Things I’m Verbing: Flora, fallout and floating birds

Did you hear the one about the trans reporter who lost her job because of pressure from activists?

I keep following the Chicago Dyke March story because I can’t look away. There is so much evidence I still want to see, and yet so much hatefulness keeps erupting from actors and observers both. In the past week or so, the official CDM Twitter account has reveled in an antisemitic slur it claims it didn’t realize was quite that bad, while the trans Jewish woman who broke the story appears to have been relieved of her reporting duties after harassment from CDM supporters. I want to share a piece by the always-worthwhile David Shraub: “Not Knowing ‘Zio’ Is a Slur Is an Indictment, Not a Defense.”

[T]he implication of their apologia is that not that they are free from racism — far from it. It’s that they grew up in an environment where racism was so normalized that they didn’t even know how to recognize it. Such a situation demands some very hard work of unlearning, of radically questioning one’s own presuppositions and acknowledging that one needs to acquire substantial new information before one can feel confident in one’s ability to relate to the other group in an ethical manner.

[…] I’ve long thought that the heart of oppression as a discursive practice is a perceived entitlement to talk about a group without knowing about the group. The Chicago Dyke March pleads ignorance about Jews and antisemitism, but that ignorance in no way dissipates their belief that they are absolutely entitled to talk about Jews and Jewish institutions however they want and be treated as credible and legitimate entrants to the discussion.

I also really liked this point by Emma Needleman:

As someone who went from anti-Zionist to becoming a Zionist, a big part of what changed me was realizing that the Jewish communities that tended to be the most Zionistic were also the most precarious: working class, less “rooted” in their home countries (former USSR, Latin America, Middle East/North Africa), recent immigrant status, facing political turmoil or rising ant-semitism.

For a little more on that, see the 49-minute documentary The Forgotten Refugees for first-person accounts from some of the nearly 1 million Mizrahi Jews forced from ancient communities in MENA countries after World War II and who now make up more than 50 percent of the Israeli populace. Especially watch this if you believe that Zionism is no more than a manifestation of colonialist white supremacy. I hope it complicates your worldview no matter how you’re coming to it.

Anyway, that’s all still terrible. How’s the rest of the world?

  • For a truly staggering look at how the past never really leaves us, read Lacy Johnson’s monumental investigative piece for Guernica, “The Fallout.” In the idyllic suburbs of St. Louis, no one knew that the reason so many were getting sick was intimately tied to, of all things, the Manhattan Project.
  • For a certain kind of person, it sounds great, doesn’t it? Work remotely from Bali (or wherever!), without interrupting your communal and administrative needs. Jessa Crispin’s “The Unsettled,” for the Outline, examines a utopian vision for globe-trotting future-of-work winners, which, naturally, isn’t so great for the ~exotic getaways that host them.
  • It’s not that I love bread so much that I always need to have it, but baking sourdough bread from starter is proving a fascinating challenge for me (and I definitely have not yet mastered it). Marcus Woo, writing for NPR, looks into the microbiomes of delicious carbs, as scientists try to figure out what makes your local loaf taste so particular. Pair (tragically!) with this Bloomberg piece about the possible imminent extinction of Camembert cheese.
  • Please read Frances Lee’s “Excommunicate Me From the Church of Social Justice.” Think also about Yair Rosenberg’s excellent new term, “cultural McCarthyism.”
  • There’s a gold-plated phonograph record hurtling through space, carrying with it audio demonstrations of our global humanity. One sound on the record is a laugh — but whose? The answer will delight you, and hopefully remind us all that the world can still be good.

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Bad conspiracies, bad monopolies and good sleep

Well, this week sure is continuing (and this story continues to develop even as I type up this post). At least we’ve got Andy Serkis on our side.

Well, this week sure is continuing (and this story continues to develop even as I type up this post). At least we’ve got Andy Serkis on our side:

