ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Monthly Archive: August 2017

Friday

18

August 2017

0

COMMENTS

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder

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Four Stars

Best for: People who see what is happening in the U.S. and want some quick tips on how to fight back.

In a nutshell: The subtitle says it all. Twenty lessons the guide our fight against the encroaching tyranny.

Line that sticks with me: “When exactly was the ‘again’ in the president’s slogan ‘Make America great again’? Hint: It is the same ‘again’ that we find in ‘Never again.’” (p 123)

Why I chose it: I was in a bookstore on Tuesday and saw this on a table. It looked like a book I could read quickly, and I was (and still am) really struggling with the best way for me personally to address what is happening in the U.S.

Review: Author Timothy Snyder is an expert on tyranny. His field of study is Eastern Europe history. And, according to Wikipedia, he and I went to the same school (LSE shout out!).

What I’m saying is, he seems to know what he’s talking about. And he uses his knowledge to share twenty quick tips (backed up by 1-4 pages of support) of what to look for, what to do, and how to handle ourselves as we face this administration and the current state of the nation.

A sampling of the tips: “Do not obey in advance.” “Believe in truth.” “Investigate.” “Establish a private life.” “Be calm when the unthinkable arrives.” Some of them are obvious to me ( “Be wary of paramilitaries.”); others were not as much (”Make eye contact and small talk.”). There were only a couple of times that I found myself raising my eyebrows – one when the tip seems to suggest that people who aren’t in the streets aren’t doing real work, and one that suggests that patriots agree to fight in wars. I think he believes the former; the latter may just have been the result of poor language choices.

This book doesn’t have all the answers, but it provides a good reference point for when I find myself reacting, but not sure if I want to react that way.

Thursday

17

August 2017

0

COMMENTS

White Rage by Carol Anderson

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Five Stars

Best for: All white people in the U.S. right now.

In a nutshell: Dr. Anderson shares a concise history of all the shit black people have gone through because of the anger white people feel when black people start to make even a little bit of progress.

Line that sticks with me: All of them. Seriously, I underlined, circled, or commented on all but maybe three pages in this book.

Okay, fine, here’s one: “Somehow many have convinced themselves that the man who pulled the Unites States back into some semblance of financial health, reduced unemployment to its lowest level in decades, secured health insurance for millions of citizens, ended one of our recent, all-too-intractable wars in the Middle East, reduced the staggering deficit he inherited from George W. Bush, and masterminded the takedown of Osama bin Laden actually hates America.” (p 157)

Why I chose it: Because after the tiki-torch white supremacist violent rally and the subsequent murder of a counter-protester and beating of a black man by these racist assholes, I needed to read something. So I went to my happy place, our local independent bookstore, and wandered around until I found this.

Review: This book is phenomenal. It is poetic and yet extremely straightforward. Dr. Anderson exercises an economy of language that I envy, as she is able to tell a compelling and undeniable history of racism against black people in the U.S. in just over 160 pages. But I thought it was much longer when I bought it, because Dr. Anderson includes OVER 60 PAGES of notes at the end. She isn’t just telling a story, she’s backing up each statement with a source.

Dr. Anderson divides the book into just five elegant chapters, plus a brief prologue and epilogue. Each chapter takes on a section of U.S. history: reconstruction, great migration, education segregation, backlash to civil rights, and the continued destruction of voting rights. The premise is that white people have such an inability to handle black people making any strides forward that they react with new and creative ways to work the system to try to push them back down.

The detail in each chapter is phenomenal. Dr. Anderson shows how horribly white people have treated black people in the this country every time there is a hint that they may be making some progress away from the discriminatory systems put in place by those same white people. How southern states passed laws to not just punish black people laboring within their state, but to prevent them from ever leaving to pursue better work elsewhere. How one school district closed its doors to all students for FIVE YEARS rather than integrate. How fuckers like Scott Walker (I originally wrote Wallace instead, probably since he seems to be the spiritual son of George Wallace) did everything they could to disenfranchise thousands of people in his state.

