Things I’m Verbing: Vichy Democrats, Jewish allyship and some cute, smart dogs

Hey, some week! Right? Right?

Oof, ain’t that the truth.

You can track the votes of your representatives in Congress here, by the way. (I’m with Tom Tomorrow — we need to implement the phrase “Vichy Democrats.”) Gizmodo has published a guide to unearthing the embarrassing tweets of your enemies. You can also read sudden bestseller 1984 for free at Project Gutenberg, a superb resource all around. Something to think about as at least six journalists have been charged with felonies for reporting on Trump’s inauguration; the D.C. police chief won’t comment.

  • Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. It’s a day for reflection on current political climates both inside the Jewish community and, in a very big way, outside it. Benjamin Gladstone, writing for Tablet, exhorts Jews not to excuse away antisemitism from their political allies anymore — from the right and from the left. (For more on that, here’s the briefest possible explanation of why it’s antisemitic to bring up Israel/Palestine when discussing issues of Jewish safety — or the presence and existence of Jews at all.) Meanwhile, as Trump moves to close borders and institute immigration quotas based on religion, a bit of cruelty: Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser (because that’s not worrisome enough) is only alive because of chance. His grandmother survived the Holocaust, but couldn’t avoid it entirely, because borders had been closed to her and millions of other Jews who tried to flee Europe.
  • You’ve seen all those “rogue national park service accounts” on Twitter, right? They’re really amusing and encouraging. However, as Motherboard rightly argues, if these really are national park employees who need to be protected (and not a ploy to get federally employed scientists to leak to them and reveal themselves), these accounts should verify themselves somehow. It can be done without compromising their identities.
  • The podcast Reply All found some precedent for a master media manipulator like Trump who nearly rose to seize real power: Dr. John Romulus Brinkley, a man who literally became famous for inserting goat testicles into men with impotence starting in the late 1910s. This guy gave noted American fascist Father Coughlin his start on the radio, and at least for this instance, the story has a happy-for-us ending.
  • Many argue that the real evil we need to keep our eyes on is Mike Pence. Autostraddle has a terrifying piece by a former member of the extreme Christian rightist Quiverfull movement explaining that millions of evangelical conservatives have been waiting for a high government official just like him.
  • It’s all a lot, right? Yeah. You need “How to #StayOutraged Without Losing Your Mind.” Pair with “The Democratic Base Is Marching Right Past Its Leaders.”

For more on that (and current Captain America writer Nick Spencer‘s latest bit of high-minded grossness).

If you’re still here, I have a completely unrelated personal essay up at Screwball Heroine, for the interested. “You’ll Never Know” takes on how the language of art-making can become gatekeeping all too easily.

Stay brave, friends.

Things I’m Verbing: Barack’n’Roll

I dug up some artifacts from Nov. 4, 2008, the day Barack Obama won the highest office in the land. I was in Chicago, 24 and a bit, an uninsured temp worker editing brochures for the American Medical Association about the nearly 50 million Americans who didn’t have health insurance then. First, I wrote this:

Cynicism is easy. It’s safe. It keeps you insulated from disappointment and makes allowances for you to feel protected in all possible outcomes.

To ask this electorate, which had its heart so thoroughly broken in 2000 and 2004, to hope as it has done this year, is incredible.

What we’ve seen, what people have done for each other, the stories they’ve shared, is incredible.

Always remember this.

Cynicism is easy.

Hope takes elbow grease and pulling yourself up by the bootstraps.

Later that evening, before I left to go to Grant Park to await the results, I posted this:

I want to say something, for all of you who can’t be here right now.

There’s something magical happening in Chicago. The weather has taken this freakishly beautiful turn, and it’s been low 70s when we should be battling gray skies and blustery wet winds. Everywhere you go, people are wearing Obama buttons. I can’t describe what it’s like, seeing all those little flashes people are wearing. It’s just something you catch in passing, but it’s true: I’ve never seen people get like this. There are five or ten Obama buttons or t-shirts in eyeshot at any given moment you walk down a street, and that’s just without looking closely.

