This morning’s hideous Cabinet news: Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, a man literally too racist for the 1980s. It seems obvious that, like during the election, Trump is working to numb his enemies with a fire-hose of soul-crushing and shocking news, every one bit of which should be immediately disqualifying. President Obama is trying to keep his chin up, but this week we’ve seen Japanese internment cited as a positive precedent for Muslim registries, requests for security clearance for Trump’s children and their spouses, literal fake news straight from the horse’s mouth, accusations that protests are paid and thus should be punished and suppressed, media outlets tamping down their descriptions of racists and bigots taking top roles in the new administration…
What I’m saying is you should all be following Central Asian dictatorship expert and St. Louisan Sarah Kendzior on Twitter, although she’s going to scare the shit out of you every single day.
- You don’t think fake news is a problem? This dude made $10,000 a month writing it. To be fair, he’s very sorry he put Trump in the White House. These students might have hacked a small fix, at least.
- “Not sure how a party supports healthcare, living wages, = pay for women & paid family leave yet is told it ignores the white working-class,” tweeted Jelani Cobb on Nov. 16. For your consideration: The New Republic posted “J.D. Vance, the False Prophet of Blue America,” about the author of the widely cited memoir Hillbilly Elegy. From The Nation: “Why Do White Working-Class People Vote Against Their Interests? They Don’t.” See also, from Harvard Business Review: “What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class.”
- More grief and fear: From The Atlantic, “The Guilt and Pain of a Clinton Supporter,” although the problem remains that none of Trump’s visceral ugliness was a deal-breaker for millions of voters. (Side note: Voter turnout may not have been as depressed as we thought.) More on that, from Anita Finlay; an angrier version, from Adrian Anchondo. My Yale THREAD classmate Katrina Otuonye’s essay “Our Waning Sense of Goodwill” is a must-read on voting in person as a black woman in small-town Tennessee.
- Heather Havrilesky (advice columnist Ask Polly) gets her own item: “I Don’t Believe Anything I Do Will Make a Difference!” made a difference for me. “Seeing empathy as heroic is part of the problem,” indeed.
- One story that keeps coming up in the wake of this election is how we need to listen to each other and break out of our social media bubble. The Guardian asked people to switch Facebook feeds, to some predictable results. WNYC’s Note to Self took voice memos from voters and supporters from all over the spectrum, for an episode on how to take care of yourself online in a post-election world.
One tip from that last link is taking a moment to clarify for yourself what’s most important to you politically and personally. I still have no idea, in my inmost lizard-brain heart, why Trump’s campaign rhetoric wasn’t a deal-breaker for so many voters. You can talk to me about economic anxiety and feeling ignored and beaten down and disparaged until you’re blue in the face, but minorities and people of color in this country, not to mention Native people (who have the most right to rage of all, frankly), have been treated far worse by society and the government and still didn’t buy in. If you have links to an argument otherwise that truly convinces you, I’d love to see it — please share in the comments if you can.
I wish I could say that today’s link roundup is a bit late because I was hobbled by the same Internet outage that’s messing up everyone’s day, but to be quite honest, I’ve been reading this great book about the science of the afterlife all morning. Mary Roach’s Spook is my book club’s selection for October (a fact I only realized after first reading her survey of corpses and cadavers, Stiff). About a third into it, we’ve already discussed the quest to weigh the soul, the day-to-day of reincarnation investigators and the many strange ways people once believed a person gains a soul in the first place. Pair with the Gimlet podcast Science Versus two-parter on forensic science and we’ve got some wonderful topical journalism chasing clicks and book sales around my favorite holiday.
- Also in the podcasting world, 99 Percent Invisible went for the episode that needed to happen the moment McMansionHell went viral, and it’s great. (Side note: I’m so thrilled that McMansion Hell is run by a smart, hilarious woman.)
- Undark, a science publication you will probably enjoy, explored the less flashy side of de-extinction recently. Rather than start with dinosaurs or mammoths, why not go for bringing back something actually doable: the Martha’s Vineyard-native heath hen?
- This is an older piece from the Atlantic, but I was trying to explain to a friend why so many people, especially millennials and younger, don’t like talking on the phone. I fell down this rabbit hole about sound transmission over cables versus cellular networks, and I remain fascinated.
- Catapult is another home for literate and brave essays you should get to know. “Nineteen Slaves” by Jona Whipple digs into questions a lot of Americans may have, starting with “Am I really part of the problem if my family never owned other people?”
- It’s been a good week for artist profiles and art reviews. I don’t think you should miss any of these pieces: Jeffrey Eugenides profiling Zadie Smith; Rachel Syme reviewing Marina Abramović’s latest memoir; Hilton Als considering Moonlight and what it means for depictions of gay black men on film.
Weeks ago, a friend invited me to join her in the audience for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, which, no-brainer! It was only yesterday that I finally made the connection between the date we’re attending — tonight — and the fact of the first presidential debate, also tonight. I thought maybe that meant we could escape enduring it altogether, but not only is this Stephen “Stephen Colbert” Colbert we’re talking about, but actor/White House adviser Kal Penn and The West Wing star Rob Lowe are the guests. At least it’s going to be much better than exposing myself to the unedited horrorshow firsthand.
Good luck and godspeed, my friends. Below, have some stories that are not about the debates at all, while I go devour the GQ cover story on Lin-Manuel Miranda and what he’s doing next. (Maybe you can just listen to the cabinet battles between Hamilton and Jefferson on loop instead: OCR, #Ham4Ham and #WhiteHouse4WestWing4Ham versions.)
- The New York Times Magazine has a sober, fascinating look at a design and architecture question: “Can You Erase the Trauma From a Place Like Sandy Hook?“
- Sometimes apps are in fact developed for good and not for evil. Sapiens profiles Joshua Hinson, a member of the Chickasaw Nation who felt disconnected from his own ancestral language. So he built both software and community institutions to get all generations speaking it again.
- Michelle Goldberg, writing for Slate, has some wonderful insights on the true tragedy of Ralph Nader’s campaigns and movement: “In the 2000 election, the high priest of anti-consumerism turned politics into the very thing he hated most.”
- I don’t watch High Maintenance, but after E. Alex Jung’s look at how one episode deconstructs the tired and tiring “gay best friend of straight woman” dynamic, maybe I should. In some ways, I’d like to pair this with “Who Gets to Write What?” from author Kaitlyn Greenidge, about writing what you know, cultural appropriation and the ongoing mess regarding aggrieved writer Lionel Shriver.
- Racked has a visually beautiful and totally fascinating history of pockets for women. If you’re a fellow, this sentence probably leaves you utterly cold, but I guarantee most women have the following response:
On a side note, I’ve started a new blog for personal essays and their ilk, if you’re interested. Today I posted “Let’s go visit the swans,” which is both about animals, continuity and memory and about how dogs, suburbs and moms are dopey and wonderful all at once. I hope you like it, and I’d love to hear what you think. Thanks for reading!