In the epilogue, Dr. Anderson mentions Republican candidate Donald Trump’s promise to “take our country back.” I hope that there is a paperback update in the works, and that she is able to add a section of what has happened in these past few years. I did, however, hear her on a podcast this week discussing Charlottesville. You can hear her in the August 16, 2017 episode here: http://www.npr.org/podcasts/510312/codeswitch

Reading this book with the current events in the background caused my jaw to tighten and my pulse to race. I’m not naive. I know that the history of white people in the country is horrific. I know that that history didn’t end with the Civil War, or the Civil Rights movement. I was not surprised by what happened in Charlottesville, nor was I surprised by the President* coming down firmly on the side of neo-Nazis and white supremacists. But this book brings some of that history home. It gives me something to point to if I encounter a white person who is ignorant of how what is going on today is not that different from what white people have been doing to black people since the Emancipation Proclamation, but has a genuine desire to learn more. It gives me specific examples to point to when the asshole white people I encounter act like this shit hasn’t been going on forever.

As I said up top, I think all white people in the U.S. need to read this book. Share it with people and keep it in mind as you take to the streets to stand up against white supremacists. But also keep it in mind when you’re at work and someone starts to complain about affirmative action, or you’re out with friends and someone tries to suggest that there’s no problem with voter ID laws, or your state legislature thinks its fine to continue using neighborhood property taxes to disparately fund schools. Because while we should all obviously be letting the Nazi cosplayers know their hate isn’t acceptable, we also need to know that not all racism comes in the form of a white hood or white polo shirt and khakis. It’s systemic and will take all of us working to change it.

Sunday

13

August 2017

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – August 13, 2017

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White Supremacist Violence

“The city of Charlottesville was engulfed by violence on Saturday as white nationalists and counterprotesters clashed in one of the bloodiest fights to date over the removal of Confederate monuments across the South. White nationalists had long planned a demonstration over the city’s decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee. But the rally quickly exploded into racial taunting, shoving and outright brawling, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency and the National Guard to join the police in clearing the area.” Man Charged After White Nationalist Rally in Charlottesville Ends in Deadly Violence (by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Brian M. Rosenthal for New York Times)

“Standing nearby, an assortment of Virginia State Police troopers and Charlottesville police wearing protective gear watched silently from behind an array of metal barricades — and did nothing. It was a scene that played out over and over in Charlottesville as law enforcement confronted the largest public gathering of white supremacists in decades. We walked the streets beginning in the early morning hours and repeatedly witnessed instances in which authorities took a largely laissez faire approach, allowing white supremacists and counter-protesters to physically battle.” Police Stood By As Mayhem Mounted in Charlottesville (by A.C. Thompson and Robert Faturechi for ProPublica)

“The US President has refused to condemn the actions of the neo-Nazis, skinheads, and members of the Ku Klux Klan who descended on the Virginia city on Saturday yelling racial abuse, brandishing flaming torches, carrying assault rifles and wearing paramilitary clothing. Speaking from a stage in a golf clubhouse, President Trump decried “violence on all sides” rather than explicitly taking aim at far-right extremists.” Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists applaud Donald Trump’s response to deadly violence in Virginia (by Maya Oppenheim for The Independent)

“Heather Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, told HuffPost that her daughter attended Saturday’s rally because she “was about bringing an end to injustice.” “Heather was not about hate, Heather was about stopping hatred,” Bro said through tears. “Heather was about bringing an end to injustice. I don’t want her death to be a focus for more hatred, I want her death to be a rallying cry for justice and equality and fairness and compassion.”” Heather Heyer ‘Murdered While Protesting Against Hate’ In Charlottesville, Friends Say (by Dominique Mosbergen , Andy Campbell for Huffpost)

