Federal judge puts Muslim ban 2.0 on hold.
Dutch election rejects nationalist Geert Wilders.
DOJ charges Russian spies with Yahoo! hack.
Fed raises interest rate 0.25%.
Trump planning to relax auto fuel efficiency standards.
The Women’s March on Washington as reported by Megan Garber in The Atlantic.
In the middle of the National Mall, on the same spot that had, the day before, hosted the revelers who had come out for the inauguration of Donald Trump, a crowd of people protesting the new presidency spontaneously formed themselves into a circle. They grasped hands. They invited others in. “Join our circle!” one woman shouted, merrily, to a small group of passersby. They obliged. The expanse—a small spot of emptiness in a space otherwise teeming with people—got steadily larger, until it spanned nearly 100 feet across. If you happened to be flying directly above the Mall during the early afternoon of January 21, as the Women’s March on Washington was in full swing, you would have seen a throng of people—about half a million of them, according to the most recent estimates—punctuated, in the middle, by an ad-hoc little bullseye.
“What is this circle about?” a woman asked one of the circle-standers.
“Nobody knows!” the circle-stander replied, cheerfully.
The space stayed empty for a moment, as people clasped hands and looked around at each other with grins and “what-now?” expressions. And then: A woman ran through the circle, dancing, waving a sign that read “FREE MELANIA.” The crowd nodded approvingly. Another woman did the same with her sign. A group of three teenage boys danced with their “BAD HOMBRE” placards. The crowd whooped. Soon, several people were using the space as a stage. A woman dressed as a plush vulva shimmied around the circle’s perimeter. The circle-standers laughed and clapped and cheered. They held their phones in their air, taking pictures and videos. They cheered some more.
The Women’s March on Washington began in a similarly ad-hoc manner. The protest sprang to life as an errant idea posted to Facebook, right after Trump won the presidency. The notion weathered controversy to evolve into something that, on Saturday, was funereal in purpose but decidedly celebratory in tone. The march, in pretty much every way including the most literal, opposed the inaugural ceremony that had taken place the day before. On the one hand, it protested President Trump. Its participants wore not designer clothes, but jeans and sneakers and—the unofficial uniform of the event—pink knit caps with ears meant to evoke, and synonymize, cats. It had, in place of somber ritual, a festival-like atmosphere. It featured, instead of pomp and circumstance, people spontaneously breaking into dance on a spontaneously formed dance floor.
And yet in many ways, the march was also extremely similar to the inauguration whose infrastructure it had co-opted, symbolically and otherwise, for its own purposes. The Women’s March on Washington shared a setting—the Capitol, the Mall, the erstwhile inaugural parade route—with the ceremonies of January 20. And, following an election in which the victor lost the popular vote, the protest seems to have bested the inauguration itself in terms of (physical) public turnout. During a time of extreme partisanship and division—a time in which the One America the now-former president once spoke of can seem an ever-more-distant possibility—the Women’s March played out as a kind of alternate-reality inauguration: not necessarily of Hillary Clinton, but of the ideas and ideals her candidacy represented. The Women’s March was an installation ceremony of a sort—not of a new president, but of the political resistance to him.
“I DO NOT ACCEPT THIS FILTHY ROTTEN SYSTEM,” read one sign, carried by Lauren Grace, 35, of Philadelphia. She got the quote from Dorothy Day. And she intended it, Grace explained to me, to protest “a system that sort of left me out.”
“We’re told that voting is a sacred right in this country,” Grace said. “But even though Hillary won the popular vote, she still lost. I feel pretty conflicted about a country where that could happen.”
The Women’s March was, to be sure, also a protest march in an extremely traditional vein: It featured leaders—celebrities, activists, celebrity activists—who gave speeches and offered performances on a stage with the Capitol in its background; its participants held signs, and chanted (“This-is-what-a-feminist-looks-like!,” “No-person-is-illegal!”), and commiserated. It was also traditional in that its participants were marching not for one specific thing, but for many related aspirations. Women’s reproductive rights. LGBTQ rights. Immigration rights. Feminism in general (“FEMALES ARE STRONG AS HELL,” one sign went, riffing off a famous feminist’s Netflix show). The environment (“CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL,” “MAKE THE PLANET GREAT AGAIN”). Science (“Y’ALL NEED SCIENCE”). Facts (“MAKE AMERICA FACT-CHECK AGAIN”). Some signs argued for socialism. Some argued against plutocracy. Some argued for Kindness. Some pled for Peace. Some simply argued that America is Already Great.
This was a big-tent protest, in other words—a messy, joyful coalescence of many different movements. The Women’s March deftly employed, in its rhetoric, the biggest of the big-tent tautologies: The point of this protest wasn’t so much the specific things being protested as it was the very bigness of the crowds who were doing the protesting. This was another way the protest alternate-realitied the presidential inauguration: Just as the official ceremony is meant to celebrate not only the person occupying the presidency, but the presidency itself, the Women’s March was a protest that celebrated protest.
