Things I’m Verbing: Syncretism, solidarity and straight lines

Lots of antisemitism around social media right now, with many people outraged that “no one is talking about this” and “why isn’t this screaming from every headline?” It’s… exhausting to watch. I feel immensely conflicted about it, as someone who has cared and shouted about antisemitism for a long time. My first reaction is Where have you all been? It took bomb threats and grave desecration to bring you in on this? I feel overexposed, especially when I know how hypocritical and toxic conversations about antisemitism can be.

I am trying to let down my guard and not feel suspicious that this is simply an under-mined source of outrage and clicks. At the same time, I’m moved and relieved by how quickly other communities have come to our aid. You can’t understate the trauma of seeing tombstones knocked over — there is a straight line from that act to the Holocaust. It is really, really not weird that Jews and Muslims would get along and support each other, but it is gratifying to see that we truly have each others’ backs, in action and in word.

Folks who have been in this position, do you have any advice for dealing with these feelings? I’d really appreciate any links in the comments or on Twitter.

  • If you’re looking for some Jews not taking this shit lying down, I urge you to read the absolutely delightful and excellently titled “So a Nazi Walks Into an Iron Bar,” about Meyer Lansky, Jewish gangsters and 1930s-style direct action.
  • There’s always plenty to say about the Oscars, but Imran Siddiquee, writing for BuzzFeed, has a point we shouldn’t lose sight of: “What Will It Take for Dev Patel to Be a Leading Man?
  • Only ’80s and ’90s kids will understand this, &c &c &c: “The Melancholy of Don Bluth,” a look at what set films like All Dogs Go to Heaven, An American Tail and The Secret of NIMH apart from all the rest.
  • From Racked, do not miss Laura Turner’s “What Do We Do With the Clothing of Grief?” The dress I wore to my mom’s funeral still hangs in my closet. I haven’t worn it again, but I don’t know if I can give it up.
  • For just some lovely reflection on religion and identity, from Ravishly, take a look at “Finding My Rebel Catholicism in Mexico City” by Michelle Threadgould.

I have another personal essay up at Screwball Heroine, about the weird composite imaginary man I want to find and fall in love with: “To all my future husbands.”

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: We’re all inside this blast radius

I’m having trouble pitching. Nothing feels important unless it’s about the election, and I’m already drowning in post-election activism and thinkpieces and horror stories and grief and obituaries of journalists we really needed. (Rest in power, Gwen Ifill.) I’m glued to Twitter and Facebook, I’m frantically spending too much time retweeting advice and interpretations and warnings, I’m scrounging up funds for recurring donations and subscriptions. It feels like doing absolutely nothing and too much all at the same time. Meanwhile:

Let’s just get right into it.

Good luck out there.

Image Credit: Steve Helber/AP. “Graffiti is seen on the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Richmond, Va., on Nov. 10, 2016.”

Things I’m Verbing: “We Reject the President-Elect” and a WPA for Journalism

I marched in my first take-over-the-streets mass protest Wednesday night. Conveniently, I’d scheduled therapy for the day after the election, but I’d done all my crying before that. I’d heard there was going to be some sort of protest at Union Square, about a 10-minute walk from my therapist’s office, so I grabbed a pita from the halal food truck parked on Sixth Avenue and planned to go eat in Madison Square Park before joining in. But I heard the roar of the crowd just then; the front of the march streamed past me. “Join in!” someone yelled. So, carrying my Gatorade under one arm and my styrofoam plate of chicken and hot sauce in my other hand — I did.

What is there to say? I’ve never felt the national mood change so direly before, and I include 9/11 in this. I’ve been glued to Twitter; it seems like the only place I can rage and grieve right now, and make no mistake: this is grief. Last night I had dinner with a dear friend; we ordered three very hot dishes by accident, but neither of us cared, because at least we could feel something, as we joked.

I’ve been thinking about this tweet a lot:

I’ve started speaking up more now. I don’t feel so constrained by the fear of getting into online fights with other people’s conservative friends and relatives. The stakes are too high. Donald Trump has spent the past year and a half promising he’s going to harm the most vulnerable among us, and I believe him.

This is not normal. I’ve never seen my nation this scared. Only one-quarter of eligible voters elected this man, and Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. Children are terrified. Minorities and queer people are terrified. White nationalists are openly celebrating; antisemites are getting bolder; our enemies abroad are pouring champagne. Trump voters are getting angry that they’re being called out for supporting bigotry, passively or tacitly. They were only 25%. They had voter suppression and intimidation on their side, whether they like it or not. They have no right to hold us hostage like this.

I see the desperate petitions for President Obama to simply appoint Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, for California to secede, to eliminate the Electoral College, for the electors to go rogue and simply not empower such a profoundly dangerous, unethical and uninterested candidate. I don’t know what I believe can and will happen anymore.

