Here’s the thing: I grew up in Kentucky. I sold insurance door-to-door. I sold ladies’ shoes. I worked at an all-night liquor store. I would buy suits that were too big and too long and cut the bottom of the pants off to make ties so I’d have a tie to go on job interviews. I grew up understanding what it was like to not have health insurance for eight years. So this idea that I’m somehow the “Hollywood elite” and this guy who takes a shit in a gold toilet is somehow the man of the people is laughable.
That’s George Clooney on Donald Trump. The interview I took that clip from is wide-ranging, sharp, incisive, and worth reading in full.
Today has been a day of making wishes. First when I saw images of sportsmen and the owners of their teams take the knee in defiance of Donald Trump. Then when I read this.
Don’t you wish our own public figures had the courage of their convictions? Hell – don’t you wish they had some convictions?
This is the thing with headlines. You use one because you think it fits and then along comes something else that makes you wish you had saved it for this.
In my roundup for today I’d touched on recent incidents at Benares Hindu University. I didn’t realize that the real WTF moment was still to come. The administration has put out a press release which, among other things, says:
In a media release, the BHU administration stated, “This protest was completely political in nature because it was timed with the PM’s visit, with the intention of soiling the image of the university.”
Apparently the molestation of a young girl does not stain the reputation; only the PM being put to some mild inconvenience does. Further:
Dismissing Friday’s reports that a woman student had tonsured her head in protest, the BHU Information Centre on Saturday released on its Facebook page screenshots of a student with her head shaved. The post mentioned her name and details and claimed she had tonsured her head last year. Stating that she was being “exploited” by “anti-national” forces, the university called the protests the “work of propagandists”.
It happens. Every single time. Incompetent authority, occupying a position that is a gift from the political masters, confront a problem. Rather than face it, look for and implement solutions, the instinctive reaction is to deny. To don the shroud of ‘patriotism’, the cloak of ‘nation’, and from that place to demonise those who demand answers, seek solutions.
If patriotism is, as Samuel Johnson said, the last refuge of the scoundrel, then it is at risk of being dangerously over-populated.
America has wrestled with hypocrisy ever since it was birthed by slave-owning founders who wrote searing declarations of freedom. But never has the gulf between the hallowed position of the presidency and the hollowness of the person who inhabits it been as wide as it is today. And never has Mr. Trump faced a foe like Mr. Kaepernick, whose silent protests hit harder than any of the President’s tirades because they force Americans to contend not only with complicity, but complacency. If Mr. Kaepernick can live his values, destroying his popularity and football career in the process, why can’t we all? If we have freedom of speech, who will we speak up for?
There are many reasons to hate Donald Trump, all of them to do with what his hate-filled words and intemperate, ill-judged actions have done to the socio-political fabric of his country.
But there is one reason to be thankful to him for: through the unprecedented challenge he poses for journalists, he has given permission to so many fine journalists to find their sharpest voice. Sarah Kendzior, quoted above, is among the consistently finest. Her book The View From Flyover Country is a superb collection of prescient essays.
Her latest essay, written against the backdrop of the Colin Kaepernick issue, the instinctive reactions from the likes of LeBron James to a tangentially related issue, and the nationwide Take A Knee protest Trump’s words, is worth reading in full.
Three days into this WTFJH series that I started as a means to find/reclaim my voice, and I find that the feedback alone has been worth it.
I’ve been getting mails suggesting what I should write about (and also what I should not); mails asking what prompted me to return to blogging at a time when the trend is to move away from the format, and – this is by far the majority – what have I to say, what am I prepared to disclose, about my own biases.
Taking these in order: first, why emails? This will work much better, for both of us, if the conversation surrounding my posts is appended to the posts themselves. I’ve not asked for sign-ins before you comment; I have placed no bar on your commenting anonymously, so there really is no reason to flood my mailbox rather than speak your piece right here. Or am I missing something?
Two: re the question of whether I will write about this or that. This is a work in progress and I am still trying to work out a system, a rhythm, that suits me. I don’t intend to write about every single thing that happens – I am an individual, not a news site, and I don’t have the resources for such blanket coverage. My focus for now (remember “work in progress”?) is to connect up the dots; to examine an issue that catches my eye and see if it is part of a larger pattern – in other words, to go beyond capturing the headlines du jour. (So yeah, you will find one incident highlighted and elaborated upon and other incidents, bearing at least a superficial similarity, ignored.) Continue reading →