In doing that, it took direct aim at the things the new president has a record of valuing so highly—crowd sizes, ratings, large-scale approval—and countered them. Trump, after all, since the beginning of his presidential candidacy, has made a point of emphasizing the size of the crowds he has been able to attract by way of celebrity’s gravitational pull. He has boasted about the throngs attending his rallies. He has taunted his opponents about the relatively few people who turned out for their events. And Trump’s ascendance to the presidency seems to have done nothing to assuage that impulse: On Friday evening, at the Armed Services Ball, Trump again talked about the large size of the crowd that had come to witness his inauguration. And on Saturday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer used his first official White House briefing to blast the media who had mentioned the size of Trump’s inauguration crowds as compared to those of past presidents, dismissing their assessment as attempts to “minimize the enormous support” that had gotten Trump elected. (Though crowd sizes are notoriously difficult to determine with precision, Trump’s crowds were in fact decidedly smaller than the ones that came out for Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009.)
The new president, in his rhetoric, has emphasized the “pop” in “populism.” And so—counterpunch—the Women’s March has emphasized its own crowd size. The throngs on Saturday spilled over from the march’s stage, where celebrities (America Ferrera, Gloria Steinem, Janelle Monáe, Katy Perry, Ashley Judd, Alicia Keys, Madonna) and activists (Rise’s Amanda Nguyen, the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Rhea Suh, Our Revolution’s Erika Andiola, and many others) spoke to the people watching them both in person and on TV; they marched down Independence Avenue, and milled down Pennsylvania Avenue; they piled onto the steps of the National Gallery of Art; they filled the Mall to capacity. They showed up to sister rallies around the country and the world—in Chicago, in Boston, in New York, in Los Angeles, in Barcelona, in Nairobi, in New Delhi. And according to the march’s organizers, CNN reported, “the crowds were exponentially larger than expected.”
According to organizers, too: That matters. If the Women’s March was trying to inaugurate a movement on January 21, 2017, the first thing it had to do was to prove that there was a movement to be inaugurated. As one sign read: “TRUMP, DO YOU REALLY WANT TO PISS OFF THIS MANY WOMEN?”
Or, as Raquel Willis, of the Transgender Law Center, told the audience before she began the rest of her speech on the march’s main stage: “I want us to take a second and look around. Look at all these people who are gathered here to take a stand. These are your partners in resistance and liberation.”
Monáe made a similar argument. “This is about all of us,” the actor and singer said, “fighting back against the abuse of power.”
“All of us.” “Us” is a tricky word in the America of 2017, the America that is coming off of an acrimonious campaign season—with all its offenses, on all sides, still fresh. But the Women’s March insisted that the “us” and the “we” are two other things to be reclaimed in the years ahead—two other things that will be at stake in every peaceful transition of power. As Ferrera told the crowd at the beginning of the protest, “The president is not America. His cabinet is not America. Congress is not America. We are America. And we are here to stay.”
It was the very bizarre translation of the Beatitudes that threw me off for good. In the two-hole of the Inauguration Preachers batting order, a fellow named the Reverend Dr. Samuel Rodriguez went to the familiar and iconic fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, but the text he read sounded like an Aramaic-English Google Translation read by Yoda.
For example, here’s the majesty of the King James version:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
And here’s the Reverend Doctor Rodriguez’s version:
God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. God blesses those who mourn for they will be comforted. God blesses those who are humble for they will inherit the earth. God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice for they will be satisfied. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
To borrow a phrase from Mark Twain, the difference between the two renditions is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. The former is poetry, the latter is prose—and clumsy prose at that. The first resounds like a prayer; the second is something you’d see on a poster in somebody’s cubicle under the picture of a sunset, or a kitten hanging by its forepaws.
What was lacking from the second is what has brought the first version down through the years: majesty. And on the west front of the Capitol on Friday morning, during what we were relentlessly sold as the miracle of the Peaceful Transfer of Power—as though anyone really expected a storming of the barricades—there was no room for majesty. And while the Mormon Tabernacle Choir still has game, and the Marine Band can seriously play, majesty surrendered rather meekly to salesmanship, and branding, and the gilt-edged palaver of the midnight infomercial.
This was a sales gimmick, not an inauguration.
In theory, there’s something admirably American in taking the piss out of the system’s pretensions. When Jimmy Carter walked in his inauguration parade, it represented for the moment the final collapse of the imperial executive within which Richard Nixon had hidden his crimes for so long. Barack Obama’s embrace of popular culture let some of the stuffing out of the office as well. But this was different.
This was somebody selling something precious and important at a reduced rate of sloganeering. A pitchman’s ceremony, the inauguration of President* Donald Trump was a device for selling American democracy a hair-restoral nostrum, a cure for erectile dysfunction, and a full scholarship to his Potemkin University. This was an event in which even Scripture itself was sent through the gang down in marketing so as not to sound too “elitist” for its intended audience of marks and suckers.