  • Instead of more of all that, dig into this New York Times piece on musicologist Alan Lomax, who dedicated his career to preserving and elevating American folk traditions. It’s not just about the newly opened free archive of his recordings — we also need to ask ourselves about the difference between honoring culture and mummifying it.
  • I already have many beefs with Amazon, Jeff Bezos’ rescue of the Washington Post aside. At the New Republic, Matthew Stoller implores Democrats to remember their trust-busting roots as Amazon ascends to true monopoly. For the Nation, David Dayen considers how Amazon is not just bad for the economy, but for the entrepreneurial spirit itself.
  • Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse is one of those Republicans liberal Twitter can get behind. But like Maine’s Sen. Susan Collins and Arizona’s Sen. John McCain, his voting record is at odds with his reputation. Writing for Slate, Ben Mathis-Lilley digs into the dangers of performative decency with “The Wasted Mind of Ben Sasse.”
  • Kids and teens rejoice: Per Maggie Koerthe-Baker at FiveThirtyEight, sleep “problems” are societal.
  • If you’ve muted “thread” on Twitter, developer Darius Kazemi might have an amazing new app for you. Spooler turns long Twitter threads into blog posts, so they can be read as they were freaking meant to be read. Have at.

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Elephant seals, kidney pools and new words for a weird future

TFW you spend a year chasing down evidence of Trump’s collusion with Russia, and then Trump Jr. scoops you on Twitter.

That… sure has been some morning!

  • How about a nice history of skateboarding from 99% Invisible?
  • Or, from On the Media, a look at how science fiction is tackling climate change? It’s not all doom and gloom — one of the piece’s loveliest features is the words listeners made up to describe the new environmental realities we may face in coming years. See also: Atlas Obscura’s great piece on demonyms, and where you come from if you’re a Leodensian.
  • Also related to the future: from Pacific Standard, “The Fallacy of Endless Growth.”
  • Via Quartz: It turns out we understand calories a lot less than we think we do.
  • Last night, I saw Spider-Man: Homecoming, and it was a complete and utter delight. I wouldn’t call it a terrifically deep film, which is a great strength — emotionally, it’s great, but it doesn’t ask big questions like even other Marvel movies (e.g., my all-time No. 1, Captain America: The Winter Soldier). That’s my awkward segue into a piece of excellent pop culture criticism from Angelica Jade Bastién, writing for Vulture. Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, a Civil War-era story about Southern belles that features no people of color, has drawn lots of criticism for its oblivious whiteness. Bastién, however, offers a different perspective in “How The Beguiled Subtly Tackles Race Even When You Don’t See It.”

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Lady Lindy, the Queen of Diamonds and your next Angelica Schuyler

I just saw the Yankees play the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, my first professional baseball game in about eight or nine years. I found it hilarious and delightful, but truth be told, I only have one true love when it comes to baseball.

I hope you laughed at that — happy Friday, gang! Fun fact: Arlo Guthrie and I share a birthday, which is coming up this Monday. Fingers crossed we get some good news?

Until then…

  • I almost don’t care if it’s sort of a conspiracy theory at this point, I’m fascinated by this proposition that Amelia Earhart survived and wound up in the Marshall Islands.
  • You know how much I love nonfiction comics (in addition to all the other kinds); recently we’ve had two exploring a subject close and dear to my heart. At CityLab, Ariel Aberg-Riger (whose work I’ve loved before) has written and illustrated a gorgeous, poignant piece about Mr. Rogers and what makes Americans hunger for his kind of neighborhood. Meanwhile, at Longreads, Candace Rose Rardon is a world traveler, but she’s found meaning in one global commonality: “Home Is a Cup of Tea.”
  • For Kajal, Nadya Agrawal pushes on a trope we’ve seen in multiple acclaimed “South Asian man is just a normal American guy” films and TV shows: “Why Don’t Brown Women Deserve Love Onscreen?” Responding on Twitter to a related essay from BuzzFeed (“Why Are Brown Men So Infatuated With White Women Onscreen?“), S.I. Rosenbaum digs into something that both essays miss: “When the author says ‘quirky,’ he means ‘Jewish.'” For more on Jews, particularly American Ashkenazi Jews, and whiteness, see Tumblr use Salt Dragon, writing on Jay-Z’s not-really philosemitic lyrics and what many urban Jews became after World War II.
    • I posted this over a holiday weekend, so if you missed it, I wrote up how Jewishness and Israelis don’t fit into a POC/white, colonist/indigenous binary and how otherwise committed anti-racist activists can entirely miss clear signals of antisemitism.
  • If you want a really sad, troubling story of a progressive, feminist, sex-positive activist gone “red-pilled,” read Katelyn Burns’ “The Strange, Sad Case of Laci Green” for the Establishment.
  • On July 3, I saw the Yankees play the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, my first professional baseball game in about eight or nine years. I found it hilarious and delightful, but truth be told, I only have one true love when it comes to baseball. Someone once said that as The Shawshank Redemption is to men, A League of Their Own is for women. It’s simply perfect on every level, and given that I saw it at 7, it’s incredibly formative for me. Katie Baker, writing for the Ringer, shows why it’s still the greatest sports movie of all time.

