The massacre of 49 people in Orlando this weekend has, once again, raised enormous questions about the current state of American life.
Photograph by Paolo Pellegrin.
This incident, more than most others perhaps, stirs discussion. Not just because it is an election year, but also because of the many existing debates into which it painfully intrudes. Rather than the usual exasperations about the great need or the totaly futility of gun control, we are also debating the shooter’s supposed faith and affiliations with ISIS; his attack on the LGBT community when he himself might have also been gay; and how we should react in our politics, our policy, or for our own protection.
Almost all of these come back to one thing: Fear. The shooter’s, and our own.
In 2015, Marilynne Robinson wrote about this fear. As usual, she speaks from the perspective of a Christian. But — also as usual — you don’t need to share her faith to make sense of what she believes. She also speaks as an American, someone who loves her country and is a student of our long and complex history.
I have read this article at least five times since it was first published. Sadly, I often have reason to pull it up after hearing about another senseless mass murder with a firearm. I am sorry to say that I found it useful again this week.
America, this is quite serious, which is why “Fear” by Marilynne Robinson is worth a read.
Read more from our election year series “America This is Quite Serious.”
New music! Sometimes old music. Music that we love!
As part of our series “America This is Quite Serious,” a song with some good things to remember in days like these:
…Why can’t we give love that one more chance?
Why can’t we give love give love give love give love
Give love give love give love give love give love
‘Cause love’s such an old fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the (People on streets) edge of the night
And loves (People on streets) dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves…
Plus, just a really goddam great song.
This is the most casually stated and deeply tragic declaration of our time. It is, ironically, the one thing we all agree on, aside from the charms of Chewbacca Mom.
I realize that “politics sucks” is a strange thing to say less than 48 hours after politics brought us our first female candidate for the presidency. Regardless of your thoughts about who should win this thing, that’s history and it’s inspiring. But by now it’s a dying ember in the cold and dark. Look at how quickly politics started to suck again: Donald Trump apparently made a pee-pee joke the night Clinton declared victory. Thomas Frank is already snarling about the cynicism of anyone who’s happy Hillary won. Bernie’s deeply passionate supporters barely had time — seriously, like half an hour — to deal with the finality of a heartbreaking loss before Politico started rubbing salt in the wounds. The Facebook flame wars are all back up and running on my timeline. How about yours? Continue reading
Chance the Rapper jumped onto the scene earlier this year by dropping the best verse on the best song of Kanye West’s latest release The Life of Pablo. That performance was the intro, as Chance says on the opening track of his new album (or mixtape… I think I’m too old to know the difference) Coloring Book.
The best track on Coloring Book might be “Summer Friends,” a soft-and-sweet trap beat (I think) that Chance bounces along on accompanied by someone who sounds exactly like Justin Vernon but apparently isn’t. At first listen, “Summer Friends” feels like a nostalgic look back at early days — “79th street was America then / Ice cream truck and the beauty supply / Blockbuster movies and Harold’s again” — and something good to have with you now that the weather is finally hot. But it’s all a set up for this: Continue reading
They’ve imagined nightmare-inducing horror stories, near-future dystopias, and untold misery caused by everything from childhood to marriage. But when it comes to Donald Trump, some of our favorite authors draw the line. According to the New York Times, more than 400 writers have signed a petition protesting his candidacy:
A group of more than 400 writers, including big names such as Stephen King, David Eggers, Amy Tan, Junot Díaz and Cheryl Strayed, released an online petition on Tuesday to express their opposition to Mr. Trump’s candidacy on the grounds that he is appealing to the darkest elements in American society.
“The rise of a political candidate who deliberately appeals to the basest and most violent elements in society, who encourages aggression among his followers, shouts down opponents, intimidates dissenters, and denigrates women and minorities, demands, from each of us, an immediate and forceful response,” they wrote.
Of course, that was yesterday. The number is now closer to 8,000 signatures. Continue reading
When he was working on his MFA in creative writing, Ben Rhodes used to write Frederick Barthelme knock-off fiction. In the tiny office where he works today — almost 15 years after leaving the program — he has shelves of books and binders, a picture of his daughter, some reminders of his favorite baseball team. When asked, he says his life could fit the mold of a Don DeLillo novel. His colleagues compare him to Holden Caulfield.
This is all familiar territory for anyone who has, or knows someone with, a creative writing degree. Except that Continue reading