,
perched above a rice paddy.
Beyond it is the East China Sea, then China,
invisible. She is two years
from bearing their first child.
The couple have known each other
less than one year. The flight
from the States took thirty hours
and when she leaves the island
with son and husband in 1962
she’ll leave the car and dog behind.
She goes by Kay and will be
ten years hence my mother, and
I might not be getting all details right,
but this is a story I’ve learned
casually, repeatedly, over years
that have peeled off patiently,
and which have lately lost that virtue.

Always remember,

Wall Street, reaping record profits, is the real victim.

More Remarkable Journalism

This time about the global problem of garbage.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Trump and Race

He made a farce of his populist campaign by putting bankers in charge of the economy and industry insiders at the head of the federal agencies established to regulate their businesses. But other campaign promises have been more faithfully enacted: his ban on travelers from Muslim-majority countries; the unleashing of immigration-enforcement agencies against anyone in the country illegally regardless of whether he poses a danger; an attempt to cut legal immigration in half; and an abdication of the Justice Department’s constitutional responsibility to protect black Americans from corrupt or abusive police, discriminatory financial practices, and voter suppression. In his own stumbling manner, Trump has pursued the race-based agenda promoted during his campaign. As the president continues to pursue a program that places the social and political hegemony of white Christians at its core, his supporters have shown few signs of abandoning him.  
One hundred thirty-nine years since Reconstruction, and half a century since the tail end of the civil-rights movement, a majority of white voters backed a candidate who explicitly pledged to use the power of the state against people of color and religious minorities, and stood by him as that pledge has been among the few to survive the first year of his presidency. Their support was enough to win the White House, and has solidified a return to a politics of white identity that has been one of the most destructive forces in American history. This all occurred before the eyes of a disbelieving press and political class, who plunged into fierce denial about how and why this had happened. That is the story of the 2016 election.


My initial thought is that the article the above passage is from is a tour-de-force, but I'm still processing it. A must-read, regardless.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Republicans in the current moment

"For eight years, the notion of a gangster government using its power to punish its enemies existed as a lurid persecution fantasy on the right. Now it is being touted as a governing blueprint."


The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Tracy [Katherine Hepburn]: Snob.
Mike [Jimmy Stewart]: What do ya mean, snob?
Tracy:                                  You're the worst kind there is. 
                                                       An intellectual snob. You made 
                                                       up your mind awfully young, 
                                                       it seems to me.
Mike:                                   Well, thirty's about time to make up 
                                                        your mind. And I'm nothing of 
                                                        the sort, not Mr. Connor.
Tracy:                                  The time to make up your mind 
                                                        about people is never.

Friday, November 17, 2017

What I teach

One of the main staples of my teaching career lo these past fifteen years is close reading. Students take many of the classes I teach because they are required, and many ask (they really do) what benefit to their lives these classes will have for them. Here's an answer: To be able to use your close reading skills to discern when you're being hoodwinked by your leaders. As in the following passage, which, excepting its unfortunate metaphor, shows critical thinking in action:
Trump made another comment in passing that deserves more attention. Speaking of Putin, and expressing his fear that continued investigation into Russian election interference would upset relations between the two countries, Trump said, “I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country.” 
Consider how unusual a statement this is, especially coming from Trump. Trump is assuming that Putin is a sensitive soul who might be personally wounded by unflattering portrayals in the American media. He is further asserting that Putin’s emotional distress might cause him to lash out at the United States or harm its foreign-policy interests in some way. Trump is speaking to his country like a cowering mother warning her children not to upset their father.