This was somebody selling something precious and important at a reduced rate of sloganeering
The speech itself was as dark and forbidding. It was Huey Long translated by Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller. (And, as Gizmodo‘s Gabrielle Bluestone pointed out, a famous Batman villain.) This is to say, it was Huey Long drained of his classical references, his summons to Scripture, and whatever was left of his authentic American economic populism. In 1934, for example, Long delivered his most famous speech. In it, he said:
It is necessary to save the government of the country, but is much more necessary to save the people of America. We love this country. We love this Government. It is a religion, I say. It is a kind of religion people have read of when women, in the name of religion, would take their infant babes and throw them into the burning flame, where they would be instantly devoured by the all-consuming fire, in days gone by; and there probably are some people of the world even today, who, in the name of religion, throw their own babes to destruction; but in the name of our good government, people today are seeing their own children hungry, tired, half-naked, lifting their tear-dimmed eyes into the sad faces of their fathers and mothers, who cannot give them food and clothing they both need, and which is necessary to sustain them, and that goes on day after day, and night after night, when day gets into darkness and blackness, knowing those children would arise in the morning without being fed, and probably go to bed at night without being fed.
If you take that passage and run it through the Trump Rosetta Stone program, you get:
But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.
There was a terrifying solipsism to Trump’s address, as there likely will be to his presidency. For all his protestations that he is merely the instrument of a great movement, he holds himself above that movement in the way he imagines all great leaders do. In every real sense, from his podium at the Capitol, he talked down to his audience sprawled over a good portion of the National Mall.
He talked to them about the blighted hellscape of a country that he inherited, the blighted hellscape that already existed in their own truncated imaginations. He coined their actual anxieties and displacement into one of the hoariest demagogue’s tropes: America First. And despite its dingy antecedents, Trump’s use of America First doesn’t necessarily mean what the anti-Semites of the 1930s meant when they said it. It’s more like one of those foam rubber fingers that fans wear at football games with “AMERICA” written in red across it.
For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished—but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered—but the jobs left, and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land. That all changes—starting right here, and right now, because this moment is your moment: it belongs to you. It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America. This is your day. This is your celebration. And this, the United States of America, is your country.
That is what had them buzzing on the way out of the event Friday. He really told them, did our Donald Trump. He’s got balls, doesn’t he? “You see ’em up there? They had to listen to him,” said the guy in front of me, waiting to cross Constitution Avenue. “Yeah, there’s a new sheriff in town.”
As he said it, we were passing a big tree under which I had sat in January of 1981 to listen to Ronald Reagan’s first inaugural address. It was a barrel of banality, too. (“Government isn’t the solution. Government is the problem.” Thirty-five years of political mischief have flowed from that one line.) But there was a brightness to what Reagan said, and he seemed at least to have some sense of the moment, which proves that there is a great distance between even a mediocre actor and a great con-man.
On the eve of our struggle for independence a man who might have been one of the greatest among the Founding Fathers, Dr. Joseph Warren, president of the Massachusetts Congress, said to his fellow Americans, “Our country is in danger, but not to be despaired of . . . . On you depend the fortunes of America. You are to decide the important questions upon which rests the happiness and the liberty of millions yet unborn. Act worthy of yourselves.” Well, I believe we, the Americans of today, are ready to act worthy of ourselves, ready to do what must be done to ensure happiness and liberty for ourselves, our children, and our children’s children. And as we renew ourselves here in our own land, we will be seen as having greater strength throughout the world. We will again be the exemplar of freedom and a beacon of hope for those who do not now have freedom.
Act worthy of me, Trump’s speech said. Act worthy of what you bought from me.
In his speech, and in draining the event of his inauguration of its majesty, the president* managed to turn the west front of the Capitol into a college auditorium in Iowa, or an airplane hangar in New Hampshire, or a stage in Cleveland, Ohio. Already, this is being praised by the dim and the craven as admirable—that Trump deserves credit for declaring that he will be the same person as president as he was in the campaign. I would remind those people, and the new president*, of Henry Gondorff warning to Johnny Hooker: “You gotta keep his con even after you take his money. He can’t know you took him.”
There is a reckoning out there in the distant wind for everything and everybody who brought us to this day, when not even the Marine Corps Band and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir could neither elevate the inauguration of a president out of the language of mere commerce nor make of the event anything more than a banal transaction—a day on which even Jesus Christ on the Mount was warned to keep it simple, stupid.
Welcome to Trump U — Andy Borowitz in The New Yorker.
In an astonishing comeback for the scandal-scarred educational institution, Trump University enrolled more than three hundred million new students at noon on Friday.
“Congratulations,” the President of Trump University told the new students. “For the next four years, you are all in Trump University.”
