The arts and humanities have long been scapegoats of conservative ire. The tired myths of artistic excess and absence of “real world” applicability are easy to trot out and just as easy to dismiss: the liberal professor, distanced from reality and pouring over Edith Wharton in her ivory tower; the dreamy artist casually spending government grant money on a project so abstract “my kid could have painted it;” the poet feverishly scribbling in a cabin by the sea only to discard her notes into the waves, unread.
It’s no surprise, then, to see the very heart of our culture—its creative production, its rational discourse—attacked by an administration set on dismantling the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The fiscal legitimacy of this move is questionable in the least: as far as government spending goes, these agencies are a drop in the bucket. But specious symbols of intellectual frivolity and liberal elitism can still be effective ones.
On a much smaller scale, this is a battle I fight every semester with a small-but-vocal minority of students, as I justify the teaching of Plato and Dante, Mary Wollstonecraft and Simone de Beauvoir. Will reading and discussing Sappho or Lao Tzu or James Baldwin make you a better accountant or engineer? Maybe. Maybe not. Will it make you better able to assess and evaluate divergent ideas for yourself, better able to persuasively argue based on actual evidence—a better person, a better thinker? Undoubtedly.
Without the arts and humanities, we wouldn’t have social movements: no feminism, no civil rights, no queer activism. Artists and critical thinkers of all stripes challenge the status quo; they constantly work to improve the world for themselves and others, to make things more beautiful and more free.
Only time will tell whether the new administration will succeed in its many plots to undermine the liberal and fine arts, but there’s no question that if you want an obedient populace, it’s a good place to start. Recent attacks on faculty tenure in Missouri and Iowa seem like thinly-veiled attempts to hobble academic freedom. And the recently attempted revisions (quashed for now) to Arizona’s HB 2120, which currently bans ethnic studies course at the primary and secondary level, openly proposed threatening colleges and universities with funding cuts if classes or events promote social justice based on gender, ethnicity, race, religion, or social class. If you don’t learn about oppression, how can you fight back?
The past two summers I’ve been fortunate enough to teach abroad in France and Germany about art and music around the World Wars. The first thing I ask my students is why art matters? At a time of global political upheaval, virulent social conflict, the looming specter of an oppressive regime, why worry about art? Hitler understood why art was important, I tell them—recounting how, early on, the Nazis ridiculed, banned, and often destroyed the modern, abstract art they labeled “degenerate.”
This was not a matter of personal taste.
The arts, broadly defined, have the power to make people think, to question the world outside of their own four walls, and to appreciate the vast diversity of human thought and will. That’s why on Saturday, I will march for free thought and creative expression and all the social movements they inspire.
Aviva Dove-Viebahn is an Honors Faculty Fellow at Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University. She’s a Contributor to the Ms. blog and a member of the Ms. Scholar Writing Program.
The post Why We March: For the Revolutionary Freedom to Think and Create appeared first on Ms. Magazine Blog.
I didn’t spend as much as I thought I would this month. I’m learning how to save, and only make necessary purchases that will last a long time. Read More »
Afrofuturism shouldn’t just consist of envisioning Black life in the year 3000. Questioning my Black future can mean just getting through today or what the next four years will entail for my peers and me. Read More »
I am at UC Davis to participate in a Global Tea Initiative. The first event yesterday morning was to go to a tea tasting presided over by Master Wing-Chi Ip. A taxi came to our hotel to drive us over to a building bearing the name of Robert Mondavi (1913-2008), a giant in the California wine industry. It turns out that there are two buildings on campus bearing his name, a mammoth Center for the Performing Arts and an Institute for Wine and Food Science.
The taxi driver spoke with a heavy Russian accent. The passengers were a Sri Lankan anthropologist, a Pakistani-American ethnobotanist, a Taiwanese chemist, and myself.
The taxi driver dropped us off at the Robert Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, since he said his instructions were to take us to the "Century Theater" there. We went inside and asked the receptionist where the "Century Theater" was, but she had no idea where it might be in that huge building. The receptionist checked in her computer and said that it seemed there was no "Century Theater" in the Center for the Performing Arts. She helpfully suggested that it was more likely in the Mondavi Center for the Institute for Wine and Food Science, which was about a five minute walk away.
We walked to the Institute for Wine and Food Science and, after going inside, asked where the "Century Theater" was. Although there appeared to be a lot of tea people milling around, nobody knew of a "Century Theater" in the Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. Finally, one of our hosts who was already there spotted me and gave us a warm welcome. I asked her, "Where is the 'Century Theater'?" "Century Theater? Century Theater?", she repeated, rather dumbfounded. "There isn't any 'Century Theater' in this building. The tea tasting is taking place in the 'Sensory Theater', which is right down the hallway. Follow me!"
