“If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it.”
- Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon
Sorry for the day delay. I spent a long weekend in Canada celebrating the wedding of an extraordinary couple. It’s wild how quickly you can forget about the cryptofascist shit dome of America when you’re in a foreign country, even one separated, where I was, by a thin ribbon of river.
Do you know how much Canadians stomp at weddings? I didn’t. They love country music, and every song invites a sort of line dance, a joyful honky tonk foot tap. Maybe not all Canadians? Maybe just this crowd? Either way it’s wild and so delightful.
The wedding was in Niagara-on-the-Lake, a dreamy waterfront town replete with hydrangeas, wineries, and plenty of polite strangers that let me talk to them about the Ontario manhunt. In my free time, I walked along the lake, visited an apothecary museum and a butterfly conservatory, had butter tarts and coffee with maple syrup in it. That any Canadian still has her teeth is the most convincing case for socialized medicine I’ve ever seen.
It’s disorienting when bad things happen at home while you’re on vacation, hard to strike a balance between processing the news and protecting your joy. In 2019, we can’t afford the luxury of full detachment. At the same time, celebration, merriment, love, respect, tan roses, wine, goofiness, cake, Céline Dion songs, the marriage of two fundamentally good people—these all feel like an antidote in some big energetic way to the grossness of the news.
Present but protective is the space I’m trying to dance in. I’m failing, but I think the real importance is in the effort.
In Dayton, Ohio nine people were killed in less than 30 seconds by a 24-year-old white men with a history of violent threats against women. In high school the shooter was known for bringing a list of girls he wanted to rape to the classroom. A woman who knew the shooter then told the Dayton Daily News that he confessed his fantasy to her, which involved “tying her up and slitting her throat.” She and her parents went to the police, who did not take her seriously.
Hours earlier, in El Paso, Texas, a young man armed with an assault rifle shot dead 22 people at a Walmart. Activated by replacement theory and the “Hispanic invasion” myth propagated by Fox News and the mf president of this country, the shooter targeted Latinx shoppers—stalking and murdering them in the aisles. The fatalities included a young couple Jordan and Andre Anchondo, who died protecting their 2-month-old infant, now orphaned. (A particularly gutting detail in a dossier of details I think devised to lance any lingering pocket of hope in our chests.)
Before the massacre, the 21-year-old shooter published a white nationalist manifesto on 8chan.
Though it has not been confirmed, there is a strong chance that some of the victims of the El Paso shooting avoided medical aid due to fears of ICE agents on the scene—which, horrible as it sounds, is the exact, sickening purpose of ICE: to cultivate strata of terror, intimidation, and deepen the pain and isolation of a community already under attack.
It’s important to remember in these moments that cruelty is not a byproduct, or an aberration. To quote Adam Serwer, cruelty is the point. Violence is the point. Racism is the point. Misogyny is the point. We have a bigot and rapist in the White House. A proud one. You cannot separate the massacre from the messenger. Everyday he is in power, through race-baiting, hate speech, executive orders, and the existential fracture he invites with every fiber of his defiant form, Trump strengthens the grip of white supremacy on this country. But the hate stretches galaxies past him. The rot is total. And so, our work must be as well.
Vote. Organize. Donate to Everytown. Donate your blood. Resolve to stay steaming fucking mad. Listen to Toni Morrison, whose life and work confirm the existence of some intangible grace that Trump can never touch:
“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.
I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.”
Ronald Reagan’s Long-Hidden Racist Conversation With Richard Nixon by Tim Naftali (The Atlantic)
People who are just discovering in 2019 that Reagan was racist—what it must be like to live in your brain! Damn those rose-colored hoods must be snug.
The workers who make Korean barbecue possible deserve better by Frank Shyong (LA Times)
“I’m eating there because though we often think morality is as easy as boycotting one bad actor and patting ourselves on the back, the harder thing is to sit with the truth: that every choice we make in an unjust economy is morally ambiguous.” [Emphasis added]
A horrifying, essential look behind one of the most beloved and iconic meals in LA: Korean barbecue. While I’m not actually sure what the immediate call to action is here, the piece serves as a focusing story for the cycle of exploitation that traps service workers, mostly immigrants, in abusive, low wage jobs and demands us to investigate the brutal economies behind our local institutions.