Some Americans who supported the President of Trump University in his long-shot bid to reopen the school made the journey to Washington, D.C., to hear his welcome address.
“He said we’re all going to be rich!” Harland Dorrinson, a new Trump University student, said. “I just know that this is going to end really well.”
But even as students like Dorrinson celebrated, there were complaints from other students, millions of whom said they had been enrolled in Trump University against their will.
“I never signed up for Trump University,” Carol Foyler, who is one of those students, said. “The President of this school is some kind of a con man. And why are so many members of the faculty Russian? The whole thing seems fishy.”
“Not my University,” she said.
While the original program offered by Trump University had a price tag as high as thirty-five thousand dollars, the next four years are expected to be far more costly, experts say.
Doonesbury — Feed that ego.
It’s time for my annual re-cap and prognostication for the past year and the year coming up. Let’s see how I did a year ago.
- Hillary Clinton will be the next President of the United States. I have no idea who she will beat; I don’t think the Republicans know, either, but she will win, and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it will be a decisive win. The GOP will blame everybody else and become even more cranky, self-injuring, and irresponsible.
- The Democrats down-ticket will do better than expected by taking back the Senate and narrowing their gap in the House. This will be achieved by the number of voters who will turn out to vote for them in order to hold off the GOP’s attempt to turn the country back over to the control of white Christian males.
Both of those were spot-on until sometime in the late evening of November 8. And I’m not the only one who blew that one.
- The economy will continue to improve; maybe this is the year the Dow will hit 19,000. The limiting factor will be how the rest of the world, mainly China, deals with their economic bubble. I think a lot of the economic news will be based on the outcome of the U.S. election and the reaction to it. If by some horrifying chance Donald Trump wins, all bets are off. Economists and world markets like stability and sanity, and turning the U.S. over to a guy who acts like a used car hustler crossed with a casino pit boss will not instill confidence.
I covered my ass on that one but I think it’s still true. By the way, the Dow did hit 19,000 in 2016.
- ISIS, which barely registered on the radar as an existential threat to the U.S. and the west a year ago, will be contained. There will not be a large American troop presence in Syria and Iraq thanks in part to the response by the countries that themselves are being invaded by ISIS. Finally.
- Refugees will still be pouring out of the Middle East, putting the strain on countries that have taken them in. It will be a test of both infrastructure and moral obligation, and some, such as Canada, will set the example of how to be humane.
I’ll give myself a gentleman’s C on the first one because ISIS is still in play and Syria is looking like the horror that war brings and we’re no closer to an end to it. As for the refugees, I underestimated the venality and xenophobia of some of the countries — including our own — in taking in the refugees.
- Maybe this will be the year that Fidel Castro finally takes a dirt nap.
Got that one right, finally.
- The Supreme Court will narrowly uphold affirmative action but leave room for gutting it later on. They will also narrowly rule against further restrictions on reproductive rights. And I am going out on a limb by predicting that President Obama will get to choose at least one more new justice for the Court, an appointment that will languish in the Senate until after the election.
I got that one right, including my out-on-a-limb one about President Obama having to pick a new justice for the court and the GOP sitting on it. I hate it when I’m right about something like that.
- Violence against our fellow citizens such as mass shootings will continue. The difference now is that we have become numb to them and in an election year expecting any meaningful change to the gun laws or the mindset is right up there with flying pigs over downtown Miami.
- Marriage equality will gain acceptance as it fades from the headlines, but the LGBTQ community’s next front will be anti-discrimination battles for jobs and housing. It’s not over yet, honey.
- We’re going to see more wild weather patterns but none of it will convince the hard-core deniers that it’s either really happening or that there’s anything we can do about it.
I’m sorry that those were right.
- The Tigers will not win the division in 2016. (Caution: reverse psychology at play.)
But the Cubs won the World Series so that makes up for it.
- On a personal level, this could be a break-out year for my writing and play production. I don’t say that every year.
One of my plays won a playwriting contest and I actually got a cash prize for it. It has been submitted for a full production at a theatre in Boca Raton in their 2017-2018 season. So that worked out.
Okay, predictions for 2017.
Okay, your turn.
Conscientious Objector — Charles M. Blow in the New York Times.
Donald Trump schlepped across town on Tuesday to meet with the publisher of The New York Times and some editors, columnists and reporters at the paper.
As The Times reported, Trump actually seemed to soften some of his positions:
He seemed to indicate that he wouldn’t seek to prosecute Hillary Clinton. But he should never have said that he was going to do that in the first place.
He seemed to indicate that he wouldn’t encourage the military to use torture. But he should never have said that he would do that in the first place.
He said that he would have an “open mind” on climate change. But that should always have been his position.
You don’t get a pat on the back for ratcheting down from rabid after exploiting that very radicalism to your advantage. Unrepentant opportunism belies a staggering lack of character and caring that can’t simply be vanquished from memory. You did real harm to this country and many of its citizens, and I will never — never — forget that.