This playlist is a bit rough around the edges, featuring tracks that sound and feel less refined when compared to those topping today’s charts. Whether it’s through an unsteady beat, a wavering voice, or mismatched chords, these songs are imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete—but that doesn’t make them any less incredible. Sit back and take a listen.
On January 21, millions of women throughout the world are expected to march in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington. Nine-year-old Mari Copeny, an activist from Flint, Michigan, shares the reasons why she’s marching.
Flint, Michigan. My home.
It’s been a long time since the water crisis began. I was still little, my brother and sister were just babies. But I do remember when we could take a bubble bath, when we could brush our teeth with the water from the sink, when we could make Kool-Aid and play on the Slip ’N Slide when it was warm out. I could fill up a glass of water from the sink and drink it.
Then our city’s emergency manager decided to save some money and let Flint get its water from the nasty river. When we ran the water it smelled nasty. I had to pinch my nose because the smell was gross, and it wasn’t always clear. I remember when the water starting to make my skin itch. My baby sister had a rash so bad she had to get a special medicine on her skin and get wrapped from head to toe in plastic wrap.
Over a year ago our city was put under a state of emergency. We were told that our water was poisoned and it was not safe for us to drink it. Mommy wouldn’t let us use the water anymore, or take bubble baths. She put bags over the faucets. She would get so upset when my little brother would uncover it and play in the water. The water smells like chemicals, it burns our eyes, gives us headaches, gives us rashes that look like burns. We had to get a shower filter so we would be able to take speed showers—bath time isn’t fun for us anymore. Even with the shower filter the water was still bad. We have to use some special lotions to make sure our skin doesn’t get really dry.
Now when we need water, we have to go to a water pod. We drive up there and then we tell the workers how many cases of water we need. We go a lot and always have get at least 10 cases of water. We use bottle water for everything. It takes longer to cook dinner because we have to stop and open up a bunch of bottles of water. When we make Kool-Aid or tea, more bottles of water. For Thanksgiving, it took over 100 bottles of water to make dinner. We always have a whole lot of bottles of water around our house, it’s annoying when we step on the caps when they fall on the floor.
In the summer we weren’t able to play on the Slip ’N Slide or in the swimming pool. We couldn’t fill up water balloons. On hot days, Mommy would poke holes in bottles of water or fill up water guns for us to cool off. Its not much fun when you can’t play in the water in the summer time. We had to start getting our blood checked to make sure we didn’t have lead in our blood. I really, really do not like needles, getting poked makes me cry. The past four teeth I have lost have all broken before they fell out.
I asked Mommy what I can do to help. I make her go to marches and protest, and we also volunteer giving out supplies. My letter to President Obama even got him to come to Flint. I wish he could have magically fixed the water.
January 19 marked the one-thousandth day of the Flint Water Crisis. One-thousand days since we have had clean water. One-thousand days of my entire city being poisoned. I heard last night we will not have clean water until 2020: That is another one thousand days. People seem to have forgotten us once we weren’t in the headlines anymore.
I march for all the kids and people who live in Flint, so they wont feel like they are forgotten. ♦
Nine-year-old Mari Copeny, also known as Little Miss Flint, is the youngest Women’s March on Washington Youth Ambassador and is an advocate for her local community in Flint, Michigan, concerning the water crisis.
The Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms., is a proud partner of the Women’s March on Washington. Click here to read our “Why We March” series. When you’re marching on Saturday, use the hashtag #MsMarches (in addition to #WomensMarch!) to join us in fighting for our rights—and refusing to go back.
After a few days agonizing over what words I would inscribe on the sign I would wear to the Women’s March on Chicago, I chose two: No Hate. I did so for a very personal reason. I realized I was being “played” and needed to push back. I was learning to hate.
In the weeks following the election, I found myself increasingly directing anger at my fellow Americans—namely, those who had given the incoming president their vote. Thinking about “why I march” allowed me to recognize what a mistake that was, and turning to some of the most important women leaders of our time confirmed my suspicion. These women faced challenges greater than my present one and succeeded because they refused to be derailed by hatred.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the hero of democracy in Burma/Myanmar, spent 15 years under house arrest—captive of a cruel military junta. After the first five, she told an interviewer, “I have never learned to hate them. If I had, I would have been truly at their mercy.” Of course: Those generals wanted her to hate them, just as the master salesmen in this incoming administration, wizards at divide and conquer, want me to hate my fellow citizens. I refuse to do so.
