Posts tagged "america"

(Note for folks unaware of the thing with the Liar cover: It’s a book with an African American protagonist, but on its first run in America, was published with a white girl on the cover. Here’s what Justine said.)
I really really love Justine Larbalestier and I totally recommend all her books! (Liar is a good place to start.)
She holds a particular appeal to me, admittedly, because she’s an Australian who spends half her life living in New York and the other half in my neighborhood here in Sydney, which not only sounds an amazing way to live, but also subtly affects her writing. That is, she and I are both Australians who have lived for protracted periods of time in the United States and write about the United States, and though she and I are doing it in very different forms and she with much more success (!), I kind of see her work as the result of someone who has made a great effort to try to understand how a foreign nation works and to really pick apart and put together its cultural nuances. I mean, I might be projecting, but I do detect in her work an outsider’s grasp of American society’s invisible mechanisms.
And I think that plays into her desire to have her protagonists not always be white folks: that as an outsider to a society she recognizes that there is more to America than what white people have to say. Which does present problems of appropriation, true, but she seems to be very aware of those pitfalls; we’re not talking YA Iggy Azalea here.
Also, her Twitter is awesome. 

(Note for folks unaware of the thing with the Liar cover: It’s a book with an African American protagonist, but on its first run in America, was published with a white girl on the cover. Here’s what Justine said.)

I really really love Justine Larbalestier and I totally recommend all her books! (Liar is a good place to start.)

She holds a particular appeal to me, admittedly, because she’s an Australian who spends half her life living in New York and the other half in my neighborhood here in Sydney, which not only sounds an amazing way to live, but also subtly affects her writing. That is, she and I are both Australians who have lived for protracted periods of time in the United States and write about the United States, and though she and I are doing it in very different forms and she with much more success (!), I kind of see her work as the result of someone who has made a great effort to try to understand how a foreign nation works and to really pick apart and put together its cultural nuances. I mean, I might be projecting, but I do detect in her work an outsider’s grasp of American society’s invisible mechanisms.

And I think that plays into her desire to have her protagonists not always be white folks: that as an outsider to a society she recognizes that there is more to America than what white people have to say. Which does present problems of appropriation, true, but she seems to be very aware of those pitfalls; we’re not talking YA Iggy Azalea here.

Also, her Twitter is awesome. 


The New Mexico Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in favor of same-sex couples, granting them all the same rights of marriage enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

The court’s 31-page opinion states, in part, that: “All rights, protections, and responsibilities that result from the marital relationship shall apply equally to both same-gender and opposite-gender married couples.”

New Mexico joins 16 other states, the District of Columbia, and several Native American tribes in recognizing same-sex unions.

NM Supreme Court affirms same-sex marriage rights,” ABQ Journal, 19 December, 2013 

Since handing its votes to Al Gore by a sliver of a percentage point in 2000, and then siding with Bush in 2004 by a still-miniscule margin, New Mexico has seemingly turned itself solidly blue. (Though it does have a Republican governor, its senators are both Dems, as are two of its three House members.) I don’t know a lot about the Land of Enchantment beyond Breaking Bad and pueblo architecture, but sandwiched between the roughneck wilds of Rick Perry’s Texas and Barry Goldwater’s Arizona suburbia, and, unlike Colorado, lacking a major metropolitan area, the state’s slip from purple status is a bit of a surprise.

Yet what separates NM from TX and AZ is the greater influence of its Native American and Hispanic populations. According to traditional Republican theorising, that should give Dems and edge when it comes to immigration issues, but the GOP still likes to tell itself Latinos are natural conservatives when it comes to business and social issues. The number of states offering gay marriage has doubled in the past twelve months, with New Mexico the most recent. If its unique demographics explain why New Mexico is unusually blue for its region, they don’t explain why it behaves a lot like other blue states on issues unrelated to immigration.

Also, from the ABQ Journal article:

However, the ruling also stipulated that religious clergy who do not agree with same-sex marriage are not required to perform marriage ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples.

Has anyone anywhere ever really cared about forcing homophobic churches to marry gay couples? It seems to me like a strawman invented by conservatives to demonstrate how giving gay folks rights is really oppressing straights, or a strawman adopted by liberals who want to show how reasonable they are by distancing themselves from a radical position that doesn’t exist, 


Where once it was relegated to the far Right and the far Left to despise American culture and capitalism in equal doses, now it’s become part of the respectable mainstream. [Andy] Markovits augments countless surveys and opinion polls with myriad examples of quotidian life in Europe where anything nasty is blamed on the US, from the Americanisation of European accounting practices, electoral campaigns, urban planning and credit card use to the US infecting sport, film, music, language, habits. If it’s nasty, it’s America’s fault. Even reality television is bagged as an American blight. (For the record, Europeans invented that gem of a genre.)

