No Children of Lesser Gods

The video that went viral and catapulted the current administration’s heartless treatment of migrant children at the U.S. border into a national narrative.

It all began on June 5, 2018. when Senator Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, acting on a hunch, knocked on the doors of a former Walmart center in Brownsville, Texas.

And the rest is history.

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A Late-Capitalist Spectacle

Kim Kardashian

From the New Yorker:

The image appears before us like something out of a bad dream. He is seated behind the Resolute desk, his Chiclet teeth exposed in a rictus of extreme jollity. She is standing slightly behind him, considerably more sombre. In buttoned-up black, her long, dark locks tumbling in abundant waves, she is Botticelli’s Venus as channelled by Elvira, Mistress of the Dark—an icon of the Calabasas Renaissance. Her pose is stiff, her jacket sleeves pushed up in a gesture of can-do, eighties-style power-dressing. The familiar colors of the Oval Office appear newly garish, as if reflecting back to us those posing against them: the golden drapes and the gold of the man’s hair, the salmon chair and his ruddy skin, the flowing flags and the woman’s flowing mane. In an era rife with unbelievability, here was another near-unbelievable moment: the reality-TV mogul Kim Kardashian meeting with the reality-TV mogul Donald J. Trump, at the White House—an “American Gothic” for the age of gaudy, late-capitalist spectacle.

 

Welcome to Stanville

Rachel Kushner

Rachel Kushner’s new novel, “The Mars Room” is set in The Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility in Central Valley, California, the prison made famous by the Netflix series, “Orange is the New Black”.

An excerpt entitled “Stanville” (New Yorker, February 12 issue) gives a glimpse into the novel’s heart: the imprisoned are human beings, social beings, who don’t need to be saved, but to be recognized as ordinary people, stowed away in the darkest belly of the United States by design.

Prison acquires a metaphysical connotation in the story by being referred to as the “caged” world. The world outside is the “free” world.

The main character in “Stanville” is Gordon Hauser, a graduate school dropout, an obvious liberal, who believes that he can save the inmates from themselves by teaching them how to read, write and think critically. He thinks “If his students could learn to think well, to enjoy reading books, some part of them would be uncaged.” In other words, Gordon is blinded by his liberal view to the fact that encagement is a structural problem, not a moral one. Teaching the classics won’t help, really.

The story perhaps looks askance at a practice that’s gained popularity in recent years: spreading enlightenment among prisoners so they can be “better” people.

As is evinced by the story and by thoughts expressed by Kushner on the prison system in America, ( in an interview to the New Yorker), the inmates are people already, if not always good specimens of humanity. Crime is not a byproduct of poor choices made by weak character that can be transformed by enlightenment. As Kushner says in her interview:

If crime were a matter of character, then I could say ‘it’s my character that keeps me out of prison. But that would be a lie.

I’m curious to know what gets people into prison according to Rachel Kushner. I’m thinking that “The Mars Room” holds a key to her insight.

Kay Sera Sera

The Steven Spielberg-directed film, “The Post” is a very good film.

It is about an era in America when journalists were an intrepid tribe loyal to representing “facts” and “truths” with as much objectivity as they could.

The New York Times and The Washington Post are the heroes of the film, as they were the heroes of 1966 and thereafter, when both papers attempted to publish classified documents, The Pentagon Papers, leaked by the State Department military analyst, Daniel Ellsberg. The documents exposed the United States’ 30-year involvement in the Vietnam conflict.

However, the historical context notwithstanding, “The Post” is less about a vanished era of courageous journalism in the United States, and more about Katherine Graham, the Post‘s publisher.

Katherine Graham was the first female publisher of a major American newspaper; this historical nugget assumes a central place in the film. The narrative of her life is like the narrative of everywoman, minus the wealth, in a man’s world. The film begins at a moment when the Washington Post is in a crisis; it’s losing money in the market and investors are not happy with the Post‘s performance. But what investors are really not happy with is the specter of a woman at the helm of affairs.

The Post was owned by Graham’s father, who passed on the leadership mantle to her husband. Graham tells her daughter that at that point she thought that was the way things were–a man running the business. If Graham had a male sibling, the paper may have passed on to him.

The film emphasizes, in subtle shades of anti-patriarchal grays, that women can, if given an opportunity, make decisions, run businesses and demonstrate exemplary leadership. The Post’s old guard comprises of men who believe that the family should loosen its control over the paper, meaning thereby that Katherine Graham should stand in the back burner of its daily operations so the trusted old boys club could take control. Dithering and frazzled at first, Graham finally finds her own voice in the film when she takes an enormous risk of incarceration and beyond to preside over the paper’s publication of the Pentagon Papers.

The film in totality is about an intrepid woman; this is evidenced by the scene when Graham is shown to walk out of the Supreme Court, and women, young and old look up to her in awe and admiration. It is no coincidence that she walks amidst a throng of women. She is illuminated as a female role model.

I think the film should have been named “Kay” (Katherine Graham’s nickname) instead of “The Post” as it resonates well with the current cultural imperatives of the #MeToo moment.

 

Trash Humility; Be Best

A take on America’s culture of narcissism, framed within the glare of social media.

The myth of Narcissus is as follows: Narcissus was a handsome fellow in Greek myth, who disdained others on the basis of their looks. He thought himself to be the handsomest of them all and deserving of the world’s attention. Nemesis, another Greek God, decided to teach Narcissus a lesson, to inject some humility in him. So, Nemesis takes Narcissus to a pool of clear water and makes Narcissus look at his own image. Upon looking at his own image Narcissus’ self-love quadruples; he stares wondrously at his self. Ultimately Narcissus dies as he can’t bring himself to tear away from his image.

Do we foresee a death of our narcissistic culture?

Johnny B Beste

Why didn’t Chuck Berry sing “Johnny B Beste?” Because the line makes no grammatical or cognitive sense. So he, rightly, sang, “Johnny B Goode.”

Imagine Melania Trump, our First Lady, as a reincarnation of Chuck Berry. What will her song be like? Maybe something along the lines of “Johnny B Beste,”.

The First Lady recently launched a campaign to improve the conditions of American children, by volunteering to be the enabler of their “be best” selves.

The New Yorker has published several slogans that were perhaps rejected in favor of “Be Best.” My favorite rejects are,

Be America Best again

But there are other equally jolly one’s that could have found a place on Melania Trump’s roster. They are as follows:

You Must Be No.1No. 2 is ChinaChina China China Bad Bad Bad

 

You Can Do.jpgPlagiarize