Horrific Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Actions

“The Indiana chapter of the NAACP is suing state election officials to block a new law that would shutter hundreds of polling locations in a county with a large number of African American and Hispanic voters. The lawsuit, filed in federal court Wednesday, alleges that the law specifically targets a particular region of the state with a large minority, poor, and elderly population, impeding the ability of those voters to cast a ballot.” Indiana Is Making It Harder for Minorities to Vote, Lawsuit Alleges (by Pema Levy for Mother Jones)

Misogyny

“The manifesto expresses thoughts, beliefs and attitudes that are common to its author, Lépine, Rodger, and the domestic abusers Bancroft describes. It is written from a place of entitlement: like Lépine and Rodger but unlike some of the domestic abusers, the entitlement is not to just one specific woman’s attention and service, but rather, to special privileges as white men and to submission and deference from all women, and all people of color, and everybody else occupying a lower position in the social hierarchy. Like Lépine, he’s concerned that they’re taking our jobs.” Refusing to Empathize with Elliot Rodger: Taking Male Entitlement Seriously (by Tim Chevalier)

Sports

“Through it all Colin Kaepernick has remained silent. In his silence he has raised yet another mirror to reveal another ugly truth about another American institution. What’s left reflected is that Colin Kaepernick isn’t being blackballed because he knelt for the national anthem, he’s being blackballed because the NFL has (for decades) persuaded its patrons that what he is doesn’t exist: a three-dimensional, wholly human Black athlete.” Colin Kaepernick Isn’t Being Blackballed Because He Knelt for the Anthem (by André Carlisle)

“For many years, athletes have constantly been given additional chances because they are athletes. What does this say about rape culture? That athletes can do no wrong, that they can get away with anything because of how they perform on the field or in the gym?” the petition says. “Does he deserve a second chance? Yes, he does, and he is receiving that second chance by furthering his education on YSU’s campus. Does he deserve the privilege of playing on a football team and representing a university? Absolutely not. Education is a right, whereas playing on a sports team is not.” Athlete With a Past (by Scott Jaschik for Inside Higher Ed)

Criminal Punishment System

“Remote video calls will also be possible. Like phone calls from the jail, the visitors will be charged for video calls. Correctional officials said the fees have yet to be determined. The house of corrections is the first in the state to opt for video over in-person visits.” Massachusetts jail ending in-person visits, to only allow video calls (by Michelle Williams for Mass Live)

Xenophobia

“A quick look through PDC filings revealed that the biggest funders of Respect Washington, the group behind the repeal petition, is US Inc., an organization founded by John Tanton. Tanton—dubbed the “racist architect of the modern anti-immigration movement” by the Southern Poverty Law Center—and his organizations have been funding anti-immigrant activism and publishing white nationalist and white supremacist literature for decades.” Meet the Michigan-Based Anti-Immigrant Group Backing Burien’s Sanctuary City Repeal (by Sydney Brownstone for The Stranger)

Sexual Predators

“The fact remains that Allen is still a celebrated artist. His films appear at major festivals and are showered with awards, so if you’re an actor who wants those accolades, you’ll jump at the chance to work for him. You will even find an easy way to explain your reason for doing so.” Why Do Young Stars Like Selena Gomez Work With Woody Allen? (by Ira Madison III for The Daily Beast)

Health

“But it quickly became clear that “clean eating” was more than a diet; it was a belief system, which propagated the idea that the way most people eat is not simply fattening, but impure. Seemingly out of nowhere, a whole universe of coconut oil, dubious promises and spiralised courgettes has emerged. Back in the distant mists of 2009, James Duigan, owner of The Bodyism gym in London and sometime personal trainer to the model Elle MacPherson, published his first Clean and Lean book. As an early adopter of #eatclean, Duigan notes that he “battled” with his publisher “to include ingredients like kale and quinoa, because no one had ever heard of them”. Now quinoa is in every supermarket and kale has become as normal as lettuce. “I long for the days when clean eating meant not getting too much down your front,” the novelist Susie Boyt joked recently.” Why we fell for clean eating (by Bee Wilson for The Guardian)

Saturday

12

August 2017

0

COMMENTS

Surpassing Certainty by Janet Mock

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Four Stars

Best for: Fans of Ms. Mock’s writing and those interested in learning more about her life; people interested in a tight memoir focused on just a few years of early adulthood.