As I read the transcript and then listened to the audio, the slime factor was overwhelming.
After a campaign of bashing The Times relentlessly, in the face of the actual journalists, he tempered his whining with flattery.
At one point he said:
“I just appreciate the meeting and I have great respect for The New York Times. Tremendous respect. It’s very special. Always has been very special.”
He ended the meeting by saying:
“I will say, The Times is, it’s a great, great American jewel. A world jewel. And I hope we can all get along well.”
I will say proudly and happily that I was not present at this meeting. The very idea of sitting across the table from a demagogue who preyed on racial, ethnic and religious hostilities and treating him with decorum and social grace fills me with disgust, to the point of overflowing. Let me tell you here where I stand on your “I hope we can all get along” plea: Never.
You are an aberration and abomination who is willing to do and say anything — no matter whom it aligns you with and whom it hurts — to satisfy your ambitions.
I don’t believe you care much at all about this country or your party or the American people. I believe that the only thing you care about is self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment. Your strongest allegiance is to your own cupidity.
I also believe that much of your campaign was an act of psychological projection, as we are now learning that many of the things you slammed Clinton for are things of which you may actually be guilty.
You slammed Clinton for destroying emails, then Newsweek reported last month that your companies “destroyed emails in defiance of court orders.” You slammed Clinton and the Clinton Foundation for paid speeches and conflicts of interest, then it turned out that, as BuzzFeed reported, the Trump Foundation received a $150,000 donation in exchange for your giving a 2015 speech made by video to a conference in Ukraine. You slammed Clinton about conflicts of interest while she was secretary of state, and now your possible conflicts of interest are popping up like mushrooms in a marsh.
You are a fraud and a charlatan. Yes, you will be president, but you will not get any breaks just because one branch of your forked tongue is silver.
I am not easily duped by dopes.
I have not only an ethical and professional duty to call out how obscene your very existence is at the top of American government; I have a moral obligation to do so.
I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything, but rather to speak up for truth and honor and inclusion. This isn’t just about you, but also about the moral compass of those who see you for who and what you are, and know the darkness you herald is only held at bay by the lights of truth.
It’s not that I don’t believe that people can change and grow. They can. But real growth comes from the accepting of responsibility and repenting of culpability. Expedient reversal isn’t growth; it’s gross.
So let me say this on Thanksgiving: I’m thankful to have this platform because as long as there are ink and pixels, you will be the focus of my withering gaze.
I’m thankful that I have the endurance and can assume a posture that will never allow what you represent to ever be seen as everyday and ordinary.
No, Mr. Trump, we will not all just get along. For as long as a threat to the state is the head of state, all citizens of good faith and national fidelity — and certainly this columnist — have an absolute obligation to meet you and your agenda with resistance at every turn.
I know this in my bones, and for that I am thankful.
“Tu día llegó” — Jennine Capó Crucet on Miami’s reaction to the death of Fidel Castro.
The first time Fidel Castro died was around my birthday in 2006. I was in Miami when the announcement went out that Castro had had an operation and was temporarily ceding power to his brother. This being the first time Castro had voluntarily stepped away from his dictatorship, speculation ran wild. Miami Cubans took to the streets to celebrate the death of a tyrant, a symbol of death and loss for Cubans of all races and faiths.
This morning, my sister texted, “Fidel is dead… again,” one of 26 messages from friends and relatives sharing the news.
I’d already heard: around midnight, Cubans of every age again poured into the streets of Miami to celebrate the death of a dictator who’d had a profound effect on our lives — who was, in many ways, the reason we were all here in the first place. I was in Westchester, a south Miami neighborhood that’s arguably the heart of Miami’s Cuban community (and as a Hialeah native, I’d be the first one to argue).
On Bird Road, where the lane closest to the sidewalk had been blocked off to allow for overflowing crowds, police lights bathed people in swirls of blue and red light. A father had his arm around his adolescent daughter, who was draped in a Cuban flag, the two of them watching the celebration around them. A woman about my age, there with her girlfriend, wore a T-shirt she seemed to be saving for this day: it read, Tu dia llego (meaning, “your day has come,” though the accents were missing from both día and llegó). A crew of fraternity brothers, none of them Cuban, said they’d “come down from Broward to see this.” “Hialeah must be on fire right now,” one of them said.
I am always somehow back in Miami when something monumental happens in our community. Celia Cruz’s death. Obama’s 2015 visit to Cuba. Even the Elian Gonzalez chaos in 1999 and 2000 coincided with my college breaks. I turned that saga into a novel in order to write through the media’s inaccurate and incomplete portrayal of frenzied Cubans throwing themselves at the feet of a young boy-turned-symbol.
The news out of Miami today will show you loud Cubans parading through the streets. It will show us hitting pots and pans and making much noise and yelling and crying and honking horns. It will give you familiar, rehashed images of old men sipping café out of tiny cups outside Versailles, the famous Cuban restaurant in Miami. That’s all part of it, yes.