Stay brave, friends.

Image credit: National Baseball Hall of Fame; click that link, it’s a great article too. See also: this great art from Project Wisconsin, just because it’s great.

Things I’m Verbing: Chicago Dyke March Versus Antisemitism Edition

The worst thing for me about this whole Chicago Dyke March incident (and others before it) is seeing my progressive activist friends utterly fail to recognize the libels, slanders and tropes that have been used to silence, reject and violate Jews for hundreds of years, if not more.

Aw boy. I really would have preferred to do a link round-up about the inherent hilarity of British English, or the awesome Chicago Mosaic Project, or Lindy West’s op-ed on defending free speech from trolls. Instead, I am here to talk about leftist, progressive and radical antisemitism and last weekend’s Chicago Dyke March.

Your reaction to this story depends a lot on what you believe happened. By some accounts, a group of Zionist infiltrators disrupted an explicitly anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian march and rally by harassing other participants while waving Pride flags superimposed with the Israeli flag, all to stir up media attention with crocodile tears after. By their own accounts, three queer Jewish women, one of them Iranian-American, were ejected from a safe space after being aggressively interrogated on their political beliefs by both marchers and organizers when they showed up wearing either Star of David apparel or carrying flags featuring the Star of David, a symbol so intimately connected with Jewish identity that the Nazis used it to brand Jews during the Holocaust. Maybe it was all a miscommunication.

Chicago Dyke March is now organizing a self-care retreat to refresh after the trauma of being called out for antisemitic behavior, though they have deleted the comments section criticizing the fundraiser, which is going toward themselves rather than the causes they support. The sample letters provided to express and demand solidarity from other organizations also contain flat-out fictions linking the Jewish group A Wider Bridge to unnamed “Zionist organizations connected to hate groups profiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

In defending their actions, Dyke March representatives and allies have made statements such as “[W]e need to be in control of our space just like you wouldn’t accept Nazis in your synagogue.” To compare Jews and/or Zionists to the people who destroyed Jewish populations to the extent that they only recovered to pre-World War II levels worldwide in 2015 is, in fact, textbook antisemitism. To insinuate that Jews are deliberately embedded fifth-columnist saboteurs out to undermine and disrupt your own work is classical racialized Jew-hatred going back to the Spanish Inquisition. And to insist that non-Jews are the arbiters of defining Zionism runs contrary to the foundational notion of relying on minorities to define both their own oppression and liberation.

Joel Finkelstein, blogging for the Times of Israel, defines Zionism thusly:

Zionism stands as the indigenous rights movement of the Jewish people, who constitute a historically dispossessed Middle Eastern ethnic group and endeavor to escape from white colonial supremacy and Arab colonial supremacy alike by returning to their native land: Israel.

For 2,000 years, Jewish prayer services have longed for a return to Jerusalem; archaeological evidence confirms an indigenous Jewish presence in the Levant going back thousands of years. Genetically, Jews are most closely related to Palestinians, Israeli Bedouins and Druze. Historically, Jews have never been “white” until very, very recently — even then, conditionally and largely in the United States, and even then, it had a lot to do with McCarthy-era conformism, trauma and opportunities for widespread economic advancement that only came with the G.I. Bill. American pro-Palestine activists tend to categorize Israelis as white European colonialist invaders, an echo of the Khazar theory that Ashkenazi Jews are all descended from converts and thus have no claim to Middle Eastern ancestry.

Israel, of course, is more than 50 percent Mizrahi, Jews from Middle Eastern and North African countries who were expelled to the point of extinction in ancient communities after state violence in the second half of the 20th century. (This goes directly against the claim that Ashkenazi/white Zionists somehow fooled nearly a million Mizrahim into leaving their homes just because. See also: the widespread notion that Zionism represents white supremacy, which white supremacists would surely argue against.) I’d argue that the only way you can understand Israel is as a nation almost entirely composed of refugees and their descendants. So, that’s Zionism.