In a nutshell: Author Janet Mock shares part of the story she chose not to include in her first memoir “Redefining Realness.”

Line that sticks with me: “I did not have the luxury to sulk, though. I could not wallow. I could not let my bitterness affect the quality of my work. Doing so would only make it harder for those coming after me.”

Why I chose it: I enjoyed Ms. Mock’s first memoir and wanted to read more.

Review: It took me awhile to get really into this book. I’m not sure if it was because of the week I was having, but it took me about a week to read the first half and just an afternoon to finish it. I’m glad I pushed through, because it’s a great read.

Ms. Mock shared her journey as a trans woman in her first memoir. However, she left out her first romantic relationship and marriage, which she delves into in this book. She explores her work as an exotic dancer, her time in college in Rhode Island and Hawaii, her marriage to a man in the Navy, and her pursuit of a journalism career in New York City.

She is candid about the challenges in her relationship, and about the challenges she had in undergraduate and graduate school, and as a woman of color in publishing. Her moments of revelation around colorism and around her confidence being perceived negatively are especially poignant.

Ms. Mock writes in language that is a bit flowery for my preference, but she tells a great story. This is not to say that I think she do anything different; sometimes I find her writing feels more like a novel than creative non-fiction. And perhaps that is a good thing; I just can find it a bit challenging to navigate. But clearly that’s not a barrier for me, as I still picked this up having read her first book.

Sunday

6

August 2017

0

COMMENTS

Matilda by Roald Dahl

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Five Stars

Best for: Kids. Adults. Humans. Other.

In a nutshell: Very smart young woman Matilda uses her mind to fight back against those who treat her — and the people she cares about — poorly.

Line that sticks with me: “Of course you looked! You must have looked! No one in the world could give the right answer just like that, especially a girl! You’re a little cheat, madam, that’s what you are! A cheat and a liar!”

Why I chose it: As part of our library’s summer reading challenge, one of the BINGO squares is a book recommended by a young person. My eight-year-old niece recommended this one.

Review: I don’t think I’ve ever read a Roald Dahl book. I know, I know. No James and the Giant Peach, no BFG. I first heard about Matilda through Mara Wilson’s (grown-up) writing a few years back, since she played her in the film. So I had a very basic understanding of the book’s plot, but not much more than that.

I started it at lunch and didn’t put it down until I was done. I loved how smart and kind and capable Matilda is. I loved that she uses her brain to help people, but also that she isn’t so absurdly wise beyond her years that you don’t believe she’s only five. And I loved that it showed sometimes adults are wrong and sometimes adults are right. That you kids should speak up for themselves.

I do have to say … as lovely as Miss Honey is, she and all the other adults at the school really were completely failing at protecting those children from Miss Trunchbull. I don’t care how intimidated you are by your boss, if she treats kids that way you do something about it. Yikes.

Sunday

6

August 2017

0

COMMENTS

How to Be a Bad Bitch by Amber Rose

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Two Stars

Best for: People who like Amber Rose; people who like glossy how-to book with lots of pictures and not a lot of text.

In a nutshell: Amber Rose offers some (I suppose not totally shockingly) heteronormative advice to woman.

Line that sticks with me: “Don’t follow trends if they don’t look good on you.” [Note: but why not? What if you like the way they look? Does she mean if *you* don’t’ think they look good, or if society doesn’t?]

Why I chose it: It looked like it could be fun.