But what is more important, yet difficult to show, are other prevalent scenes: People just outside the camera frame, leaning against a restaurant wall, silent and stunned and worried about those still on the island; the tearful conversations happening this morning between generations, families sitting around café con leche and remembering those who Castro’s regime executed.
At a dinner with Miami-based Latino writers a couple nights after the Miami Book Fair last week, we joked that Castro would never die because he is protected by powerful santería — the joke being that the news would take such a statement from us as fact because of our heritage. We are already anticipating the inevitable question: Now that Castro is dead, will we visit Cuba? As if those visits would legitimize something about our identities as American-born Cubans, as if the choice to visit the island would be worth bragging about — as if our answer to that question is anyone’s business but our own.
Those conversations are more nuanced and don’t have the same dramatic effect as banging on pots and pans. They are complex and harder to fit into whatever you write within hours of learning that the dictator who has literally and symbolically represented oppression your entire life is finally gone: Tu día llegó – your day has come – and yes, the shirt fits, but each of us knows there is so much more behind those words that is impossible to distill.
Many of us out on the streets last night and this morning are here as witnesses, as bearers of memory, as symbols ourselves. Many of us are out because we have family that can’t be here — mothers, abuelos, cousins who died at the hands of the Castro regime. We are here to comfort each other and to honor the sacrifices these family members made. This morning in Miami, in the house in Westchester, we were calling each other around the city and the country and saying, “I am thinking of you.”
In one call, ten minutes into the play-by-play of where we all were when we heard the news, my partner’s grandfather, who was born in Cuba but now lives in Puerto Rico, asked us over speaker phone, “Now are you gonna get married?” I lifted a mug to my mouth and began chugging coffee with sudden intensity, and in the laughter around the moment, someone chimed in that we’d stick to the day’s plan of getting a Christmas tree. But his response is proof that there is hope and optimism and excitement at the base of many of these new conversations.
Today I awoke to stories we’d heard a thousand times, stories about the family left behind in Cuba, about survival and exile, about first weeks in the United States, stories honoring those who did not live to see this moment — all being told with more verve and energy than they’ve been told for a long time. I cannot speak for every Cuban and have never embraced the chance to do so. This was my immediate reaction to hearing about Fidel Castro’s death: That’s impossible, he will never die. Turns out even I’d fallen for the hype.
Broadway Recommendations for Mike Pence — Michael Schulman at The New Yorker has his picks.
Dear Vice-President-elect Pence,
Congratulations on scoring tickets for “Hamilton”! Not an easy task. Hopefully you enjoyed the title performance by Javier Muñoz, a gay, H.I.V.-positive Puerto Rican.
Here are some suggestions for other Broadway shows to check out—or avoid, for your own safety. As you know, the theatre is a “safe place,” except if you’re a virulent homophobe or texting in the presence of Patti LuPone.
So get on that TKTS line and remember: if you’re molested by a Times Square Elmo, you have Rudy Giuliani to thank.
A stage version of the Disney classic about an Arab street criminal who infiltrates the government under a false identity and employs black magic to bring down the wise Royal Vizir. Skip.
“The Book of Mormon”
An inspirational drama about two white Christians spreading God’s word to deepest, darkest Africa. The showstopper is about young men using religion to repress their homosexual thoughts. No wonder audiences are smiling!
“The Phantom of the Opera”
A psychopathic troll terrorizes the cosmopolitan élite. Donald Trump called it “great”!
A well-intentioned and intelligent woman is smeared with false accusations until the public is convinced that she’s a malevolent witch. A+
A musical about gay Jewish New Yorkers who have lesbian neighbors and sing songs like “Four Jews in a Room Bitching.” At the end, one of them gets AIDS and dies. AVOID.
An eye-opening portrait of crime and corruption in Barack Obama’s home city. The hero is the brilliant defense attorney Billy Flynn, who bamboozles the public with sensationalist lies and sings, “How can they hear the truth above the roar?” Bonus: jailed women.
A throwback to when America was truly great, 1942. Men were men, women were women, and barns were red. Includes the greatest song ever written by a Jew, “White Christmas.”
“Fiddler on the Roof”
A musical about members of a despised minority who are forced to leave their homes after being targeted by violent hate groups under a repressive czar. A heart-warmer!
“The Color Purple”
A wistful portrait of being a poor black woman in the Jim Crow South, a.k.a. the good old days.
“The Front Page”
An exposé of the corrupt mainstream media as it distorts the truth and undermines law and order. Needless to say, Nathan Lane is a hoot!
This portrait of working-class women in America’s heartland starts off O.K., when the title character chooses to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. But she winds up committing adultery and taking control of her own life choices. Recommendation: leave at intermission.
A black drag queen helps the white working class bring back manufacturing jobs by producing bedazzled red footwear. This musical must be stopped.
