Few news outlets take the trouble to interview minorities; far easier, I suspect, to project stereotypes based on patterns of behavior and come to conclusions based on received wisdom. Talking to several people in what he calls “the upper crust of Black Detroit,” Tim Alberta learns how the death of George Floyd and the rise of Joe Biden have affected this community. The manner in which Floyd didn’t resist the asphyxiation unnerved them; Biden’s tired white guy schtik won’t fool them. As Eric Benjamin, an AT&T employee, notes, “I’ll vote for Biden. But it won’t matter. It’s never gonna matter who the president is. The cops are still gonna pull me over in my Cadillac and ask me, ‘How did you afford this car?’” Continue reading
Longtime readers know I avoid the Trump scrim. They can read him or about him on social media. I try, when I can, to cover matters local and general. But the depths of his malice revealed themselves when he said not a word of sympathy for the first person to die of COVID-19, for, after all, this person had a pre-existing condition. Or a month later when he couldn’t say, as even Richard Milhouse Nixon would’ve done, that he’d wear a mask around the White House for the sake of the vice presiden and his hard-working staff — or for the sake of his wife and children. Continue reading
I was told — note the passive voice — about a “long weekend.” Well, “long” we’ve known about since the ides of March. What is a “weekend”? The Miami I saw on my drives and walks huddled indoors on Friday and Saturday, reluctant to enjoy the restaurants and shops that had opened. After my reasonable experience last Wednesday, I tried again at another spot two days later. Fans that roared like jet engines held the beastly heat at bay while I slurped on escargot and drank rose. The waiter at my favorite casual French bistros beamed with gratitude but eyed the sea of empty tables, mask a-tremble. Continue reading
A grim week for Florida: almost six hundred new cases of coronavirus in the last week. My county is the hot spot. Florida (the state with the prettiest name!) is certainly undercounting the deaths; the most powerful medical examiner has called the release a “sham.” Our mayor, meanwhile, who hopes to replace my representative Debbie Murcarsel-Powell in November, wants to re-open most businesses in a week. I’m doing fine, albeit nervous after a triumphant Mother’s Day brunch with family. Steady rain kept us indoors, and indoors anywhere not my home brings on the heebie jeebies. To mark a break from the past, I may stop threatening to shave my head and do it already.
Adam Serwer, whose “the cruelty is the point” remains the pithiest distillation of the Trump administration’s approach to governance, has written another powerful piece delineating America’s “racial contract”:
The frame of war allows the president to call for the collective sacrifice of laborers without taking the measures necessary to ensure their safety, while the upper classes remain secure at home. But the workers who signed up to harvest food, deliver packages, stack groceries, drive trains and buses, and care for the sick did not sign up for war, and the unwillingness of America’s political leadership to protect them is a policy decision, not an inevitability. Trump is acting in accordance with the terms of the racial contract, which values the lives of those most likely to be affected less than the inconveniences necessary to preserve them. The president’s language of wartime unity is a veil draped over a federal response that offers little more than contempt for those whose lives are at risk. To this administration, they are simply fuel to keep the glorious Trump economy burning.
This racial contract, a term Serwer borrows from Charles Mills, “is a codicil rendered in invisible ink, one stating that the rules as written do not apply to nonwhite people in the same way.” Since March the contract adds further codicils. As COVID-19 ravages communities of color, the White House has determined that the group of voters most crucial to the president’s reelection chances don’t matter much either. Florida has often not given a damn about its elderly population, whether it faces threats from hurricanes or pandemics.
I’ll give credit where it’s due. The best account of how the death of Ahmaud Arbery reflects the structural racism in our police systems? David French, former National Review columnist and erstwhile 2016 presidential aspirant. It appears in The Dispatch, that foundling home for itinerant #NeverTrump conservatives. French:
Moreover, there is a vast difference between benign open carry and using a gun to threaten a person. It’s a crime under Georgia law to point a gun (loaded or unloaded) without legal justification. When Arbery was confronted by armed men who moved directly to block him from leaving, demanding to “talk,” then Arbery was entitled to defend himself. Georgia’s “stand your ground law” arguably benefits Arbery, not those who were attempting to falsely imprison him at gunpoint.
It’s also worth remembering that the long and evil history of American lynchings features countless examples of young black men hunted and killed by white gangs who claimed their victims had committed crimes. While we don’t yet know the full details about the McMichaels’ motives, their actions speak loudly enough. When white men grab guns and mount up to pursue and seize an unarmed black man in the street, they stand in the shoes of lynch mobs past.
Almost as astonishing: the comments section for the most part observes notions of civility. We’re not dead yet.
Paramore’s Hayley Williams released a solo album last Friday notable for its moral intelligence. As part of its promotional cycle, she’s given remarkable interviews, the best of which is with Eve Barlow. Read it.
I took great pleasure reading Nate Chinen’s Pitchfork Sunday Review essay on Archie Shepp’s Attica Blues.
I’ve got a new playlist for the week.
