Shouting in Silence: 9/11 and the Importance of Saying Nothing Revisited

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As August comes to a close, the dog days of summer end, leaving before everyone the distance of Fall. For some like myself, Fall remains the premier season of the year. The air cools, football, England’s Premier League (EPL), and basketball commence and the business of work begins. In its own way, Autumn initiates a sort of professional renewal. For New Yorkers (and yes those in Washington D.C. as well) though, Labor Day marks the uncomfortable memory of an impending milestone many would rather forget, 9/11. Unfortunately as the fifteenth anniversary of this national tragedy approaches, a cacophony of rhetoric seems to be greeting it. When I orginally wrote this post a couple of years back, … [Read more...]

Colin Kaepernick’s Critics Only Care about Symbolism and Ignore Substance

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As for many American boys, sports were a staple of my life growing up in the 90s and it was rare to hear about contemporary athletes taking stands on political or social issues. Sure, there was Mohammed Ali, Jim Brown, John Carlos and Tommie Lee, but that was a different era and the urgency that impelled their activism seemed out of place at the time (in the mind of a white, middle class kid). The reigning most-famous athlete in the world at the time, one Michael Jordan, made it clear that he was not interested in wading into politics. When asked to support Harvey Gantt, an African American running against racist Republican North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms in 1990, Jordan reportedly (and … [Read more...]

Kaepernick’s Protest Gesture and the Militarization of Professional Sports

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Colin Kaepernick’s recent gesture has shaken up the sports world because he has refused to take part in one of professional, and amateur-level, sports’ most normalized rituals: the playing of the national anthem. The gesture has made an impact not solely because he is denouncing the current state of US race relations, but because his gesture exposes some of the real contradictions in professional sports as key sites for normalizing nationalism, militarism, hetero-normative-patriarchy, and social darwinist ideology. This nexus is perhaps best described as the militarization of professional sport. Spending too much time watching professional sporting events might even lead one to believe … [Read more...]

Artisanal Despair and Farm-to-Table White Nationalism: Watching Trump in Austin

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On Tuesday, after watching hip youngsters juggle dildos in protest of Texas’s new campus carry law (cocks not glocks!), I headed over to the Trump rally in east Austin. It’s a strange place for a Trump rally, and not just because it’s a blue island in a vast red sea. Austin's unemployment rate checks in at 3.6 percent, its population growth rate—around 20 percent—is one of the highest in the country, and it’s also the safest of Texas’s big cities. It’s not exactly the place where you’d expect a depiction of the country as a crime-ridden, impoverished hellscape to be well received. But it mostly was, though you can probably chalk this up to the basic nature of campaign rallies. I’ve been to … [Read more...]

The Triumph of the TA: Graduate Students and the Future of Postindustrial Labor

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On Tuesday afternoon, I got the most welcome news I’ve gotten in a long time. In a 3-1 vote, the National Labor Relations Board reversed a Bush-era decision that denied graduate student employees at private universities the right to unionize. This news might seem both trivial and esoteric.  After all, the wording of the last sentence implies an exceedingly narrow and likely small slice of the overall workforce—that’s the esoteric part. And the fact that it has to do with, to a significant extent, PhD students at the likes of Yale, NYU, and Columbia—well, we are not exactly talking about an eleven-year-old toiling in the dark Satanic mill of yore.  Such students might seem privileged and … [Read more...]

The Miranda-Obama Collaboration (From Hamilton to Puerto Rico)

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On March 14, President Barack Obama welcomed the company of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton to a special White House performance.  In his introductory remarks, Obama celebrated Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop rendering of Alexander Hamilton’s “quintessentially American story,” and quickly identified the reason why the show has become a “cultural phenomenon.”  “In each brilliantly crafted song,” said the president, “we hear the debates that shaped our nation, and we hear the debates that are still shaping our nation.” Shifting to the same playful tone that has characterized his other recent public appearances, Obama even staked a claim to his own role in getting the show off the ground.  He … [Read more...]

No, American Citizenship Is Not Necessarily Inclusive

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The rise of Donald Trump has induced a collective shudder through much of America.  For many, the GOP nominee is jeopardizing our most cherished ideals, a broad and capacious sense of who could be an American citizen, and norms that forbid open and outright expression of racist sentiment. The last Republican president at least had the decency to insist that Islam is a “religion of peace,” however destructive his policies might have been to actual Muslims, at home and abroad. Liberals and more than a few conservatives find themselves saying, This is not us.  This is not the America we know. Michael Gerson recently penned one of the more impassioned statements in this genre, looking aghast … [Read more...]

Dog Days Classics: Digging Joan Didion in the Age of Feelings

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In her review of 2015’s The Last Love Song, Tracy Daugherty’s biography of famed writer Joan Didion, Meghan Daum noted the influence that the California essayist and novelist cast upon many a writer over the years. That The Last Love Song serves as the only biography of Didion, she noted, seemed odd. “Given the number of writers who, especially early in their literary lives, go through a period of Didion-mania intense enough to put most of her vital statistics permanently at their fingertips (the rain-soaked silk curtains in the apartment on 75th Street! the house on Franklin Avenue! the Corvette!),” Daum wrote, “you would think we’d have seen at least as many biographies of her in the past … [Read more...]

Newt’s Predictably Gonzo Dissertation: Belgian Colonialism For the Win!

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Eric Foner once said that the worst possible form of government would be government by academics.  Anyone acquainted with higher education and academe knows in their bones that this is among the truest statements ever uttered by man. The typical faculty meeting is enough to prove the point, but look at the facts: America has only had one president with a PhD, the political scientist, former Princeton president, and priggish racist Woodrow Wilson.  That went well.  (As the estimable W.E.B. Du Bois put it in 1918, watching Wilson preen before the fawning masses of war-torn Europe, “He smiled and bowed right and left and seemed to have no apprehension of the difficulty, perhaps the … [Read more...]

The Complexity of the Present: Black Lives Matter, History, and Balancing Conflicting Ideas

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“Whatever may be our quarrel with our fellow citizens in times of peace,” William Dawson wrote to the NAACP on April 10, 1917. “ [I]n times of national danger it is our duty to lay aside for a while the family feud and rally to the call against a common enemy and as long as we claim citizenship, we must respond to the call.”[1] Only days before, President Woodrow Wilson had committed the nation to World War I and the U.S., with a military ranked somewhere between 17th and 20th internationally, had to conscript an army. Earlier that Spring the government, anticipating the possibility of war and pressured by black leaders like Washington D.C. Reverend J. Milton Waldron and his Committee of … [Read more...]