11/12/20 — The Gnashing of Teeth and the Smashing of Keyboards

Elections, Reactions, Distractions, and Calls to Action

The basic social fact in the country today is that people are divided: into the vulnerable and the secure, the treasured and the disposable, those who fear the police and those who feel better when they are around, those who fear a doctor’s visit and those who find it reassuring, those who can withdraw from a pandemic and those who are thrown into its front lines. The basic political fact is that people are afraid of one another — in all directions, wherever they fall on the lines of power and precariousness. At the end of the day, what they most want from politics is to keep out of the hands of the people they most fear, whoever those are. Any faction can thrive in this anxious ecology, but the left, which needs to use the state, can succeed only by helping to overcome it.

If there is no majority for majority rule itself, if members of a polity cannot stomach the idea of being ruled by one another, then democracy is not possible. Unable to make a world together, people will have to accept other arrangements that may at least keep them safe from one another. The rhetoric of common purpose and civic unity that came easy in the Long 1990s was spurious not because it was pernicious but because it was unreal. We were divided, along the lines the crisis has made so vivid. Struggle and world-making have to precede a greater unity and harmony, but they are worthwhile in part because they just might.”

“A key was to create deeply immersive story lines without allowing them to crash against the limits of reality. He was often successful, convincing his followers that they were living in a new country — even when very little of substance had actually been accomplished. His executive orders, for example — like one that pledged to protect people with pre-existing medical conditions — were often less acts of government than narrative tricks.”

A Little Bit of Cultural Writing, Please?

“The grandson of native Southerners, Vanlandingham-Dunn wanted to buy “Goodbye, Babylon.” But when he slid open its cedar box, twin rows of raw cotton balls surrounding the discs infuriated him, a tone-deaf symbol of the racist South his ancestors endured. He asked Lance to justify the design and balked at the simplistic explanation — cotton was a thread between poor people across the South, Lance offered, much like the music itself.

“I remember telling him, ‘If my grandfather would have seen that, he would have shot you,’” Vanlandingham-Dunn said from Philadelphia, where he is a writer. “I reminded Lance that white people weren’t enslaved or denigrated the same way Black people were. It’s fine to enjoy this music, but if you’re not paying attention to the situation of the people who created it, that’s a real problem.”

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