No matter where one starts the clock—Jimmy Carter’s Airline Deregulation and Motor Carrier Acts, the repeal of Glass-Steagall; the Telecommunications Act of 1996; or maybe the recruitment and allocation of so-called “beachhead teams” to staff the federal bureaucracy as of Trump’s inauguration, each team member an insouciant Bartleby, abetting the Koch brothers and other right wing stakeholders—what the deregulatory and deconstructive impulse share is a distinctly temporal quality, instilling the slow seep of future degradation even as immediate consequences are typically nonexistent.
The Intellectual Situation
The problem with US foreign policy — represented in the figure of the global policeman — is that it is like a fully resourced police department in a time of dwindling fears of crime: robustly equipped with sophisticated tools to answer any exigency with force, even as the strategic and political value of using such lethal force recedes. Just as the uprisings urged cities to find ways to resolve conflicts without bullets or batons, they also show it is time for the country to relinquish its status as global policeman. Whether at home or abroad, doing so will require forfeiting a reliance on cops as the universal solvent for social problems.
Fiction and Drama
How I hate that I ignore more calls from my mother than I answer. How I can’t leave !!!!!!!!!!! even though I feel unfulfilled in my second week. How that would be its own sort of tragedy for my mother, because at least for the next three years when I ignore her calls she knows where I am. How I want to KMS but I’m too much of a narcissist to go through with it. I’m too afraid of what my mama would do if I did. So I’ll just do it here. On the page and see if I still feel the same afterwards.
The mistake was not the iconography: the flag of Kekistan, the pride flag, and the US flag, all of them woven into one. I knew I’d get flack for it from antifa, the helmet and shield, the spandex bodysuit, they laughed and took their videos and those mean girl Proud Boys called me a faggot and a freak. And so I marked off my own territory, and I spoke to them — I preached — of what I knew. As a faggot, as a freak! On my milk crates, during that gathering of Proud Boys and antifa. And then I tripped and fell. But that wasn’t a mistake either. I didn’t make any mistakes, not that day. Maybe not ever, in some sense, if here’s where it’s led.
As Guy walked back to the compound now, his flashlight stabbed into visibility tunnels of the night woods, tangents along his curving path. Somehow at every step it was surprising that there wasn’t anyone but him in any of the tunnels. Like everyone else, he had fantasies of his own of living for himself in the years that were remaining — of giving up law, in his case. The trouble was, the remainder might stretch for as long as a century; no one knew. And Guy had reached the age past which it is no longer in one to become a different person, not even one’s true self.
By late March, none of the city’s shelters for homeless youth were functioning normally. Access to food was limited; showering or using a public computer was virtually impossible. For about a week, even Covenant House, which is the city’s largest provider of shelter beds for homeless youth, had temporarily suspended its intake process; both Sylvia’s Place and Trinity Place, another shelter for LGBTQ youth, had stopped accepting new clients completely.
The tyranny unleashed by Li’s mother, Zweig’s unknown woman, King Lear, the Chinese nation-state, and so on, cannot be properly tried because it works by removing the conditions required for speaking up and for making a claim on behalf of the victim. The only consolation one can have is in correctly identifying the act as a subtle tyranny, which means that there are no practical outcomes for this kind of distinction making. At the same time, you can practice it sub rosa, anywhere you like.
Nobody is innocent, says the ice cube. You’re not as experienced as you think you are, says the ice cube tray. Experience isn’t everything, says the ice cube. What else is there, says the ice cube tray. Feeling, says the ice cube. I don’t understand, says the ice cube tray.
What was I doing on Zoom? Everyone was outside. Doing the Corona Waltz: six-foot radius, smile, nod, little bow. It was at that point that I started to dream with the planet. I noticed weeds for the first time, as if they were long-lost little friends. Weeds also live in liminal space: ignored, trampled on, not even seen. And yet they grow together, egalitarian, in resilient communist clusters.
In the first years of her dementia, Mormor told me again and again, almost like an incantation, the story about what she did when the tree fell. The fall itself was not part of the story, but the shock of hearing that the birch was gone must have triggered the myth cycle about Storebjørka. The details varied from telling to telling, while the point became clearer and clearer: she had climbed up the broken trunk and reached down into its moist, ripped cleft, and with a cold spoon wiggled out a little offshoot.
Architecture, a keyword for Gladman, is never just architecture, and sentences are never just sentences. They’re proxies for shape, structure, the possibility of feeling at home in the world and attaining the right mix of freedom and togetherness, or freedom through togetherness.
Inasmuch as the end of the world already feels imminent — we are, after all, staring down mass racial injustice, environmental catastrophe, and a global pandemic — vague gestures toward a radical restructuring of society without even a basic blueprint feel, if not incomplete, indicative of a failure of imagination.
Which automaker “had to his credit,” in the words of Michigan senator Arthur Vandenberg, “more erratic interviews, more dubious quotations, more blandly boasted ignorance of American history, more political nonsense and more dangerous propaganda than any other dependable citizen that we have known”? Well, Henry Ford. But also, a hundred years later, Elon Musk.
At the catered events and private parties, I wore various uniforms and carried around silver trays of beautifully shaped hors d’oeuvres that sat on topiaries to make them look even more cunningly alluring — which wasn’t necessary but was a thing in that time. I served and was invisible to precisely the characters you describe in your novel. They were younger, more beautiful, and more ambitious than I had ever been, more sure of their success than I had ever dreamed it was possible to be and at the same time trembling with anxiety that the vaunted appointments to fame and accolades and cash advances they believed were their inheritance would not in fact come to them because the world was already turning against them and they might be the last generation to die.