Review: This book is fine. Some parts – like the push to cultivate confidence and not change yourself for others – are laudible. Other parts are so focused on the idea that women will want to date men that I’m curious whether Ms. Rose is aware that non-heterosexual people exist.

In the first couple of chapters there are some clear product placements; I can tell you what skincare brand Ms. Rose uses, and what body shaping undergarment brand she prefers. I was worried this was going to carry on throughout the entire book, but that was it.

There are photos of Ms. Rose on pretty much every page. Most are glamour shots, but some are of her as a kid and teen, which are fun and sweet. There are also some good tips in here, but none that are especially groundbreaking or new, and some strike me as oddly old fashioned and gendered. She makes some pretty sweeping generalizations about what ‘men’ and ‘women’ are like, which is fairly uninspired.

Sunday

6

August 2017

0

COMMENTS

What I’m Reading – August 6, 2017

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Horrific Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary Action

““Passage of this bill would be a major step toward rationalizing and modernizing the federal immigration program,” Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the right-leaning policy organization Center for Immigration Studies, told ThinkProgress in an exchange over Twitter. “It does this in two major ways, first, it reserves special immigration rights only for husbands, wives, and young children of residents. Second, it cleans up our tangle of employment-based immigration categories by creating a streamlined points system designed to select exceptional talents.”” Republican senators introduce bill sharply limiting legal immigration (by Esther Yu Hsi Lee for Think Progress)

Racism

“That so many of these policies are based on perception and lies rather than reality is nothing new. White resentment has long thrived on the fantasy of being under siege and having to fight back, as the mass lynchings and destruction of thriving, politically active black communities in Colfax, La. (1873), Wilmington, N.C. (1898), Ocoee, Fla. (1920), and Tulsa, Okla. (1921), attest. White resentment needs the boogeyman of job-taking, maiden-ravaging, tax-evading, criminally inclined others to justify the policies that thwart the upward mobility and success of people of color.” The Policies of White Resentment (by Carol Anderson for The New York Times)

““The NAACP is a membership-based advocacy organization that has worked for generations to protect the hard-fought freedoms of all American citizens—freedoms which are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution—and one of the most basic of those freedoms is the ability to freely travel from state-to-state without fear of threat, violence or harm,” said Derrick Johnson, interim president and CEO. “The numerous racist incidents, and the statistics cited by the Missouri Attorney General in the advisory, namely the fact that African Americans in Missouri are 75 percent more likely to be stopped and searched by law enforcement officers than Caucasians, are unconscionable, and are simply unacceptable in a progressive society.” Travel Advisory for the State Missouri

Workplace Culture

“The person who wrote the document argued that the representation gap between men and women in software engineering persists because of biological differences between the two sexes, according to public tweets from Google employees. It also said Google should not offer programs for underrepresented racial or gender minorities, according to one of the employees I spoke to.” Google Employee’s Anti-Diversity Manifesto Goes ‘Internally Viral’ (by Louise Matsakis for Motherboard)

Transphobia

“The hosts laugh after using my image as a literal prop — just days after I was a guest on the same show — for laughs, vitriol, and a deeper call and justification for violence. Just so we are all clear: On a black program that often advocates for the safety and lives of black people, its hosts laughed as their guest advocated for the murder of black trans women who are black people, too!” Dear Men of “The Breakfast Club”: Trans Women Aren’t a Prop, Ploy, or Sexual Predators (by Janet Mock for Allure)

Sexual Abuse

““We aren’t investigators,” Dispenza continued, “but when several allegations or accusations are raised against a prominent leader, we can’t remain silent. We do believe that Mayor Ed Murray needs to resign—and do it now.” SNAP’s national organization, which counts 20,000 members, stood behind the call for Murray’s resignation, said Dispenza, herself the survivor of childhood sexual abuse. When it was founded, the group focused on abuse by religious figures, but has since expanded to support all victims of sexual abuse, she said. The organization is calling for either Murray’s resignation or the city council’s removal of him from office.” Network of Sexual Abuse Survivors Calls for Mayor Ed Murray’s Resignation (by Heidi Groover for The Stranger)