If Aung San Suu Kyi could resist, so can I.
Sister Helen Prejean, best known for Dead Man Walking, her eyewitness account of the death penalty, tells a similar story. She refuses to be considered the hero of her book. She names instead Lloyd LeBlanc, the father of a murder victim, who exerted a courageous struggle not to be overcome by the feelings of bitterness and revenge that would well up within him as he thought of the murders. He, too, serves as a model.
If he could do that, I can do this.
Wangari Maathai provides a similar model. Imprisoned numerous times during her fight against degradation of the environment in Kenya, she emerged determined to gather her fellow citizens into concerted action—the planting of trees—by the millions. As she accepted the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize she spoke words remarkably apt for this moment.“In the course of history,” she said In her acceptance speech, “there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.”
To these words, too, I say: If she could do that, I can do this.
I cherish the values on which America was founded—decency, reason and compassion. If I allow myself to be eaten by hatred in this moment of foment, I will be unable to defend them. These women and many more give me the courage to reach out to those who support the divisive ideas of Donald Trump and be ready to help pick them up when the hatred he stoked begins to eat them and the promises he made fail to materialize. I pledge to do so without prejudice and with kind action.
In spring 2017, when the excitement of the inauguration and the Women’s March has subsided, I will stand behind my senators as they guide the choice of the appointments to the Supreme Court and federal courts. I will speak out against pullbacks on environmental protections and press my state representatives to ensure coverage for medical care, including Medicaid funding for mental illness. I will increase my volunteer hours at the local women’s shelter where funds will probably be cut. I will help raise funds for organizations that do work I believe in. I will remain informed to different viewpoints. I will listen with an open mind to fellow citizens who bring a different perspective and be willing to change my view if they prove me wrong.
It will not be easy.
Reverend Desmond Tutu, an expert in working with societies fractured by calculated internal strife, points out the central pitfall. “Bygones will not be bygones just because you say it is so,” he has said. “They will come back to haunt you.”
There is no appetite for truth-telling and apology at the moment. The incoming administration seems inclined to leave the debris at the side of the road, claiming America has always been divided. It is in itself a hateful stance, but I will not be suckered into hatred. There is too much work to be done.
Susanne Dumbleton is Professor Emeritus and Former Dean at DePaul University. She is studying the work of Aung San Suu Kyi, Wangari Maathai and Sister Helen Prejean as leaders for human rights and social justice.
“The Catalogue of Imaginary Beings” is an ongoing series of work I began in 2015 that sprung from over 20 years of portraiture and collage work. Now at well over 100 plates, the body of work seeks to explore a range of themes in popular culture including the role of the individual in fashion, in history, in the artistic imagination and, more broadly, the collective consciousness.
It draws its inspiration from a wide spectrum of sources—including magical realism, surrealism and symbolism—and more specifically references such cultural artifacts as talismans, idols, totems and all of the material detritus that surrounds all of us all the time. These characters are composites embodying notions of “the warrior,” vulnerability, industry, the universal and the personal. They reference these identities as they’ve been depicted historically through art, literature and commerce.
The sideshow candidacy and then the unbelievable election and, now, the devastating inauguration of Donald Trump has been very difficult for many women in this country to understand or accept. I am one of those women.
It’s hard to know what one can do in times like these. As an artist, I feel my most effective voice is through my art—so I’ve made these images of monumental, formidable women in commemoration of the women’s marches in Washington, D.C. and around the world. I wanted to depict strong women standing up for their rights and to spread the word about the marches, of which there are over 600. (The Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms., will be leading delegations at three!)
Johanna Goodman is an artist based in New York City. She graduated from Parsons School of Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration in 1992 and has been a freelance illustrator ever since. Her work has garnered awards from The Society of Publication Design, American Illustration and Communication Arts. Her clients include the Sidney Hillman Foundation, The Paley Center for Media, Le Monde, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Bust, New York Magazine and Smithsonian Magazine, among many others.
Jena Friedman is scared for us, and rightly so. But, fortunately, the comedian and former Daily Show producer is offering up some laughs for those of who could use a some a dose of humor with her new comedy special, American Cunt, now available to stream on Amazon. Last week, Jena took the time to chat with the Ms. Blog by phone from New York about comedy, the British and her plans for Inauguration Day.
One of the first things I was hoping to talk to you about was that, watching American Cunt, one of the first things that strikes me was that it was recorded—shall we say—pre-November 8, 2016. How has the show changed since then, and how has your approach changed or how has your perception of some of the material changed?