Earlier this week I said I believed that “objectivity,” whatever that means in journalism, is a copout and that supporting or at least not challenging Donald Trump puts everything I hold dear in danger. I stand by that more than ever now. I know we in the media are supposed to be soul-searching right now, to be less snide and presumptive. I wonder how many have simply forgotten j-school in a bumper sticker: Afflict the comfortable, comfort the afflicted. Moreover, as I think going back through this blog will show, the media did tell the truth about Donald Trump. Voters simply didn’t care.

I am a journalist, and I believe journalism should be a force for good in the world. Over the next few weeks, I want to talk to people who can help me make that happen. I’ve discovered that I’m not the only one who wants a 1930s approach to media — a New Deal, a Civilian Conservation Corps, a Works Progress Administration. I grew up in Appalachia, in “flyover country.” I will go back if someone invests in sending me. I call on media companies to put their money where their mouth is. I don’t need to be in New York to do great work. You have a surplus of immensely qualified journalists here. I suggest you use them.

Obviously this will mean figuring out what a WPA for journalists would look like. I’ve spent a lot of time outlining questions — who will these journalists serve, local or national audiences? What kind of journalism do communities really want? How can we support the journalism that’s already out there, but suffocating from being understaffed, devalued, hated, underpaid? What could we do to support journalists who expected to make it in New York, but would find themselves in communities they don’t recognize? What’s the desired end result, and is it achievable? How do you compete with for-profit journalism that simply tells audiences what they want to hear?

Please email me if you want to talk about this further: esther.bergdahl@gmail.com. I want your help, your ideas, your energy. A lot of people are out there doing good works today. This is going to be my thing. Let’s fix what we can, no matter how small the steps.

And now, a few links, though I hope you’ve also been browsing those included above:

Things I’m Verbing: Comedy, Cracker Barrel and gift culture

I’ll be honest: I went quiet for two weeks because I was grappling with a news story that was really tearing me up, and because it hit so hard, I was trying to figure out how to talk about it publicly. I wrote up an impassioned-but-reasoned (I hoped) post that languished in my drafts, and I’ve been collecting links from all angles until my tabs have utterly overwhelmed me. Ultimately, though, I realized there are only a few things I would want people to read about the anti-pinkwashing protests at Creating Change 2016:

I have a lot of friends and colleagues I admire greatly who speak out about identity and intersectionality all the time. I hope to be brave enough to write like they do, and I hope we’re all brave enough to listen to each other.

Okay. On to the other stuff.

  • Claire Fallon at the Huffington Post wrote “Virginia Woolf’s Guide to Grieving,” a personal essay I could relate to only too well.
  • At the New York Times Magazine, Jia Tolentino’s look at Cracker Barrels and belonging cracked open some things about the chain I’d never thought about, despite never being the target demographic for the restaurants either.
  • In just some good news, the Chicago Reader highlights a Kickstarter effort to digitize my hero Studs Terkel’s entire archive and put it online for the people.
  • After this Q&A with Transformative Works, I’m really looking forward to setting aside the time to read Olivia Riley’s thesis on fandom and gift culture. If you don’t know about the academic study of fandom (they’re called acafans!), you’ll find that the things media often mocks are at heart really punk rock.
  • If you really want to get lost in some amazing collaborative work, head over to Vulture‘s “The 100 Jokes That Shaped Modern Comedy.” I just want to lose days in this, beginning to end.

Things I’m Verbing: Grief, gardens and the privilege of access

I posted my first story for Hello Giggles today, and it’s one that’s close to my heart in a lot of ways. Agent Carter is a TV show about a woman kicking ass in the 1940s, but it’s also, in its first season, a show about confronting grief. “What Agent Carter Gets Right About Grief” is a personal essay about television that finally presents something I’ve lived with for many years in a realistic way — and makes it the protagonist’s greatest journey.

The second season just premiered last night, but you can stream the first season right now. It’s only eight episodes, and even if you’re not familiar with Captain America, it stands well enough on its own that I can’t recommend it enough.

  • Given the seeming avalanche of beloved celebrity deaths over the past week or so, everyone has been trying to understand both public and personal grief. Three very useful links:
  • Despite the above, Agent Carter is also a fantastic, heart-clutchingly wonderful technicolor spy noir, with more than a little excellent comedy thrown in. It’s not the only genre show I’m keeping an eye on; thank goodness for io9‘s exhaustive list of what’s to come across the networks.
  • If you’re looking for another exhaustive list of excellence, the 2016 National Magazine Award finalists were just announced, and there are links.
  • This week saw a conversation in the publishing industry about the value or gatekeeping effects of workshops such as the prestigious six-week Clarion program for sci-fi and fantasy writers. It led to some good conversations about what “makes” a writer, but disability activists have also spoken out forcefully about the privilege baked into the structure of such events. Applicable throughout society, not just the SFF world.
  • I loved this Huffington Post video about using shipping crates as portable, sustainable gardens, especially since I also just listened to 99% Invisible‘s “Reefer Madness” episode (it makes sense once you dive in, but trust me, Roman Mars is giggling too).