vacation reading


Vacation is going fine, although my BP has been up for a few days. The good thing about this is that I experience no discomfort, the bad, that I will have to report it to my doctor if it persists for long (a week). Ah well. I AM sixty-six years old and the body is not particularly regenerating. I checked and our motel doesn’t have a treadmill so I don’t have to feel guilty about not exercising.

These are dark days in the USA. The current majority on the Supreme Court is handing the racist right wing victory after victory. The Texan ruling promoting gerrymandering as okay and yesterday the upholding of the racist Muslim ban on entry into the country. These are morally wrong steps. The only slight consolation is that SCOTUS has made terrible rulings before (Dred Scott and many others) that have been undone.

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In his book, What Truth Sounds Like, Eric Dyson describes and meeting between Robert Kennedy and several Black non-politician type leaders like James Baldwin, Harry Belefonte, specifically

The meeting began on a false note with Belafonte chatting up Kennedy with whom he was personally acquainted already. Belafonte was concerned that the group’s comments would give Kennedy and his brother’s administration ammunition with which to dispute Martin Luther King, Jr. However, Jerome Smith quickly identified the need to talk truth to power and said “I don’t know what I’m doing here, listening to all t his cocktail-party patter.” Previously he had said to Kennedy, “You don’t have no idea what trouble is…” Kennedy ignored him, but the rest of the group acknowledged Smith’s authority and correctness since he was the most experienced protester present.

Kennedy quieted down and listened, though inwardly seething, as the entire group began to chime in with anger and insist that things must change quickly in the USA.

Dyson uses Kennedy’s listening as a model for what whites need to do right now. Kennedy eventually processed this meeting into more clarity for himself about race and acted on it. I am hoping that by reading books like Stamped from the Beginning and Dyson’s book I am not only listening but learning.

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Also in The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, Masha Gessen unsurprisingly quotes Orwell’s 1984:

“To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it, to believe that democracy was impossible and that the Party was the guardian of democracy, to forget whatever it was necessary to forget, then to draw it back into memory again at the moment when it was needed, and then promptly to forget it again: and above all, to apply the same process to the process itself. That was the ultimate subtlety: consciously to induce unconsciousness, and then, once again, to become unconscious of the act of hypnosis you had just performed. Even to understand the word “doublethink” involved the use of doublethink” (emphasis added by me)

I think this describes some of what is happening right now in America and it has been rattling around in my head as I watch our feeble moral fiber completely disintegrate.

Dyson is even clearer:

“Trump’s total lack of knowledge, and the enshrinement of ignorance as the basis of power and authority is the personification of white supremacy and white arrogance…. the real unifying force in our national cultural and political life, beyond skirmishes over ideology and party, is white identity masked as universal, neutral, and therefore quintessentially American.”

We accept the vilification of immigrants because, Dyson writes, they are “them’, However, [writing of Trump] when it comes to insulting folk, spoiling his office in narcissistic displays, acting vengefully—this is the heart of whiteness, and the force of whiteness against blackness and other colors.” I found that the next few sentences strike home. “It [the heart of whiteness] has always been a rather juvenile affair: drinking at a white water fountain was not simply a marker of rigid, though unscientific, anthropology, it was the symbolic height of adolescent bravura and competition—mine is better than yours.”

This describes Trump and his appeal.

“The point of politics was [is] to defend white interests. Politicians did [do] not have to name white interests because they were [are] considered American interest.”


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