Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Eight Years Ago

I quit the internet and stopped blogging, but I'm having feelings and writing has always been my way of expressing them.

Right now, thousands of people are out in the streets in Oakland, expressing their feelings about the Trump election and I'm reminded about Obama night 8 years ago. We were so happy- we danced in the streets. It was the most wonderful, safe, communal feeling- shared elation and pride in our country finally getting something right. A black president. A turning point. One of the most amazing moments of my life. I wished my grandma had been there to see it, but was so glad I was there.

Now people are in the streets of Oakland again- burning things, shouting things and generally expressing feelings of grief, terror, sorrow, anger. I don't want to go down there. I don't know what being there would do for me, but clearly it's cathartic for some. I feel lost and terrified: all of a sudden nuclear war seems real again- that existential threat of annihilation. Hatred has triumphed over inclusion. The wall is back.

I can't believe it's been eight years since we were dancing in the street, passing celebratory glasses around with strangers. I'm gonna tip a 40 to my memories, and keep drinking.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Ari Berman: Give us the Ballot, Michael D'Antonio: Mortal Sins

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Ari Berman has written a cheerful book about one of the most depressing topics in the last 100 years: the way voting rights have been steadily and intentionally eroded. I say cheerful because there's very little in the tone of the book that since reconstruction and the Voting Rights Act, white politicians have been steadily working to "Change the rules of the game to protect their own power." It's been a minute since I finished this book, so I can't review it thoroughly. I didn't really enjoy it, but I would say that it's an important book and probably worth reading.

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Michael d'Antonio's Mortal Sins is very readable and not quite as depressing as it could be, considering it's an overview of the abusive priests in the Catholic Church in the last 40-odd years. I think the saving grace is, instead of focusing on the victims (not to say that this isn't important), d'Antonio is looking at the bigger picture of who knew what, when, and who was digging for the truth. It's awful- they knew, forever.

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It always makes me sad when I can't read a book that I really wanted to read. The Dreadful Deceit was one of these books. I literally fell asleep after each page that I read. Not even worth writing more.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Yang Jisheng: Tombstone

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Between 1958 and 1962, tens of millions of people died in China because of Mao's Great Leap Forward. Not surprisingly, getting a real history and accounting of that time has been difficult. Yang Jisheng has written a monster of a book, Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine 1958-1962, which documents in both factual/historical and anecdotal detail the depth of the disaster. The book, unfortunately, is too long and detailed (and was cut down from 1200 pages) for me to have finished. That said, it is clearly a much needed story of a manmade non-natural disaster, the scope of which is only beginning to be understood. As Jisheng writes,
The basic reason why tens of millions of people in China starved to death was totalitarianism. While totalitarianism does not inevitably result in disasters on such a massive scale, it facilitates the development of extremely flawed policies and impedes their correction. Even more important is that in this kind of system, the government monopolizes all production and life-sustaining resources, so that once a calamity occurs, ordinary people have no means of saving themselves.
While it is hard to imagine something on this scale happening again in post-Cold War society, it is not impossible to imagine a totalitarian government creating another such scenario. The lengths that China went to ignore and then cover up the problem makes it even worse. Jisheng's book is admirable, unwieldy and important.