Democratic Politics

“The optics here are not good — especially given the attacks on Hillary Clinton, Kirsten Gillibrand, and even Elizabeth Warren just for endorsing Clinton during the last cycle. Cooper assures us that racism and misogyny play no role, and that to assert they do is just a cynical attempt by centrists “to win dirty.” But if racism and misogyny play no role, then why is it only men of color and women who come up for this sort of scrutiny?” “Sanders Democrats” Don’t Own the Left (By Melissa McEwan for Shakesville)

“On Monday, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), the DCCC chariman, told The Hill that financial support would not necessarily be withheld from anti-abortion candidates. As Lujan said, “there is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates. As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America.” Some found this position strange, while others saw it as unacceptable.” Here’s How Men Reacted When This Woman Asked Them If They’d Give Up Their Civil Rights (by Almie Rose for ATTN)

“I relate to the flailing panic that is no doubt undergirding such a morally putrescent idea. Nineteen hyenas and a broken vacuum cleaner control the White House, and ice is becoming extinct. I get it. I am desperate and afraid as well. I am prepared to make leviathan compromises to pull us back from that brink. But there is no recognizable version of the Democratic Party that does not fight unequivocally against half its constituents’ being stripped of ownership of their own bodies and lives. This issue represents everything Democrats purport to stand for. To legislatively oppose abortion is to be, at best, indifferent to the disenfranchisement, suffering and possibly even the death of women. At worst it is to revel in those things, to believe them fundamental to the natural order. Where, exactly, on that spectrum is Luján comfortable placing his party?” Of Course Abortion Should Be a Litmus Test for Democrats (by Lindy West for The New York Times)

Saturday

5

August 2017

0

COMMENTS

If You Lived Here, I’d know Your Name

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Three Stars

Best for: People about to visit or who have just visited rural Alaska; people who like short slice-of-life stories.

In a nutshell: Obituary writer and Haines resident shares stories of life in a rural Alaskan town.

Line that sticks with me: “Following an old Haines rule, we dressed for the weather, not the vehicle.” p 19

Why I chose it: Two weeks ago I was on a cruise in Southeast Alaska, and took an excursion through Haines. It was a gorgeous part of the country, and when I saw this book in a store at our next stop, I decided to pick it up.

Review: Author Heather Lende is a journalist for one of the two local papers in Haines, population 2,400. About 15% of the residents are Tlingit, and pretty much everyone participates in some form of hunting, subsistence fishing, or dramatic outdoor activity like snowshoe hiking.

As you might expect from this book, there is a lot of talk about how Haines is the best place on earth, and how the people who live there are a different type, but Ms. Lende is also honest in examining some of the downfalls and challenges of choosing such a life. If someone is seriously injured during a snowstorm, they might not be able to get evacuated out. Their closest level one trauma center is in Seattle. Because of the types of jobs one can find in town, there are deaths from fishing accidents, or small aircraft crashes.

Many — but not all — of the stories relate to a death, which makes sense, since Ms. Lende is an obituary writer. But some are just about other components of life, whether adopting a daughter from overseas, or working with a political opponent on a fundraiser for medical bills.

This book is well written, but there are some parts that I found questionable. The first is the chapter when Ms. Lende goes to adopt her daughter. She repeatedly uses the term G*psy instead of Roma to refer to her daughter’s birth family. Not cool.

There’s also a chapter about political disagreements that is meant to come across as teaching the reader a lesson about how you can still come together and have pleasant times with people you disagree with. Unfortunately, the disagreement she and this man in the story had was essentially over the humanity of members of the LGBTQ community, so I had a hard time with the ‘let’s all get along’ nature of brushing that very real issue under the rug.

I enjoyed reading this, but I wouldn’t really say I recommend it.