So, the show itself has not changed. What we’re putting out… is the pre-election show. I’ve been trying to talk about what’s actually going on. I was hoping that Hillary would have won… I was hoping that, when I put American Cunt out I would be able to step away from political comedy and focus [more] on the narrative stuff that I’m doing [and] stand up that’s not as political, but that didn’t end up the case. Now I’m going on stage and I’m talking about [the election]. It’s not easy, but I’m trying to talk about stuff that’s going on.
What was your reaction to Trump’s win on election night?
To the coup? (Laughs). You go through the stages of grief. I’m not longer in denial. I’m scared for us. I think I have a better sense of how elections are, that I clearly didn’t have prior. And I’m just… gearing up for the next however many years to try and continue to do comedy, but also work to help people who are going to be a bit more vulnerable now.
And how are you feeling days away from the inauguration?
I’m sad. I’m going to the Women’s March, I’ll be supporting there… I’m sad for us. The prospect of Hillary Clinton [as president] was really, really exciting, for a lot of reasons. I was excited to look toward [policies like] paid leave, and trying to figure out how our society could become more amenable to working moms, single moms, women in and out of the workforce. And now it’s almost like we’re just [having to] figure out how not to go so far back in time.
You say you’re stepping away from the narrative comedy you’ve been working on and staying with political comedy more. Do you think comedians have a particular responsibility in Trump’s America to comment and call out things that will almost certainly going to be going on in the Administration—things that have already happened—that comedians are able to speak to in a unique way?
I think anyone with empathy has a bigger responsibility than they ever have, to try to not push back the clock, to defend people who are vulnerable. Comedians are in a unique position, I think all artists are in a unique position, I think all people, say if you’re a banker and you have money and care about people. From being at the Daily Show, we had the opportunity to tackle issues and do it in a funny way to help people understand them. I feel like, up until this election, we’ve had times when people weren’t as political, weren’t as concerned with, say global warming and fracking and mass incarceration… It’s fun to be able to speak to an audience and educate them on issues they might not be aware of, but I think at this moment everyone is tuned into politics because nothing is more surreal and fascinating.
It used be, like, a luxury to be a political comedian and “I can do a comedic piece about the oxycontin epidemic!” …[Now] I feel like it’s all hands on deck.
In the past you’ve made the point that your comedy is very female-centric. You’re writing for a lot of women—who are not the typical target demographic for a lot of comedy. Do you feel like the role or the voice of comedians who can speak to (some aspect of) the female experience is especially important right now?
Well, my stand-up [material] and my scripted material actually isn’t as gendered. American Cunt sort of became American Cunt because it was a title that started as a joke for U.K. audiences and sort of a play on how, in the U.K., the word cunt isn’t even feminized so it’s almost a term of endearment. And then I sort of wrote the show around the title. It wasn’t particularly feminist, really, until I brought it back [to the States], right as the election was ramping up. So, I ended up changing the show and the show ended up just becoming about the election in a feminist way. And, again, I was excited just to move a little bit away from that, because it sounds so aggressively female and there are other topics I’m interested in, like singularity, [technology], lots of different kinds of stuff. But with this incoming administration, it does actually feel like they’re attacking us, like there’s a war on women that’s going on. Just like in Ohio with the [the Heartbeat Bill], so it does feel like we can’t stop talking about it. Especially because this narrative has almost strayed away from the public, I can’t speak for other women or other comedians, but I’m trying to talk about [women’s issues]—but [what’s going on] isn’t funny…I’ve been trying to figure out jokes to help [men] realize just how hard this election has been and what it means for women in a way that’s funny, and that’s challenging. Female friends who I’ve talked to…are panicking, and my male friends are upset, but not at that level of sadness. I have to figure out how to make it funny—I’ve not had much luck.
How was it premiering the show sort of around the time of Brexit at Edinburgh?
It was great—because we were in the U.K. and I was surprised by how interested they are in American politics and how sophisticated their frame of reference was. I was in London and Edinburgh for the most part and they really “got” [the show]. Then, when I toured American Cunt before we shot it in the States, I took it to San Francisco, and I went to D.C. and Portland and L.A and just a couple of [friendly] cities. I wasn’t in the San Antonios, or Deuluth, or Des Moines. I had [would sometimes] have a couple of Trump supporters in the audiences, but it was almost like people were reluctant Trump supporters and [the divisions] weren’t as palpable as they’ve gotten. It was nice, I felt like the biggest problem [at that point] was trying to get people who were Bernie supporters to vote for Hillary… I had a lot of friends who were real Bernie supports, but I felt like I could talk to them. But now it’s very hard to try to connect and communicate with somebody who still supports Trump, because I don’t feel any sort of common ground with their point of view.