[Redacted], The Australian, February 14, 2007

Removing the byline* so the good message doesn’t get tarred by its association with this particular messenger. Two things:

  • Note the admission that anti-Americanism derives from both the left and right. During the Bush years, the prejudice became almost entirely associated with the left, ignoring the long history of conservative disdain for an America with no respect for old world tradition or cultural gentility.
  • Professor Markovits visited my work earlier this year; he’s far from conservative and this passage accurately represents his views as I heard them.

——

*Oh fine, it’s Janet Albrechtsen

2
Dec 15

In this, as in so many other parts of contemporary politics, members of the self-identified center are in some important sense unable to accept opposition. Through smarm, they have cut themselves off from the language of actual dispute. An entire political agenda—privatization of government services, aggressive policing, charter schooling, cuts in Social Security—has been packaged as apolitical, a reasonable consensus about necessity. Those who oppose the agenda are “interest groups,” whose selfish greed makes them unable to see reason, or “ideologues.” Those who promote it are disinterested and nonideological. There is no reason for the latter to even engage the former. In smarm is power.

Tom Scocca, “On Smarm,” Gawker, December 5, 2013

Scocca’s essay is a bit undercooked, really: grandly ambitious yet inessential: some pointed barbs, coupled with an odd fixation on David Denby, jumbled together as if they might nurture to life a zeitgeist through sheer power of thinkpiece. (“Are you being smarmy dude?”/”I don’t even know any more.”)

But the above excerpt is accurate and important and worth saying again and again.


…a video that showed Ms. Wilson and friends breaking into the Ryman Auditorium, the historical home of the Grand Ole Opry. (It’s hard to think of a better example of how country stars conflate rebellion and traditionalism.)
Kelefa Sanneh, “Gretchen Wilson Returns With Ballads ‘n’ Beer,” The New York Times, September 11, 2005

That the Gettysburg Address achieves so much in so little space has a lot to do with what Lincoln didn’t say on that November day in 1863. An odd vacancy runs through the speech. Pronouns without antecedents carried Lincoln’s words away from the things he was supposedly talking about. The speech was abstracted from the place where he stood and the suffering he memorialized. Lincoln mentioned “a great battle-field” but not the town and surrounding farms of Gettysburg. He invoked the “fathers” but left them unnamed. He extolled the “proposition that all men are created equal” but left the Declaration of Independence implied.

He honored “brave men” but not a single commanding officer or soldier by name. He spoke of a “nation” five times but avoided anything as definite as geographic America, the United States, the republic, the Constitution, the North, the South, or even the Union. The Union was the very thing he had been insisting since 1861 that he fought to preserve. Perhaps most striking of all, even though this speech followed Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation by nearly a year, he never mentioned slavery. Instead, we have “freedom.”

Lincoln omits these tangible details of place and moment with such skill that readers do not notice the empty spaces. For anyone who does not already know something specific about the Civil War, the speech creates no picture in the mind. It could be adapted to almost any battlefield in any war for “freedom” in the 19th century or thereafter. Perhaps the speech’s vacancies account for its longevity and proven usefulness beyond 1863—even beyond America’s borders. Lincoln’s speech can be interpreted as a highly compressed Periclean funeral oration, as Garry Wills showed definitively in his 1992 book Lincoln at Gettysburg. But unlike Pericles’ performance, this speech names no Athens, no Sparta, no actual time, place, people, or circumstances at all.
Richard Gamble, “Gettysburg Gospel,” The American Conservative, November 14, 2013

But that kind of opportunism isn’t what make Newt and Nixon stand out. No, what they have bequeathed to Republicans is a contempt for the regular norms and institutions of the American political system, along with a Leninist belief that contradictions must always be heightened. Nixon broke laws, to be sure, but other presidents have broken laws. What made Nixon different – what made everyone, including his own party, so eager to be rid of him – was that he refused to accept that others within the system, whether in Congress or the press or the bureaucracy, were as legitimate as the president. What made Gingrich different is his consistent strategy of tearing down institutions (the House, and then the presidency) in order to save them. For both, politics was never about the normal promotion of interests and reconciliation of differences, but instead, very simply, about destroying their opponents.

Because they are the party of Newt and Nixon, the principles that today’s GOP worships aren’t market economics or personal liberty; look instead at a “principle” such as a refusal to compromise.

[…]

A party only does those things if its leaders and many of its members have taken as a principle Nixon’s standard operating procedure of treating the rest of the United States government beyond the White House as illegitimate; a party only does those things if it no longer accepts the basic constitutional constraints that most politicians, no matter what their views on public policy, have by and large accepted. And a party only does this if it believes, as Newt Gingrich did, that the best way to gain control of institutions is to first destroy them.

