Author Archives: Mike Moats

Holden Caulfield is “Anti-White”

In these days of grievance, it seems anyone can be “anti-white,” even America’s most iconic, lily-white, emo, prep-school complainer, Holden Caulfield.

As Quartz reports, over the next month, in honor of Banned Books Week, the Washington, D.C. public library system is hiding banned books around the city as part of a scavenger hunt. The books will be distinctively marked. Like obscenity, you’ll know them when you see them:

Each book has a black cover, printed with quotes from people who have tried to have them banned or removed from US libraries and schools. John Knowles’ A Separate Peace will be labeled “filthy, trashy sex novel,” and J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is labeled “anti-white.”

The “anti-white” quote on the Catcher cover comes from a 1963 effort to ban CatcherBrave New World and To Kill a Mockingbird. Presumably, the anti-white complaint is more targeted at the book in which African-American characters are mistreated by whites. But hey, it’s a fun scavenger hunt, so just go with it.

While Salinger surely would have objected to this whole thing — since he objected to everything (including whites, I guess?) — he did once write a story that the kind of person who would label something as “anti-white” might consider anti-white. It was based on the life of Bessie Smith, including her death, which was alleged to be the result of being refused admittance into a whites-only hospital. The story was published in Cosmopolitan in 1948, and the editors changed Salinger’s title from “Needle on a Scratchy Phonograph Record” to “Blue Melody” without telling the author, which upset him deeply.

-Michael Moats

 

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America This is Quite Serious: The American Conservative on Hillbilly Elegy

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That’s right. The American Conservative. And not because I think liberals (like me) benefit from well-reasoned counter arguments in this algorithm filtered, echo-chamber, partisan media world — though I do think that. It’s because we need to see each other. And this article — “Trump: Tribune Of Poor White People” — is far less of a political counterpoint than it is an appeal to see real people.

The Trump headline is mostly there to get the attention of the internet.  Continue reading

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America This is Quite Serious: Obama’s America

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Humility and steeliness. Love. Hope. Optimism. Vigor and strength. This is what our politics should be. America this is quite serious. Listen:

Read more in our election year series “America This is Quite Serious.”

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America This is Quite Serious: Up, Simba

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Back in the year 2000, Rolling Stone sent David Foster Wallace on assignment to cover John McCain’s long-shot effort to be the Republican candidate for president. Remember John McCain? Well yeah, but do you remember him from the year 2000? When he actually seemed like a maverick and rode around the country on the Straight Talk Express, being vulnerable and open with voters, and making people feel like they’d held up Diogenes’ lantern and seen the one honest man in politics?

Remember that feeling? There is no candidate in 2016 that has accomplished anything like that feeling*.  Continue reading

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America This is Quite Serious: A Terrible Week

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America this is deadly serious.

Of the events of the last few days, there is nothing to say that hasn’t already been said in the news or on social media. And there is nothing that matters as much as Alton Sterling’s fifteen-year-old son calling out for his father. Or Philando Castile’s girlfriend praying that this is not how his life ends. Or knowing that one of the murdered Dallas police officers survived three tours in Iraq and had a two-year-old daughter named Lyncoln.

What I can say is this: Our best hope of stopping this shit is to better understand each other. And for that, everyone should read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me

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You should read his words about never feeling safe in his own body. You should read his thoughts on watching young white children roam the sidewalks, and knowing that he could never feel truly comfortable letting his own son do the same. You should read about living in a default state feeling threatened, even, or especially, by the people who are supposed to be there for your protection.

It is, as I said in a different post “one of the most humane and touching communications I have ever encountered.” I think that is what we could use right about now.

And it is one part of the story. If you have suggestions on other reading that will bring more understanding to the other parts, please share them in the comments or with us on Twitter.

Read more in our election year series “America This is Quite Serious.”

 

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America This is Quite Serious: Inventing America

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Every year around July 4th, inspired by the occasion as much as the dream of getting some real reading done over the long holiday weekend, I pull from the shelf Garry Wills’ Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.

The book was published two years after the bicentennial, and is a long and dense study of the intellectual foundations of the Declaration of Independence — “the psychology of Louis de Jaucourt, the contract theory of David Hume, the mechanics of benevolence as elaborated by Francis Hutcheson,” as Wills summarizes them early on. Wills also talks about the way those lines of thought square up with how the document exists in our collective consciousness today, though I suspect he would have some updates to that interpretation.

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As you might imagine, Inventing America has the potential to make its readers absolutely insufferable at today’s barbecues and fireworks shows, and fortunately I rarely get in too deep. The Prologue is enough to add a little magic and solemnity to a day all too often characterized by over-eating and ‘Murica chest thumping, and that is my recommended reading here.

The question Wills raises from the outset is: Continue reading

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