What is your writing process like when you sit down to create a joke? What is the first run of a joke like for you?
I’ll Tweet a lot. These days, for better or for worse [Twitter is a useful testing space]. I’ve also been very unfunny on Twitter lately, because I’ve found that if we just say something intuitive, I think a lot of people are feeling the same thing. If I’m writing more scripted stuff, I don’t really [use] Tweets to work that out…At the moment, it’s starting with an idea of something I want to say and funding out how to plug that into comedy, whereas in the past it used to be something I thought was funny and I’d try to make funnier. Now it’s “how do I get guys to understand how bad this is for [women] and the jokes really start from that premise.
What are your plans for inauguration day itself?
I don’t know (laughs). Somebody was asking me “are you going to watch?” And I’m like, “I don’t know.” I don’t know if you’ve ever dated a narcissist, but I feel like the best thing to do is just ignore them. And I think, I don’t know if I’m going to watch or just…do something else, like read a book. Something…something happy.
Lauren Young is an Editorial Intern at Ms. She has a Master’s Degree in European and Russian Studies from Yale University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and Russian Civilization from Smith College. Follow her on @laurensayoung.
Name: Lauren Smith
Recommender: Joel Smith
Congregation: 3800 Marlton Pike
Cell Leader: Nicole Jordan
Compassion/Mission team (if any): Debt Annihilation Team, Cleaning Team, Sunday Meeting Design Team
Words from the recommender: When I first got to know Lauren deeply, it was clear to me that she was deeply rooted in the virtues that Jesus taught his followers in the gospels. Over the last 9 or so years, I’ve seen that confirmed time and time again the context of our life together and in our community here at Circle of Hope. Furthermore, in our time here, I’ve seen her grow in her commitment to justice, redemptive action, and her vocation as servant leader. Her commitment has been and will continue to be to demonstrate God’s presence through love, and that’s why I think her partnership in our covenant is invaluable.
What do you bring to the life of our body and the fulfillment of our mission?
Briefly tell us how you came to know Jesus and follow Him as your Lord.
The morning Donald Trump was declared the president-elect, I groggily checked my phone to confirm what part of me already knew. It’s interesting living over half your life under an Obama presidency—transitioning from being in awe of a black president to becoming analytical, and at times critical, of the decisions he made (or didn’t make). To then to lose him to a person like Trump is the one of the most bitter experience I’ve ever had. In a perfect world, we could blame the outbreak of racist, islamophobic, homophobic, transphobic, and sexist bullying and discrimination in schools on Trump. But these incidents were already brewing, waiting for the perfect moment to emerge.
During my school’s spirit week, I found myself biting my tongue while a group of my white classmates casually used the N-word around me, giggling throughout. One white boy, let’s call him Andy, went so far as to say that it was “their word.” This was the first time I had heard them say the N-word in a classroom setting, and the first time I’d ever heard the word repeated that many times. Of course, I was aware that they said it in the hallways, which only gave me cause to avoid them. But in that classroom I couldn’t. With a teacher who wasn’t a native English speaker and didn’t understand the significance of the word, I felt hopeless.
It didn’t end there. Another white student asked what the others were wearing for “black people day,” in reference to my school’s upcoming Culture Day, where students were invited to wear culturally significant clothing in celebration of our backgrounds. Those boys, who clearly didn’t understand or care about the impact of their words, laughed as they described their do-rags, Yeezys, and cornrow-inclusive outfits. Once school ended, I ran out of the classroom faster than I ever had. I ranted to my friend Denise, who suggested I go to the vice-principal. Since I regretted not saying anything in the moment and really didn’t want to see anyone come to school in appropriative and offensive clothing, I decided to take her advice.
I ended up meeting with the principal and vice-principal that same day after school with Denise hovering in the room for support. I told them what happened word for word. The first thing my principal said to me was, “Wait, so they didn’t say the word to you?” I said no. There was an immediate shift in the energy in the room and the men in front of me seemed more relaxed.
They talked about how that it’s definitely not OK for them to by using the N-word in an in-school setting, or in any setting. I agreed with this wholeheartedly. I began to list the names of the boys involved. The vice-principal’s eyes widened and he shook his head. “Oh, wow! Andy? He’s a really good kid. I know he understands the impact of that word. And he really does have such a bright future ahead of him. He’s smart.” As my heart dropped, I laughed and turned to my friend in disbelief. I started: “I’m not trying to be rude but…” but trailed off. The principal asked me, “Is it possible that they were affected by the word the same way you were?” I couldn’t understand, and still don’t understand, what would make anyone think that a black person and nonblack people who use the N-word are affected by the word in the same way. The exchange went on, but I had already mentally left the room.