“I think about how the cleaning solution for the metal grills is actually a type of acid that dishwashers say causes allergies, damages their hands and throws off fumes that make them choke. One dishwasher even got some of the acid in his eyes and went blind.”
The Decline of Yelling by Amanda Petrusich (New Yorker)
“What was once associated with a degree of toughness or vigor, and perhaps suggested some hard-earned power—a boss might yell, or a military general—is now considered aggressive and domineering, an odious side effect of hubris and privilege. People who lose control and start screaming are received only with consternation and embarrassment. It is simply not something a serious person should do.”
I grew up with a vicious, unapologetic yeller. Even years removed from that situation, I can confirm how the trauma of such full, roaring rage, rage that grips, rage that travels, never really goes away. So, I’m pretty thrilled that culturally we seem to be moving away from such stressful, male, toxic demonstrations of dominance. Vive La Tenderness!
On Instagram, data journalist Mona Chalabi shows cleanly and crisply how the media warp coverage of mass shootings by the race of the shooters.
Stop. Taking. Racists. Seriously.
“I’m old and I’m fat and I look age-appropriate for what my age is, and that is not what that whole scene is about.” - Kelly McGillis on why she wasn’t asked to participate in the Top Gun sequel. Iconic.
Justice for Tracy Flick.
There are so many ways to enter into a tribute to Toni Morrison, like finding your way into a great city.
I was particularly struck by Damon Young’s words for GQ:
“Mostly Toni Morrison belonged to black people. And she belonged to us because she loved us and saw us. And because she loved us and saw us, she told the truth. About America. About Americans. About love and about sex and about God and about fear and about our bodies and all the things that can happen to them. About who we really is and how that exists in concert with who we tell ourselves we want to be. About the metastasizing sickness of white supremacy and how it collapses time and begrimes the air we breathe.”
I am also savoring her Art of Fiction interview with the Paris Review in 1993:
“I, at first, thought I didn’t have a ritual, but then I remembered that I always get up and make a cup of coffee while it is still dark—it must be dark—and then I drink the coffee and watch the light come. And she said, Well, that’s a ritual. And I realized that for me this ritual comprises my preparation to enter a space that I can only call nonsecular . . . Writers all devise ways to approach that place where they expect to make the contact, where they become the conduit, or where they engage in this mysterious process. For me, light is the signal in the transition. It’s not being in the light, it’s being there before it arrives. It enables me, in some sense.”
She left us so many treats. So much raw, sick sweet, gnawing truth and beauty. Women like her live forever. To quote Shonda Rhimes: Rest, queen.
In this week’s Saturday Staunch, I wrote a shamelessly materialistic August wishlist. Here are five items on that list. Subscribe to The Saturday Staunch to see the other ten. :)
Patio Oil by Jao ($30)
A chic, moisturizing, insect-repelling blend of jojoba, hemp, and lemon eucalyptus oils that I think is just what I need for an upcoming trip to Lake Tahoe.
Rodarte x Universal Standard Pink Ruffle Skirt ($150)
A pastel pink skirt in inclusive sizing with ruffles that look positively labial. *Adds to cart*
La Double J Linen Tablecloth in Wildbird Viola ($305)
Birds: not my thing. Purple: not my thing! And yet, I can’t get this tablecloth out of my head. I’m convinced it’s the thing that will complete my dining area. My mom always had tablecloths on our kitchen table growing up and they really do make a room feel finished. Ugh I get chills thinking about how good it will look against my kitchen wallpaper (the project that almost ended me), under my blue fluted half lace plates. Are $300 Italian linen tablecloths why I’ll never own property? Reading it back, I see how that sentence does not inspire a lot of sympathy.
Redouté. The Book Of Flowers Hardcover Book by Taschen ($70)
A stunningly chunky coffee table book dedicated to the botanical illustrations of Pierre-Joseph Redouté. This is the sort of stuff I have wet dreams about.