It’s everybody, too. It’s old men and construction workers and students and marketing managers and people behind counters and executives and just. It’s everybody. It’s everybody. Obama. This skinny guy with big ears and a funny name. Obama.

On my lunch break, a coworker and I went to the Freedom Museum at the Trib Tower. It’s an entire museum, free of charge, dedicated to the struggle for equality and free expression. A group of kids was there, running around and watching the short films and rigging the electoral map consoles and lining up eagerly to toss their tokens in the Obama box, to “vote” at the end of the tour. I passed all the displays about women’s suffrage and Native American rights and banned books and censorship and hate speech and eminent domain and marriage equality and it was all I could do to not cry.

On the bus home, an older gentleman in full Uncle Sam gear declared in an English or Australian accent that he’d lived in this country for 56 years and this was the first time he’d ever felt anything about an election. He then led the bus in a song of his own composition. I wish I’d taken down the lyrics.

Then, miraculously, after the thunderous scream shook hundreds of thousands of onlookers when CNN called Ohio, my home state, for Obama, after the crew called a soundtrack for the president-elect of the United States, I recorded this phone message:

I say this so you won’t forget that it can go the other way, that your hard work and screams for truth and justice won’t always go unheeded, mocked and crushed. Remember the other inauguration, that in January 2009, like me, you maybe heard this piece and wept:

Dignity is still real. Meanwhile:

Stay brave, friends. Take care of yourselves; we’re going to need you soon.

Things I’m Verbing: Bad news, shitty robots and not the Bay Area startup you expected

Sometimes I’m torn about which kinds of stories to share here. Surely the Most Important Stories are the ones that also shred us to pieces from the inside, right? The Most Substantial News is the kind that drives us to drink, surely, and there’s no shortage of it, from the hideous wrongs Black Lives Matter calls out to the staggering cynicism of Brexit to, as it turns out, the corruption of the very directive to take care of ourselves, apparently. Not even the unifying joy of Pokémon Go is safe. These kinds of news cycles, which are less trending topic and more zeitgeist at this point, make me want more than anything else to find the stories that prove the world is still beautiful and we can still be happy about something. But it feels hard; it feels like good news can’t possibly be substantial, and if it isn’t substantial, it probably isn’t good for us.

This morning I woke up and read a piece in the Guardian called “How Technology Disrupted the Truth.” It articulates so many of my frustrations and fears about journalism that I have wanted my non-journalist friends and family to understand, how the bullshit clickbait we all hate (to read and to write) is a desperate grab for survival in an engagement-driven, pageviews-dictated, ad-supported world, and how it’s really harming personal and political society. I urge everyone to read it and share it. I don’t know the answer; I just know the kinds of stories I want to be telling, and that I want them to do good in the world.

  • Speaking of media criticism, Jezebel published a strong, blunt audience analysis in the wake of Vanity Fair’s ridiculous recent Margot Robbie feature. “Who Are These Vanity Fair Cover Stories For?” questions the system of rewarding the same dehumanizing, sex-object frame story when trying to highlight famous women.
  • With convention season edging closer than ever, Politifact posted a graphic round-up of all its national candidate fact-checks. The numbers… will probably not surprise you.
  • The New York Times shared this story at the end of June, and I can’t get it out of my head: “Escape Tunnel, Dug by Hand, Is Found at Holocaust Massacre Site.” All four of my mother’s grandparents were Lithuanian Jews, which may be why this story hit me so hard. It’s a staggering look at low odds and how history can be erased simply through denial.
  • I wish I found more happy stories to share, but I can bring at least two, after all that. First up: the amazing shitty robots of Simone Giertz. These are viral videos used not just for good, but for awesome — a vanishingly rare species, to be sure, but worth celebrating.
  • Which segues nicely into this breath of fresh air from Vox: “How one man repopulated a rare butterfly species in his backyard.” Conservation success stories seem so rare, and this one has gorgeous pictures and a truly nice protagonist at its heart.

Take care of yourselves, friends.