The Donald Trump of musicals: it’s tacky, it’s nonsensical, and it’s from the eighties. The cats live in the streets without a social safety net. And, since they’re competing for a chance at reincarnation, all the characters are potentially unborn. Go!
Doonesbury — It’s an honor.
Quoth Donald Trump: “The Theater must always be a safe and special place,” he continued. “The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!”
To quote Mr. Trump again: “Wrong.”
Theatre, in its long history and purpose, has never been a “safe place.” It has always been, since the days of Socrates and Aeschylus and William Shakespeare and Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Aphra Behn and Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg and Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw and Sean O’Casey and Elmer L. Rice and Clifford Odets and Bertolt Brecht and Arthur Miller and William Inge and Maria Irene Fornes and Lorraine Hansberry and Robert Anderson and Lanford Wilson and Edward Albee and Sam Shepard and Robert Patrick and August Wilson and Terrance McNalley and Marsha Norman and Paula Vogel and every playwright in the Official Playwrights of Facebook page, its duty to challenge, frighten, discomfort, tweak, bullyrag, provoke, infuriate, piss off; to make uncomfortable, to squirm and cringe, and at the same time force everyone inside the theatre and outside of it to think. We may do it with laughter and music and lights and sets and costumes, but a play that does not change the audience, that does not make it see the world and themselves in a different way when the lights come up and the curtain comes down, has fallen short.
That is the solemn promise we in theatre make when we take up the profession and the art, and while we may do it in as many different ways as there are plays, stages, playwrights, and places to hear and see our work, we will never accede, concede, or give up our obligation to challenge the status quo and make a difference. What other power have we? We are not politicians, we just pillory them. We cannot make laws, we just decry the bad ones. We cannot erase bigotry with the wave of our hand but we can make us aware of it and torture it into submission.
Theatre is a powerful weapon against tyranny and bullshit. It has always been a threat to the intolerant, which is why it is always the first to be suppressed by the dictators. Many writers and playwrights have been imprisoned, banished and executed because they proved the pen is more a threat to a tyrant than armed rebels in the streets. Nothing wounds more than mockery and ridicule. This is a lesson that must not be forgotten.
So no, Mr. Trump, the theatre must never be a safe place. That is what makes it special.
(PS: It’s a tad ironic that someone from the “Party of Lincoln” would think that being booed is the worst thing that could happen to a politician in a theatre.)
Well, I’m back. I needed some time to gather my thoughts about the election and what it means for us as a people, as a country, and for the world.
To say I was disappointed would be stating the obvious; disappointed on levels beyond a political loss. I’m disappointed that this country chose to take the path that it did, and chose it not out of considered long-term consequences but out of a knee-jerk, lizard-brain reaction to fear and loathing. I’m disappointed that more people that I agree with politically and morally chose to see their opponents in stark contrast to themselves rather than people frightened by fables and fear of the unknown that we could reach out to. We missed a lot of opportunities to bring comfort and security to them even if they didn’t act like they wanted it. We said we wanted to listen, but we only heard the outbursts, not the insecurities that makes people vulnerable to predators promising easy answers and nostrums in ten words or less. And despite the fact that our economy is improving, crime rates are falling, our children are learning, even our defenses are stronger, we allowed them to tell us the opposite and they believed it because for all the optimism that we say is part of human nature — if not, we’d eat our young — it is easier to believe in the bad things and demand simple solutions than it is to acknowledge the good and build upon it.
So, what’s next? What do we do now? I’ll get to that, but I can assure you of some things I won’t do.
I won’t deny the results of the election and go around with banners flying proclaiming #NotMyPresident or signing a petition demanding the Electoral College elect Hillary Clinton anyway. I will not join in the current anti-Trump protests on the street. That doesn’t preclude other protests in the future; just those fits of rage, especially the ones with property damage. Those actions are tantrums, not progress, and when people who objected to the election of Barack Obama said the same thing, we rightfully scorned them. I won’t even argue that just because Hillary Clinton won more popular votes than Mr. Trump she was somehow cheated out of the election. This is not the first time in our history that it has happened and it won’t be the last. It does not advance our cause by grasping at straws. We are supposed to be the grown-ups.
I will not call Mr. Trump by silly and insulting names. I didn’t do it with George W. Bush or any other president since I’ve had this blog, and all it does is perpetuate the perception that we’re juvenile and cannot be trusted to act like adults. All it does is prove that you have lost the argument and are lashing out.
Here’s what we will do: we stand up and fight back. We work at every level to elect people who are progressives and get our policies enacted into law starting at the city council and school board and work our way up. That’s how the right wing and the evangelicals did it starting forty years ago and look where it’s got them: a lock on state legislatures from coast to coast and a majority of governors. They’re the ones who control the districts for Congress and the next redistricting will come about after the next census in 2020. We have to have our people in place by then.