All that ultimately came from this meeting was me being asked to meet with the boys to educate them. Before speaking to my mom, I was feeling guilty about my unwillingness to do this. But she quickly dismissed the idea, already enraged that I had been told that one of the boys was “a good kid.” My job as a student is not to teach non-black counterparts. Learning about right and wrong in this context should come from parents, and if not them then the school. But we don’t live in a world where this is the expectation. I recognize that every day, black people in online, educational, business, or social settings are expected to answer questions. But after the 2016 election and questions such as, “Why is it ‘black lives matter’ and not ‘all lives matter’?” and, “Why can’t I say the N-word but you can?” it’s no wonder we find ourselves exhausted. That’s what I was after that day, exhausted.
The boys received a “talking to” as their punishment, and I hope that their parents were contacted, but I don’t know. Two days later, one said the N-word again, apparently prompted by our Mandarin teacher saying characters that sounded similar. Laughing, his friends told him to shut up: “Come on, you don’t want visit the principal again.” It wasn’t exactly a surprise to see they weren’t taking it seriously.
When one of the boys came up to me directly during lunch to ask if I “was really bothered by what was said,” I gave a blank look and started to deny it. After I met with the vice-principal to tell him that I wouldn’t talk to the boys at all, the heads of school promised to keep me out of it. I’m one of four black kids in that class and the others seemed unbothered; it wasn’t hard for them to narrow it down. I had to analyze why I was so afraid to be in a class with people that knew I didn’t like something racist that they had said, why I stayed quiet when they ranted about how Trump was making a better future. I realized how afraid I really was, and that was troubling.
Although this was a beyond aggravating experience, it has been paramount to my understanding of how any discrimination or bigoted behavior can be combatted in the school system—and that sometimes, it just can’t be. There will always be friends to talk to, the Black Student Unions and teachers you trust to take action, the guardians you want to email the school. These are all valid choices. And maybe you have principals that will understand and help you, because some surely will. If you feel comfortable to talk directly to the teacher or student saying something bigoted, please do it in the safest way possible. But please know it is never your responsibility to put yourself in harm’s way.
As Trump takes office, the most we can ask of ourselves as young people is to pay attention, to call our reps when the situation demands it, to donate what we can, to care unapologetically, and to support each other without limit or shame. It can seem daunting at times, and a bit cliché, but we are the future and every step we take now counts. ♦
Recommender: Ben Rosenbach
Congregation: 1125 South Broad
Cell Leader: Mark “Michael Phelps” Netti
Compassion/Mission team (if any): Design Team
Words from the recommender:
When I first met Alex, he had just gotten out of a long relationship that brought him to Philly. Most people I know could easily use this as an excuse to retreat and close up, but Alex did exactly the opposite. He opened up in a way that was selfless and vulnerable, just as Jesus is selfless and vulnerable. He came to every potluck we hosted that Lent (only person to attend every one!) and was always ready to be hospitable towards the different people who rotated through each week. Alex has a pretty good understanding of God’s love and how to share it, and I’m super excited he wants to continue to share and further root that love with us.
What do you bring to the life of our body and the fulfillment of our mission?
In every stage of my life God has provided a space for me to sing his praises with others. Whenever I’ve said “Yes!” to these spaces, I’ve not only felt closer and closer to our Lord, but to the others singing as well. My spiritual journey continues to show me that singing and saying “Yes!” are two of the best ways I can connect with God on a personal level, and I am excited to present these gifts through Circle.
Briefly tell us how you came to know Jesus and follow Him as your Lord.
“I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.” – John Green
Honestly, I came to know Jesus unintentionally. I was brought to church as a child, but I was unable to interact with the Catholic mass so I continued to go out of familial obligation. In my high school years I was able to join our church choir which was refreshing because I was able to engage in the mass in a more meaningful way. While this added personal enjoyment to attending the service, I still felt only marginally more connected to the Lord.
However, in the last 8 months of attending Circle meetings I have seen where Jesus truly lies. He is not only alive in each person, but maybe more importantly Jesus is in-between all of us too. He is inside of our friends and our friendships at the same time. I believe that seeing Jesus in “the in-between” has made me excited to follow his beautiful example of love, helping others, and inclusion.
