On Tuesday night, some of us are in the living room, watching the returns, rapt, as we would be anyway. A few more are in the kitchen, cutting the flag cake into smaller pieces, making bad electoral-college jokes, or wondering whether flag eating will also be banned under Trump alongside flag burning and national-anthem protests. The friend who baked the cake nearly severed a finger in the process and wound up in the hospital. What’s an American flag without a little blood baked in?
The Intellectual Situation
In the narrative world of an Obama speech, the protagonist of every story is in some sense a generation, and the climax of every story is a moment. For Bush, time was always running out, like Jack Bauer’s clock in 24. The decision point was that instant when one billiard ball hits the next, and God willing, your aim was true. But in the greatest Obama speeches, because of their eloquence and ceremonial grandeur, time itself slows.
We may be witnessing the completion of a political cycle, one that brings us back to the left dilemma of forty years ago: how to create a truly transformative majority, at once cross-racial and class conscious? This majority will need to be built at a moment when the right is as ideologically and institutionally unconstrained as at any point in the postwar era. How we answer will speak to the legacy not of Obama, but of the freedom movements that emerged in his wake.
Fiction and Drama
My sister grabbed a sheet, tripped on it, ran out of the room naked. I stepped back, mouth open. Marcia’s bare feet pounded down the hall. A door slammed.
Alicia was naked, too, but she didn’t move. “It’s OK,” she said slowly. “It’s all right.”
I closed my mouth. (Why was
Alicia kept giving me the same steady look, but I could hear her breathe. “OK? It’s no big deal. We were playing around.”
She needed information about the period, about the education system, the details of daily life in public schools and prison. She said she’d already read my books. I think she was studying pedagogy or anthropology, I didn’t quite catch it. She didn’t know that I’d been a prisoner, had participated in the movement. I didn’t participate, I said. But Teresa made a pouty face, like I was being difficult or modest.
By the time the twentieth century was yielding to the twenty-first, the worry had been replaced by one strangely analogous: Was a rational agent ever really free to choose a course of action that failed to maximize his economic self-interest? It was to politics that people generally went for an answer, in those years. The philosophers were, as I say, then preoccupied by the problem of the hypothetically powerful computer.
All along the Boardwalk, the sun-bleached, tattered banners read do ac — the city’s latest marketing catchphrase. The Boardwalk was a scrum of such imperatives, with Trumps on every side issuing edicts and diktats, offering bargains. Trumps in toupees and with their guts hanging over their change belts, out on Steel Pier, out on Central Pier, trying to get me to try the ring toss, though the rubber rings always bounce off the rubber bottles, or to try the beanbag pitch, though the lily pads they’re supposed to land on are kept wet and slippery with a shammy. Try Fralinger’s Salt Water Taffy, which contains no saltwater. Step right up and I’ll guess your weight, or at least I’ll make your wallet lighter. What American literature taught me — what Melville taught me in The Confidence-Man, what Poe taught me in “Diddling,” that imagination or fantasy can be a form a greed, even a uniquely American form — the shills and carny barkers taught me first, at $2 a lesson: I would never win that stuffed elephant.
You asked for philosophy and I am bringing it, late-night dorm-basement style. But I’m not just splitting hairs. This variety in our actual experience suggests — I think — that Camus got the question wrong, or that the question itself is the problem. The only important philosophical question isn’t why we each, individually, might choose to live. It’s how to live with each other, given that the facts of our lives are contingent on the facts of others’.
There are of course many dedicated MMA news sites, and ESPN has ramped up coverage, but the best discourse takes place elsewhere. Half of what I’ve learned has been from podcasts like Heavy Hands and Fights Gone By and pseudonymous YouTube analysts and a Twitter user handled @GrabakaHitman, who’s devoted his life to GIFing every last fight anywhere anytime. Exemplary tweet: “Can someone find a Fuji TV One stream so I can watch a Russian hand-2-hand combat expert fight a Mongolian wrestler on a moat at 4am? Thanks.”
Most of Günel’s reports deal with women’s rights in the South Caucasus.
“The lives of Azerbaijani women living in Tbilisi are different from those of Georgian women,” she said. “Azerbaijani girls are taken out of school by their families in the ninth grade and married off at the age of 14. If Azerbaijani girls resist, it’s suicide. Our child’s nanny became a grandmother at 32. Talk to her.”
Their nanny, Renka, agreed to pose for a portrait and talked a little bit about herself.
She was married at 13 and had a daughter when she was 14.
Jackie was not on the festival press-screening schedule, but I managed to see it one night at the Fox building on Sixth Avenue. As I left, passing giant posters of Bill O’Reilly and Brit Hume in the halls, the last presidential debate was about to start, the one in which Donald Trump called Hillary Clinton, a former first lady like Jackie, a “nasty woman.” No doubt he will see that moment re-created in a film someday. Midtown was quiet as the screens in the Fox windows and the ticker on the building showed pre-debate Trump news, delivering his crude messages onto empty sidewalks. Larraín’s film wants us to believe that maybe there really was an American Camelot once upon a time. The blue and red glow from the Fox News building made Jackie’s conclusion mournful, and in comparison not tacky at all.
Janowitz’s preoccupation is with portraying the encounter between an uncertain, struggling protagonist and the chaotic, hostile world around her, which can only result in a downward spiral. As she writes early on in Scream, “Try as I might, for me, other human beings are a blend of pit vipers, chimpanzees, and ants, a virtually indistinguishable mass of killer shit-pickers, sniffing their fingers and raping.” In Janowitz’s memoir and in her fiction, the suffering modern subject who must persist in such an apocalypto-Darwinian landscape is almost always a woman. This is not a coincidence.
Namara Smith’s “The Women’s Party” argues that Bernie Sanders “sometimes seemed to speak to a phantom of the old white male industrial working class rather than to the black, brown, and female service workers who make up the majority of the working class today.” But his extraordinary success with women under 35 and his staunch, even militant support from the National Nurses United — a majority black and brown union of mostly women — speaks to just how much he did reach the modern working class.