Author Archives: Elizabeth

On Dehumanization

I want to write about Legion (it’s all about an abusive dad, guys!!) and Ursula Le Guin (she hates technology, guys!!) But there is nothing to say, really, while babies, toddlers, kids, and their parents are victims of this spectacle of political cruelty.

  1. These families are seeking asylum, which is legal
  2. They seek asylum because they are already traumatized by violent conditions in their homes
  3. They enter a country expecting kindness–or at least a stable fucking legal process–and instead face horror perhaps equal to what they tried to escape.

I used to think that racist and misogynist cruelty depended on the abuser having already dehumanized their* victim. This conception of abuse was the only way I could make sense of my own trauma: my abuser must not have seen me as human, because what human could hurt another human so much, so often, so deeply, so intentionally, if they were fully immersed in that person’s humanity?

Then this article, which has haunted me since November, has transformed how I think about cruelty.

A victim’s humanity is the point. If an abuser did not engage with the rich, beautiful humanness of their victim, their cruelty would be less there’s-really-no-other-way-to-put-this meaningful. From the article outlining transformative model of cruelty:

Timothy Snyder offers a haunting description in “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning”:

The next morning the “scrubbing parties” began. Members of the Austrian SA, working from lists, from personal knowledge, and from the knowledge of passersby, identified Jews and forced them to kneel and clean the streets with brushes. This was a ritual humiliation. Jews, often doctors and lawyers or other professionals, were suddenly on their knees performing menial labor in front of jeering crowds. Ernest P. remembered the spectacle of the “scrubbing parties” as “amusement for the Austrian population.” A journalist described “the fluffy Viennese blondes, fighting one another to get closer to the elevating spectacle of the ashen-faced Jewish surgeon on hands and knees before a half-dozen young hooligans with Swastika armlets and dog-whips.” Meanwhile, Jewish girls were sexually abused, and older Jewish men were forced to perform public physical exercise.

The Jews who were forced to scrub the streets—not to mention those subjected to far worse degradations—were not thought of as lacking human emotions. Indeed, if the Jews had been thought to be indifferent to their treatment, there would have been nothing to watch here; the crowd had gathered because it wanted to see them suffer. 

I read and click out and re-open and skim and shut down so many reports of the cruelty imposed on these children and families. I don’t need to rehearse any of that here. Nonetheless, every time I think about those kids, which is often, I return to this image of the Jewish surgeons crawling on the ground in their suits. I think of white people bringing picnics to lynchings.

And I return to what we knew from the first day of this administration: cruelty is its foundation. Mocking, defiling, fracturing the humanity of others (people with disabilities, black people engaging in free speech, women, immigrants from the Global South, people with expertise, etc etc etc) is the base upon which they construct every action.

We can shout at them all the ways this policy will destroy lives. We can list out the long long list of what we know about attachment, trauma, the deep need children have for a loving, attentive caregiver. We can throw the entire fucking UCLA med school curriculum at his head. That would only encourage him and his goons.

Our facts, our passion, our desperation about the lives these policies destroy are like cans of hairspray thrown onto the bonfire. Destroying lives is the point. Enflaming liberal ire is the point. Spreading hate is the point.

Sure, the US has destroyed families for white supremacist political expediency since its founding–Black families, native families, immigrant families. Even Obama wasn’t cool about migrant family reunification.

We now have an opportunity now to repudiate all of that disgusting history.

Let’s each one of us do a little more than we think we can to stop this horror.

 

*Post script/announcement, speaking of the ennobled humanity of our beautiful allies: Thinker for Hire now embraces the gender-agnostic singular them. It took me too long. Thanks.

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TfH’s 1-line reviews

Solo: I’d rather have watched a whole movie about Chewie freeing his enslaved wookie comrades, gently touching foreheads with them, joking freed wookie jokes with them, dancing freed wookie dances at freed wookie parties eating freed wookie electric blue antennaed hor’s oeuvres.

Tully: Our country’s so crap about families that when a whipfirecrackingbadasssssss lady has a surprise third baby, she is in such desperate need of care that her personality cleaves, like a car floor string cheese divided and knotted over onto itself in something like a salty, half-melty, lint-riddled hug.

The Americans series finale: Marriage is hard, but nationalist violence is harder.

The Mars Room: WHY ARE THERE SO MANY STORIES OUT ABOUT PARENTS LOSING THEIR KIDS ABOLISH ICE AND WAREHOUSE THEM ALL WITHOUT RIGHTS OR DIGNITY IN A MAX SEC PRISON IN THE CALIFORNIA DESERT PLEASE THANKS

Ursula Le Guin’s Hainish novels and stories (which include The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed): The strand of US ideology encapsulated loosely now as “Trumpism” is terrible, which we’ve known since always but especially since the Vietnam War, and which advancing technology may only reinforce if we don’t put the anthropologists and artists in charge.

 

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Come-uppensating

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH William Saletan over a decade later admits that, oh yeah, “race” science is not science. I read his original Bell Curve post back then and was so alarmed that I stuck it in my dissertation as a footnote on the perils of oversciencing society. And have since refused to read a single fucking word by that man.

His mea culpa is decent, but it still trucks in the dubious tendency of science discourse to delegitimize other ways of learning and knowing. Continue reading

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Loving Screams

You guys. Your favorite dada-surf blitz, “Rock Lobster,” RESCUED JOHN LENNON’S GENIUS. See, B-52s recorded it partially as a Yoko Ono tribute (all those animal sounds!). Lennon heard it in a club. Inspired by its similarity to his wife’s music, Lennon collaborated with her to make Double Fantasy, after five years of rock block. Satisfying narrative urgency, Ono screamed her part in “Rock Lobster” with the B-52s ten years later.

“Listening to the B-52’s, John said he realized that my time had come,” [Ono] told Songfacts. “So he could record an album by making me an equal partner and we won’t get flak like we used to up to then.”

Loving screams save culture.

And I adore Molly Ringwald’s loving scream about the impact of The Breakfast Club and other John Hughes movies she collaborated in creating. Racist! Honest! Realistic! Empowering in their honesty and realism! Wholly endorsing sexual assault! Still totally racist!

How are we meant to feel about art that we both love and oppose? What if we are in the unusual position of having helped create it? Erasing history is a dangerous road when it comes to art—change is essential, but so, too, is remembering the past, in all of its transgression and barbarism, so that we may properly gauge how far we have come, and also how far we still need to go.

How far we still need to go, Molly? Turns out it’s #EqualPayDay. And one wonders if she got paid as much as the dudes in that film. Or if Ono got paid as much as her husband to make Double Fantasy.

One doesn’t really wonder. One screams.

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The Joy of Cooking Facts

This lovely paean to Joy of Cooking  crushes both the bogus science critiquing the cookbook and the broader cultural problem of trying to get reliable science about food and health. Continue reading

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Keep Your Heads Up, Friends

1000-1500 kids are about to walk past my office building to the state capitol to demand that government value their lives at least as much as they value guns. I hope they can bring this fight to help kids in Flint have clean fucking water for the first time in years.

Some of the best articles I’ve read recently, all verging on the political:

Continue reading

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