Hashtags included in Chicago Dyke March’s statements include references to the genocidal “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” (This chant means all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea; the “will be free” part does not appear to leave room for Jews.) Read the Hamas Charter, which includes multiple pronouncements like “The Movement is but one squadron that should be supported by more and more squadrons from this vast Arab and Islamic world, until the enemy is vanquished and Allah’s victory is realized.” (Not so surprising that Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot would hope for a Gaza free from Hamas.) So if Jews seem alarmed by Chicago Dyke March’s use of these tropes and slogans, I hope you can see why. As Tumblr user optometrictzedek writes:

You can’t use a symbol to mark us for genocide and then tell us we can’t use that same symbol to represent ourselves because it might offend someone

You can’t support White Supremacists tropes of antisemitism while calling yourself progressive

The one thing the far left and the far right have in common is making sure Jews have a place nowhere. And then you turn around and condemn us for having one place in the world to keep us safe. But that makes sense if you just want us all to die.

It was never about antiZionism. This is antisemitism. Period.

Myself, I wonder with whom anti-Zionist activists believe they’ll ultimately accomplish their goals, whatever they are, if not in partnership with Zionists. The vast majority of Jews my age I know believe in both the right of the Jewish people to live in peace, dignity and full self-determination and the inherent right of the Palestinian people to do the same. Making Jews of any nationality pass an ideological purity test to participate in any liberation movements simply isolates and ghettoizes those Jews who aren’t willing to put up with violence against their own identity. The Jews I know want to form partnerships to ensure justice for both peoples, despite becoming proxies for the very worst of a foreign government’s actions at any given moment they exist in the world.

What I don’t see among my own close cohort is Zionists who give Israel and the Israeli government some sort of free pass. That seems to be something more likely found among older generations, or Christian and right-wing Zionists. Israelis themselves could criticize their government vociferously enough to make a BDS supporter’s hair turn white. Most of all, we need to raise up Palestinian voices that ask us all to do better. Hiba Bint Zeinab, who is Palestinian-Lebanese, wrote a fantastic, nuanced Facebook post calling on pro-Palestinian activists to stop centering Israel in their activism:

I firmly believe that the kneejerk way the Palestinian Cause is held up like a trump card whenever convenient and the infuriating reverse exceptionalism with which the conflict is treated has been a firm factor in prolonging the crisis and exacerbating Palestinian suffering. I’m struggling to find the words for why it troubles me so much to see all these conversations stuck on questions of whether anti Zionism is anti Semitism because don’t forget Israel and what about accountability for Palestine.

Please. Please. Please try to understand that an anti-Zionist pro-Palestine liberation stance is not one that needs championing in the left, that nobody fucking lets us forget Israel when we try to talk about Palestine, and nobody stops talking about Palestine when anyone mentions Israel, and it hasn’t done shit for diaspora or territory Palestinians except turn us into a handy slogan.

Establishing a stance of basic advocacy for the rights and welfare of the Palestinian people is not what the discourse lacks, it is what the discourse needs to *move past* already. Everybody is well-versed and comfortable with the Israel Blame Game– it drowns out and supersedes everything else, and it’s everything else that Palestinian advocacy desperately needs.

The worst thing for me about this whole Chicago Dyke March incident (and others before it) is seeing my progressive activist friends utterly fail to recognize the libels, slanders and tropes that have been used to silence, reject and violate Jews for hundreds of years, if not more. Friends who fight honorably against anti-Blackness, Islamophobia, ableism and homophobia cannot spot antisemitism, especially not among their own colleagues and allies. Worst of all is when Jews are told to step aside and shut up, since they’re white, rich, privileged and in no way oppressed—a total failure of practicing the very intersectionality we all want to acknowledge. Our only recognized oppressions are, ironically, our intersectional oppressions, whether we’re queer Jews, Jews of color, disabled Jews, immigrant Jews or more.

This exhausts me, and it breaks my heart. I wish I could get my friends and fellows to understand that while anti-Zionism is not inherently antisemitic, it often doesn’t care too much when it is. The calling-out of antisemitism must not be more offensive than promoting antisemitism. It will take a lot of advocacy and a lot of work from both Jews and non-Jews to reach the kinds of understanding we crave. Until then, if any of the above is news to you, please start your education with a very simple list: “How to Criticize Israel Without Being Antisemitic.” I hope you really read it.

