TABLE of CONTENTS
Letter from the Editors
In 2004 George W. Bush’s chances were said to hinge on the “Nascar voter,” a hick with a taste for carnage who was pitted against those who knew to draw the line at the rolling concussion protocol known internationally as “American football.” Last year the mindlessness and vulgarity of the Trump voter was daily condemned by those who spend their weekends playing Candy Crush and marveling at “high-concept” rape and pillage vehicles like Game of Thrones and Westworld.
Symposium: What is America for?
The opening of Greenfield Village coincided with the Great Depression, a time when many people felt disillusioned with modernity and its narratives about progress. The Village, which evoked a way of life recent enough to have persisted in the memories of older visitors, attracted scores of Americans who felt alienated from the land because of urbanization and factory work, and who longed to return, if only momentarily, to the slower, more satisfying pace of preindustrial life. … Now here we were, some eighty years later, at the coda of another economic downturn. Throughout the worst years of the Recession, a crisis that hit Michigan particularly hard, Greenfield Village and its sister site, the Henry Ford Museum, had become more popular than ever.
A Country is a Country
[Michael S. Kochin]
To be true to their own principles of equality and government limited by law, Americans have to insist that those who become Americans do so according to the forms and procedures established by law. Their admission should not be exceptions to the law granted as favors by rulers who see themselves as above the American people and above the laws that the American people and their constitutionally appointed representatives have made.
[Jose Angel N.]
When I am invited to share my experience as an undocumented man with different communities, I often find myself puzzled by the misconceptions I encounter. An older gentleman stands up and demands one goddamn good reason not to call the police on me at that very moment. But then we would not be able to have a discussion, I answer.
Tar Heels, Alive
[Brandon R. Byrd]
I don’t know many black Southerners who would disagree with Faulkner that the past is neither dead nor buried. The past has chased us in pick-up trucks. It has haunted us in white robes. We don’t have to squint too hard to still see its reflection on the blood-spattered badges attached to blue uniforms.
Articles of Faith
[Paul W. Gleason]
To a good Calvinist minister, Enlightenment liberalism with its social contracts and negative rights seemed to prize self-sufficiency over reliance on God. And to the Enlightenment philosophe, Protestants (let alone Catholics) might declare at any moment that the laws of their God trumped the laws of the state. There was no reason to think that, across the Atlantic, these two strands of thought might be woven into a strong social bond. But they were.
Blackness + America
[Lauren Michele Jackson]
It is no longer the Nineties. It is—thank God—no longer the Nineties. Whether overwhelmed by migration or killed in the culture wars, the hyphen has disappeared, literally and metaphorically. “-American” was the anchor that proposed the gradual integration of ethnic differences into an assimilated America. If “American” was once a measure of protection against the ethnic Other, that protection has eroded into blank space. White hysteria now sits in uneasy proximity to what it fears most.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
I want to say: in America, Obama’s America, I was set free, because in America, or rather in New York, I came out. But I hesitate—not because I’ve never been in the closet, but because I feel that I’m still there. If being in the closet means staying inside, then leaving it implies that there is an outside, a place where the formerly closeted self can be seen and engaged. I’m not sure I can find it in America.
Conflict and Consensus
The idea that a deep consensus governed American life began also to look untenable in the face of the political, social and cultural conflicts of the Sixties, some of which called into question the fundamental assumptions of postwar liberalism. As citizens fell away from the center, it was unclear whether even a great deal of digging would uncover underlying commitments uniting Goldwater conservatives, the New Left, Black Panthers and radical feminists.
I always have had respect for people’s desire for there to be a form that will solve the problem of living. America is one of those forms—the nation is one of those forms. And form can’t solve the problem of living. The constant disappointment at that fact is a lot like the constant repetition in a comic sequence of a slapstick event. Except the violence of the disappointment is not funny! And it has really bad, painful effects on people’s lives.
A Nation Doesn’t Need Walls
[Francisco Cantu and John Washington]
The border is usually represented in the national imagination with very little nuance. I’m interested in representing it in a way that acknowledges the very fraught and tragic place we’ve arrived at. This is a more emotional argument, one that many might dismiss as typical bleeding-heart liberal babble, but I think it’s so important.
The Crisis of Language Project
Justin Evans, et al]
news, fake: i) post-truth presented as the truth. ii) other people’s facts.
normalize: i) come to terms with reality. ii) abandon critical faculties.
not my president: i) a patriotic protest. ii) a millennial protest. iii) did not go over well in Aleppo.
Pilgrim at Tinder Creek
Online dating and the academic job search
On OkCupid and Tinder, I was “a chill, big-hearted guy,” family-centered, mild-mannered, humorously self-deprecating. In my cover letter I was a young scholar and teacher of luminous promise—bold, theoretically omnivorous, a winner of fellowships and awards, an author of multiple articles with a first book in the pipeline and a second germinating.
Heroes and Housewives
How the 2016 presidential campaign got real
What might the nineteenth-century novel have done with or to Hillary Clinton? A woman with big ambitions, she withdrew from her early achievements in Washington, D.C. to marry Bill and live in Arkansas. She changed her name, dress and hairstyle to get her husband votes and stuck by him when he strayed; after decades in and around public office, she sought to rule the nation. During Bill’s first presidential campaign she said she never wanted to stay home baking cookies and then, to make up for the “gaffe,” agreed to submit a recipe to a contest with Barbara Bush; her cookies line was then repurposed (or re-repurposed) as a bid for female empowerment as it flashed behind Beyoncé at Hillary’s final rally in Cleveland. Much like the housewives, she both submits to and reaches far beyond her marital designation—but unlike them, she is reluctant to apologize for either her private or her public stances.
I Love Dick
[Eliza Starbuck Little]
Kraus pulls us in by exploiting our desire to take a good look at the things from which we’re supposed to avert our eyes. But instead of the tawdry narrative that I had sought out, I found myself reading the record of an emotional experiment: What if a woman chose to put herself in a position of deep emotional vulnerability in relation to a man whose feelings about her were, at best, ambivalent, but instead of repressing or concealing her desire for him, she continued insistently to express it?
The Selfishness of Others
Although The Selfishness of Others seems to promise an investigation of whether the “narcissism epidemic” (as it’s been called) is real, the book’s main interest derives from Dombek’s posing of another question, which may shed new light on our urge to #DiagnoseTrump: What’s at stake for us in believing it’s real?
In the spirit of Gandhi, members of the Possibility Alliance do not ride in cars because they are boycotting “the fuel industry that waged wars and destroyed indigenous people.” They milk and butcher their own cows and goats in “resistance against feedlots, subsidized genetically modified corn, slaughterhouses, plastic packaging and supermarkets.” And they light their three-hundred-square-foot straw-bale and mud- walled home with candles so as not to support the electricity cartels. To put things in perspective, consider this: the monks at the Monastery of St. Anthony, just inland from the Red Sea, whose founder lived first in a cave and then in the open desert, brought in a generator in the late Nineties.
Although hampered by a lack of data and a sometimes grandiloquent prose style, Tocqueville has nevertheless made an intriguing contribution to the gathering literature on the cultural and economic roots of the stunning election result.
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This annotated TOC is a preview of what’s
to come in issue 13 of The Point.
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