Film: Sing Street (2016)
If you liked La La Land, try watching Sing Street. Set in 1980s Ireland, the film follows a teenage boy as he starts a band for the sole purpose of impressing a girl. As Duran Duran plays in the background, the characters navigate divorce, bullying, and adolescence. I felt that Sing Street captured what it’s like to be a teenager in any time period; the longing for freedom mixed with the routines of childhood. Besides being dreamy and well-styled, the world of Sing Street also has amazing original music that takes center stage. It gets better each time I watch it, but I still wish I could be sitting in the theater again, as the opening credits played for the first time. —Lennon Walter
TV Show: Insecure (HBO, 2016-)
Issa Rae’s Insecure presents all of the joys, discomforts, and sometimes frustrating everyday occurrences that come with being a black woman in modern America. We’re shown a black struggle that isn’t often represented in film and television; not one of poverty or life-or-death hardship, not a rags to riches hustle; but rather, how difficult it can be to exist as a middle-class black woman in a white world. We see every little truth from the microagressions that come with rocking your natural texture, to the burden of constantly feeling like you have to defy the “loud black woman” stereotype in the workplace. But the show isn’t necessarily political—it simply shows us things we’re not used to seeing, and broaches topics many of people of color may have thought were “just us.” Beyond the political, Insecure is a great show about trying to get by in your 20s. Its message feels so relatable. No matter how successful or competent we may seem on the inside, we’re all a little bit insecure. —Micha Frazer-Carroll
Web Series: How to Not (Vimeo, 2016-)
If you’re looking for a new visual feast to delve into, consider checking out How to Not. The eight-episode web series is an alternately funny, hopeful, and poignant look at one young 20-something woman’s experiences with love, queerness, and the confusion of “growing the fuck up.” After a dissatisfying night out, the series’ protagonist, credited as “You,” feels disheartened and lonely, with only her phone for company while waiting for her Uber home—until she makes the fateful decision to change her Tinder settings to “Only Women” and quickly finds a match in Jamie. She’s a full-time flight paramedic who stands in stark contrast to the gross guys hitting You up on the platform with cringe-inducing puns. As the series progresses, the audience learns that the protagonist is not perfect—far from it—but she is trying. She’s working, learning, and fighting to better herself, and that crucial growth and development that is so universal and relatable is what makes How to Not worth seeing through to the very end. Director Gia Vangieri originally set out to make a series in which the “gay girl wins,” and I’d say she’s succeeded. —Victoria Chiu ♦
Callum Borchers, "Count Obama’s references to ‘I’ and ‘me’ while you can, conservative media", WaPo 1/18/2017:
For eight years, tracking Obama's use of the personal pronouns "I" and "me" has been a cherished ritual in the conservative media — one small way to promote the idea that the president is self-centered and therefore out of touch with all the decent, hard-working folks out there. […]
Last week, the Daily Caller dinged Obama for referring to himself 75 times in his farewell address.
The ding in question was Peter Hasson, "Obama Refers To Himself 75 Times In Farewell Address", The Daily Caller 1/10/2017:
President Obama referred to himself 75 times in his farewell address Tuesday night, according to a review of his prepared remarks by The Daily Caller. […]
Obama said “I” 33 times during the speech, “my” 20 times, “me” 10 times, and “I’m” or “I’ve” 12 times.
I processed the Federal News Service transcript of the speech as delivered, and got even more first-person singular pronouns than the Daily Caller did — 53 instances of "I", and 88 first person singular pronouns in total.
But let's look at the percentages:
4899 words, 53 I's (1.08 percent), 88 FPSP (1.80 percent)
4899 words, 90 you's (1.84 percent), 106 SPP (2.16 percent)
4899 words, 99 we's (2.02 percent), 235 FPPP (4.80 percent)
Is this a lot? Well, we can compare Donald Trump's news conference of 1/11/2017. Based on my own transcription of the event's audio, I get
6582 words, 248 I's (3.78 percent), 282 FPSP (4.28 percent)
6582 words, 89 you's (1.35 percent), 98 SPP (1.49 percent)
6582 words, 77 we's (1.17 percent), 114 FPPP (1.73 percent)
So as we've found in many previous instances, Obama's rate of first-person-singular-pronoun usage is low compared to the rates displayed by other politicians.