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Graphic by hafetzhashud (Tumblr)

Things I’m Verbing: Cultural memory, peanut stew and how to be a better gentrifier

I don’t like to get off-track with posting, but today I’m delighted to have such a fulfilling excuse. For an assignment in my magazine editing class in journalism school, we had to pick a print publication to analyze. I wandered from the Medill newsroom in the Loop to the nearby Sears Tower, which not only boasted a Corner Bakery (their mini-M&M-studded Monster Cookies are just about my favorite) but a newsstand in the basement. On a bottom rack near the entrance, I spotted a nice-looking cover with a title I’d never seen before. It turned out to be a fascinating issue, and I’ve wanted to write for them pretty much ever since.

Yesterday, after some of my favorite reporting and editing I’ve ever done, I finally got to share my first piece for Pacific Standard. This story started with a grumpy late-night tweet; it became an investigation into how we form and curate cultural memory, and what we can gain from truly confronting the Great War and its legacy. I hope you enjoy it: “Why Do So Few Hollywood Movies Take Place During WWI?”

  • Two actors in talked-about shows have recently shared excellent personal essays on the nature of their performances. First, Corey Stoll, who played Brutus in the Public Theater’s recent faux-controversial Julius Caesar, wrote about that experience and why it solidified his commitment to free expression. Then Betty Gilpin, one of my favorite surprises from American Gods, bowled me over with a raunchy, hilarious and vulnerable look at how her large bust has messed with her confidence over the years, and how working on the new Netflix ’80s wrestling comedy GLOW has changed that.
  • I was really taken by this piece for Quartz Ideas: “Women are flocking to wellness because modern medicine still doesn’t take them seriously.” Definitely something to consider while we mock women who rave about alternative health practices.
  • I’ll always read alarming internet privacy stories, and Gizmodo has a small-but-noteworthy doozy on autofill and the company that collects that data even if you don’t submit it.
  • The title is sure to spark strong feelings, but the interview within asks a lot of difficult, interesting questions about what it means to live in an urban neighborhood: from the newly redesigned CityLab, “Toward Being a Better Gentrifier.”
  • For Serious Eats, Sara’o Mozac pens a beautiful, cranky and loneliness-curing essay on the Afro-Trinidadian meals he grew up with and the food he sought out during a college trip in search of his roots: “East, West, Then Backward: Falling for Groundnut Soup in Ghana.” Pair with the latest episode of Gastropod, about the history and science behind peanut butter.

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Freaky fathers, HQ donuts and things only ’90s kids will understand

Now my formative years are turning 20, which I’m both glad to see celebrated and also totally not ready to admit. It’s all worth it, though, to see the Atlantic extol the glories of one of my unironic favorite movies of all time.

I turned 13 in 1997, which, among other things, marked my passage into adulthood as a member of the Jewish people. My bat mitzvah was also the first time I met most of my older cousins for the first time I could remember, and holy moly, suddenly I had a bunch of cool music and culture recommendations to break me out of my Celine Dion/movie soundtracks/exclusively the Beatles bubbles. I joined both the Columbia House and BMG mail-away music clubs, ripping out thick folded sheets of CD-cover stamps from my issues of Seventeen and YM. Suddenly my world was Beck’s Odelay, Fiona Apple’s Tidal, Radiohead’s OK Computer and of course, as much Björk as I could get my hands on.

Now my formative years are turning 20, which I’m both glad to see celebrated and also totally not ready to admit. It’s all worth it, though, to see the Atlantic extol the glories of one of my unironic favorite movies of all timeFace/Off.

  • Speaking of youth culture, my favorite Beatle, Paul McCartney, turned 75 this past weekend. Esquire has a nice little read from 2014 about how the Fab Four wrested pop culture away from the hands of ad-men and grown-ups.
  • This weekend was also Father’s Day, and I’ll be real, I am a sucker for simple features like the AP’s side-by-side comparisons of famous fathers and their uncanny sons through the years.
  • In less fun features, this week Amazon bought Whole Foods, and everyone is freaking out. I’ve written before about why Amazon is bad news for all of us, but let FastCompany make the case for breaking up the megacorp as an antitrust violation.
  • Speaking of large tech companies who don’t get it, Wired has an excellent bit of architectural criticism — yes, I know — on Apple’s new doughnut-shape headquarters and why it’s not forward-thinking at all.
  • The face of America’s veterans is changing drastically, but the systems and attitudes toward all the groups and genders that serve have not. Angry Staff Officer has proposed an eminently sensible way to make these veterans visible: a new universal veteran symbol, like one we employed after World War II.

Stay brave, friends.