With Miami-Dade County libraries allowing curbside pickup, I’ve saved some dough. Last week I finished a couple of short novels. Georges Simenon’s The Man Who Watched Trains Go By, one of his several thousand terse novels (I mildly exaggerate) about what we could now label sociopaths. Thanks to a concentration on furniture, food, and clothing, the surface verisimilitude of his fiction is its own attraction; the patina of realism also obscures a reluctance to probe his characters, a tendency that often mars Graham Greene’s novels too. Simenon’s penchant for subjectivity induces him to overuse exclamation points, too. Quibbles, though. This is as keen as the hard-boiled genre gets.
Practiced at a kind of subjectivity that presented itself on the page as a continuous paragraph and indirect dialogue, Thomas Bernhard wrote several short novels starting in the sixties about obsessives. Correction, the third I’ve read, depicts the anguish of a self-styled genius whose effort to create what he calls the Cone for the sake of a beloved sister leads him to negate bit by bit his existence; in addition, the novel functions as a treatise on suicide, as Roithamer’s madness about revising written statements turns his account into a palimpsest.
Next up: Rudyard Kipling’s Kim.
Take care of each other.
In the same way locked in and isolated citizens have taken to several more helpings of Doritos than what’s good for them during these times of anxiety, they’re also gorging on cable news. I’m not. Channel surfing late yesterday morning, though, you’d think the gibbering of a handful of white MAGA monkeys in Michigan, Virginia, and Minnesota represented a “growing” rage at social distancing. That’s not what polls suggest, though. Continue reading
Look out, y’all! Dawn of the Dead happened in Michigan! Continue reading
Although it took four months, we as a society understand Roddy Ricch’s obsession with not wearing shoes in his house. In many films by Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu, his camera will from a still point in the room watch a character as he or she removes his or her shoes at the doorway before entering. Beneath the offhand politeness and automatic amiability stir financial and personal anxieties. I see it in my neighbors’ smiles, the way in which the occasional pedestrian will go out of her way to nod hello as she realizes the twelve-foot gap between us is closing fast. Continue reading
2.4 miles. A magic number — the number of miles I walked yesterday after lunch. Besides the noxious task of keeping illness at bay, noting my increased physical endurance has become part of my routine. Setbacks happen. On Monday I recorded my first class lecture on Zoom only to realize I hadn’t pressed “Record.” My student journalists have accustomed themselves to my stern admonitions against relying on technology during interviews — bring a notebook as well as your phone, etc. Continue reading
Hoping his master will nominate him in the next two months to head the coronavirus task force when Pence, Fauci, et. al exhaust his patience, Ron DeSantis governs my state as if he wanted Donald Trump’s base to die before Election Day:
DeSantis pointed to crowded beaches in California and the stream of travelers from New York to Florida as evidence that those orders aren’t working.
“And the fact of the matter is, a governor is not going to start imprisoning people just because they leave their house,’’ he said. “So you’re going to have a lot of non-compliance.”
DeSantis announced that while the state won’t halt the number of people who are fleeing to Florida from other states, he will require “anybody traveling from those regions in New York or New Jersey to the state of Florida is going to have to do a mandatory 14-day self isolation.”
And what of the health of the state’s largest concentration of the Three R’s — rich, retired, revanchist — and their contribution to his master’s electoral prospects?
The governor said earlier Monday in a press conference at The Villages that he wants “good data” on the coronavirus to drive his decisions about whether to shut down the state. He implied that it isn’t yet a major concern in many parts of Florida.
“We’ve still got 20 counties with zero infections and I think about 26 that have 2, 3, 5, 7 type of infections,” he said.
But the data he’s relying on may be inadequate and out of date. As of midday Monday, Florida had conducted just over 13,000 tests in a state of more than 21 million people. Because a person may get multiple tests, the number of people who have been tested is less than 13,000
Kudos to the Miami Herald for the last paragraph rebuke. The number of motorists arrested for speeding doesn’t vitiate the need for speed limits; evidence of fraud doesn’t undermine the case for a welfare system; finding only one case in landlocked northern Bradford County doesn’t prove the county won’t see a surge. I’m terrified to speak to certain relatives who remain, to quote Elizabeth Bishop, “awful but cheerful” about Florida (the state with the prettiest name!) already enduring the worst of it.
Confusing objectivity with fairness, political reporters have contributed unwittingly to the decay of their craft. Millions of Americans trust The Media less than a president who spits lies in two- and three-word sentences, then repeating them like Pete Shelley does his solo in Buzzcocks’ “Boredom.” I urge my young charges at the student newspapers to describe what their five senses tell them. They don’t need three sources to confirm a rose is pink, and if a member of student government confidently claims he saw snakes falling out of the ceiling it’s up to the reporter to explain snakes aren’t often found in the library. Continue reading
Bowing to what they perceive is reality, House Dems and I suppose the Dem national leadership hints it has abjured the former’s investigative powers until after Election Day: Continue reading
Minutes after a visibly aged John Roberts gaveled the end of the impeachment trial on Feb. 5, I experienced a couple surprises, two more than I expected, say, in December when acquittal in the Senate for Donald J. Trump looked certain. A few points: Continue reading