Some previous LLOG coverage, in reverse chronological order:
"More BS from George F. Will", 8/28/2015
"Presidential pronouns: This time it's Ron Fournier", 1/20/2015
"Buzzfeed linguistics, presidential pronouns, and narcissism revisited", 10/21/2014
"Colbert on Krauthammer", 9/24/2014
"Another casual lie from Charles Krauthammer", 9/16/2014
"The evolution of SOTU pronouns", 1/28/2014
"First Person Singular, Redemption Plea Edition", 1/11/2014
"Obama pronouns again", 10/31/2012
"Another lie from George Will", 5/7/2012
"A meme in hibernation", 3/31/2012
"Another pundit who can't (or won't) count" (6/23/2011)
"Two more pundits who don't count" (6/21/2011)
"Presidential pronouns, one more time" (5/22/2011)
"Recommended reading" (5/3/2011)
""A sociopath and narcissist and manipulator"" (8/9/2010)
"Open fraud as Op-Ed discourse" (7/10/2010)
"Them there I's" (2/11/2010)
"Fact-checking George F. Will, one more time" (10/6/2010)
"What is 'I' saying?" (8/9/2009)
"'I' is a camera" (7/18/2009)
"I again" (7/13/2009)
"Another pack member heard from" (6/9/2009)
"Royal Baloney" (6/9/2009)
"Inaugural pronouns" (6/8/2009)
"Obama's Imperial 'I': spreading the meme" (6/8/2009)
"Fact-checking George F. Will" (6/7/2009)
As this list indicates, it's not just "the conservative media" who have cherished this particular piece of (in the technical philosophical sense) bullshit — unless The Washington Post is part of "the conservative media".
In particular, George F. Will has a longer and more consistent history of false statements and insinuations on this point than any other prominent writer — for a few of his effusions, see the links in "Fact-checking George F. Will", 6/7/2009; "Fact-checking George F Will, one more time", 10/6/2009; "Another lie from George F. Will", 5/7/2012; "More BS from George F. Will", 8/28/2015.
And another Washington Post writer, Charles Krauthammer, has added his own uninformed bellows to the chorus from time to time — see "Open fraud as Op-Ed discourse", 7/10/2010; "Another casual lie from Charles Krauthammer", 9/16/2014.
Over the years, this counting game has been played by the National Review, Weekly Standard, Washington Examiner, Infowars, the Federalist, the Daily Mail, Daily Wire, Independent Journal Review, CNS News and Conspiracy Outpost, among others.
Fox News appears to have been among the first to make this a thing, publishing an important finding by the conservative Media Research Center eight months after Obama took office.
But the cited Fox News article is from September 9, 2009. George F. Will's first assertion on this topic was published in the Washington Post on June 7, 2009, three months earlier.
Is it possible that Mr. Borchers isn't aware of his own newspaper's shameful history on this topic? Or is it against editorial policy for one WaPo writer to call out another's unsupported prejudice?
Of course, the whole exercise would be beside the alleged point even if the pundits involved were not innumerate. According to Angela Cary et al.,"Narcissism and the Use of Personal Pronouns Revisited", Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2014:
Overall (r = .02, 95% CI [-.02, .04]) and within the sampled contexts, narcissism was unrelated to use of first-person singular pronouns.
Update — I thought it would be amusing to give George F. Will a dose of his own medicine, but with actual counts and rates. So I transcribed the Youtube video clip where he explains why he left the Republican Party, and here's the result:
201 words, 14 I's (6.97 percent), 18 FPSP (8.96 percent)
201 words, 1 you's (0.50 percent), 1 SPP (0.50 percent)
201 words, 0 we's (0 percent), 0 FPPP (0 percent)
Small N, just one sample, different context — but still. In June of 2009, Mr. Will opined that Barack Obama "is inordinately fond of the first-person singular pronoun". Now we see that George beats Barack in first-person-singular-pronoun usage by 8.96/1.80, or about 5 to 1. So if Barack is "inordinately fond of the first-person singular", what should we say about George? That he's consumed with insatiable, obsessive lust for ceaseless self-reference? Or maybe just that this is a silly metric, and that George Will's often-repeated over-reaction to Obama's relatively low rate of self-reference tells us more about Will's attitude towards uppity negroes than about Obama's rhetorical style.
It’s Friday! Check in with the latest Daily Links…
Janet Mock’s interview with Women’s March organizers Carmen Perez and Bob Bland is an insightful look into the history and development of the momentous demonstration happening tomorrow, January 21. More than 600 marches have been organized around the world in solidarity; check if there’s one in your town here.
I’m always fascinated by the mechanics that impact contemporary culture and our world. This article in The Atlantic does a great job of exploring the shifting dynamics that are causing Trump’s declining approval ratings.
In this interview, Jemima Kirke talks about self-sabotage and finding confidence. It feels like an intimate conversation with a wise older sister. ♦