Jonathan Bernstein, “Nixon runs the Republican Party again,” Salon, August 10, 2013

Remember when I said Gingrich and Nixon were the worst thing to happen to American politics in the past forty years? This is why.

Bernstein also ably disables a nostalgic liberal shibboleth, that one about Nixon being, policy-wise, not that bad:

We can get at this a couple of ways. One is that everyone should be very careful about what “Nixon” did, as opposed to what the government did while he was president. Give Nixon the Congress and the policy environment of 1947 — or 1997 — and you get very different results.

Yeah, yada yada Nixon created the EPA and went to China. Or, as (real life) Stephen Colbert put it:

He was so liberal! Look at what he was running on. He started the EPA. He opened China. He gave 18-year-olds the vote. His issues were education, drugs, women, minorities, youth involvement, ending the draft, and improving the environment. John Kerry couldn’t have run on this! What would I give for a Nixon?

Please. Nixon was dealing with a Democratic congress that wanted to implement a domestic agenda Nixon had no interest in opposing because Nixon had no interest in domestic agendas. What he was interested in was foreign policy, and his foreign policy consisted of things like plotting to drown one million Vietnamese by bombing the country’s dikes.

Integral to understanding Nixon is understanding that his domestic policy interests were purely political interests. He wanted to marginalize the American left because he thought they were soft on communism, and his method for doing so was ratfucking. He wanted to marginalize the right because they knew he didn’t share their hardcore ideological commitment, but he also knew he needed to keep them onside to maintain his power. To contemporary commentators who fetishize ideological centrism, this mutual enmity sounds ideal, but it’s intrinsically connected with the tactical extremism that has come to define the GOP. Nixonian politics aren’t left wing or right wing; they’re about power, and policy aridity is a natural part of that.

Thank Nixon and Newt for the American political landscape of today. Richard Milhous showed that concentrating power was the utmost political value and Gingrich demonstrated that destroying institutions was the best way to concentrate power. From this is wrought John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, Michele Bachmann and Ted Cruz.


WASHINGTON, D.C., United States—On Wednesday morning, this normally bustling capital city became a ghost town as most of its residents embarked on the long journey to their home villages for an annual festival of family, food, and questionable historical facts. Experts say the day is vital for understanding American society and economists are increasingly taking note of its impact on the world economy.

Joshua Keating, “If It Happened There… America’s Annual Festival Pilgrimage Begins,” Slate, November 27, 2013

So Slate has this awful series where it imagines American events “described using the tropes and tone normally employed by the American media to describe events in other countries.” And it bugs the shit out of me. in ways I haven’t been quite able to put my finger on. I think this is why:

  • If Slate wants to satirize American insularity — a subject ripe for satire! — why can’t it get some non-American writers to do it? We have the internet now! A writer on one continent can email copy to an editor on another instantaneously. But Slate apparently thinks that only Americans are qualified to provide content for its website, even if non-Americans far better understand the subject in question.
  • Keating’s satire isn’t simply directed at Americans; it’s also for Americans. (Mostly Americans who like to feel that they’re better than their fellow citizens.) He purports to be defending the victims of lousy journalism, but his primary concern is actually his fellow journalists. Non-Americans, for Keating, exist only to teach America something about itself.

Another example? Try the WaPo's Max Fisher and his cutesy article about the time Australia’s government shut down. Aw, those funny Australians went through a shutdown just like America, but their nice old Queen sorted it out by firing everyone in parliament. Never mind that the 1975 dismissal was a constitutional crisis immeasurably greater than anything that happened in America last month, and that its resolution was an usurpation of the democratic process that had a lot in common with a coup d’etat. None of that matters when what you want to do is make a joke about how nice it is to imagine firing all those clowns in Congress. (What a bunch of clowns.)


Animated city porn.

Animated city porn.


Even more than Silicon Valley, Miami embodies the central technological myth of our time – that nature can not only be tamed but made irrelevant. Miami was a mosquito-and-crocodile-filled swampland for thousands of years, virtually uninhabited until the late 1800s. Then developers arrived, canals were dug, swamps were drained, and a city emerged that was unlike any other place on the planet, an edge-of-the-world, air-conditioned dreamland of sunshine and beaches and drugs and money; Jan Nijman, the former director of the Urban Studies Program at the University of Miami, called 20th-century Miami “a citadel of fantastical consumption.” Floods would come and go and hurricanes might blow through, but the city would survive, if only because no one could imagine a force more powerful than human ingenuity. That defiance of nature – the sense that the rules don’t apply here – gave the city its great energy. But it is also what will cause its demise.
Jeff Goodell, “Goodbye, Miami,” Rolling Stone, June 20, 2013


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