We stand up to bullying and bullshit and push back. If the Republicans could govern by refusing to consider anything proposed by a Democratic president, then it’s time to bring out the gander sauce and let them have a taste. Yes, they’re in the majority, but at least we will be heard and our principles are not defeated by being outvoted. That does not mean that we will not consider compromising on policies where there is common ground, but it will not be capitulation. If we go down, we go down with our principles intact.
We will use every legal means we can to bear witness to our beliefs and we will not be moved, intimidated, or oppressed for fighting back. We will remind everyone at every turn that there are those who not only oppose what may come, but we will offer better answers. We can’t just complain and snivel about what’s wrong; we have to have solutions.
It’s been a tough week. It’s going to be a tough four years, and we should do everything we can to make sure it is only four years. Not by hoping Donald Trump fails, but by making our country realize that his policies and views of America are dark, dangerous, and that there’s more to running a country than running for office. We have been down for the count before: 1972, 1984, 1988, but we’ve always come back. And we will again… assuming there’s a country to come back for.
Two court bailiffs were shot and killed by a prisoner trying to escape in St. Joseph, Michigan.
The U.S. will deploy 560 more troops to Iraq.
Changing of the guard: Theresa May will become the U.K.’s new prime minister on Wednesday.
Failure to launch: North Korea’s attempt to launch a missile from a submarine didn’t go.
Gitmo’s population continues to dwindle.
All-Star Tiger: Miggy’s going to San Diego.
I could have posted this yesterday, but here it is. WWE star John Cena delivers a message on what patriotism is.
I sometimes think the Bill of Rights is a test of character for the country. It’s as if the Founding Fathers said, “Okay, America, we’re going to give you all of these rights; let’s see how you handle them.”
There have been times when we have risen to them and proven ourselves worthy: when equal rights for all truly does mean real equality, not separate but equal or equal only for white Christians. And there have been times when we have failed them: internment for citizens who immigrated from a place we’re currently hating or the idea that because some see one amendment as thoroughly inviolable we have to accede to their fetishism as the way things must be.
It is serendipitous that as we recover from the shock and horror of the massacre in Orlando we saw a celebration of a musical that honored Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers. It’s a civics lesson through hip-hop, and while some may find it incongruous to see 18th century characters rapping about starting a country, it reminds us that we are forever being challenged on how we answer to those who set us on our way.
Buck Newton, A North Carolina state senator is very upset that gay people are actually voting.
“We all know that the folks that wave the rainbow flags and things like that are politically very upset about the way things are today. They’re upsets about the way things have always been in this state,” he said earlier in his remarks. “And they’re bound and determined to try to change it, whether it’s by winning elections in the city of Charlotte on their city council or whether it’s wining [sic] elections in November in the General Assembly or whether it’s winning elections in November for our governor.”
It kind of reminds me of how a group of like-minded people banded together to vote for people who supported their causes. Y’know, black people. Or the elderly. Or even, more’s the pity, cranky white people in the Tea Party. It’s called “democracy.” Funny how that works.
Might want to try it, Buck.
In case you missed it yesterday. [This was supposed to post this morning. Sorry.]
You know Donald Trump is way off track with his nativist noise when even Marine Le Pen, the head of the National (FN) of France, which has been in the forefront of anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe for decades, says he’s going too far.
Mr. Trump on Monday evoked comparisons to Ms. Le Pen and her European counterparts with his call to close American borders to all Muslims “until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
Ms. Le Pen said that was too much for her, perhaps in part because she feared jeopardizing the progress she had made in shedding her party’s previous image as racist and anti-Semitic.
“Seriously, have you ever heard me say something like that?” she asked on Thursday when questioned about Mr. Trump’s comments during a television interview. “I defend all the French people in France, regardless of their origin, regardless of their religion.”
And now the French voters think Ms. Le Pen is a little too much for them. In elections over the weekend, the National Front came in third.
France’s far-right National Front (FN) has failed to win a single region in the second round of municipal polls.
The party was beaten into third place, despite leading in six of 13 regions in the first round of voting a week ago.
The centre-right Republicans finished ahead of President Francois Hollande’s governing Socialist Party.
FN leader Marine Le Pen said that mainstream parties had colluded to keep it from power and vowed to keep on fighting.
“Nothing can stop us now,” she told supporters. “By tripling our number of councillors, we will be the main opposition force in most of the regions of France.”
Ms Le Pen said the party had been “disenfranchised in the most indecent of ways by a campaign of lies and disinformation”.
They dodged that bullet. Can we? Ted Cruz is just as odious as Donald Trump, and he stands to win in Iowa.
HT to CLW.
Trump calls for complete ban on Muslims entering America.
F.B.I. talking to man who bought the guns used in the San Bernardino massacre.
Supreme Court refuses to hear assault weapons ban case.
Opposition wins big victory in Venezuela.
Global emissions of greenhouse gases were down slightly last year.