The First White President

A very powerful essay by Ta-Nehisi Coates. An excerpt:

"The American tragedy now being wrought is larger than most imagine and will not end with Trump. In recent times, whiteness as an overt political tactic has been restrained by a kind of cordiality that held that its overt invocation would scare off 'moderate' whites. This has proved to be only half true at best. Trump’s legacy will be exposing the patina of decency for what it is and revealing just how much a demagogue can get away with. It does not take much to imagine another politician, wiser in the ways of Washington and better schooled in the methodology of governance—and now liberated from the pretense of antiracist civility—doing a much more effective job than Trump… The first white president in American history is also the most dangerous president—and he is made more dangerous still by the fact that those charged with analyzing him cannot name his essential nature, because they too are implicated in it."

Dead Metaphor

From The New Yorker on J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy:

"It’s true that, by criticizing 'hillbilly culture,' 'Hillbilly Elegy' reverses the racial polarity in our debate about poverty; it’s also true that, by arguing that the problems of the white working class are partly 'cultural,' the book strikes a blow against Trumpism. And yet it would be wrong to see Vance’s book as yet another entry in our endless argument about whether this or that group’s poverty is caused by 'economic' or 'cultural' factors. 'Hillbilly Elegy' sees the 'economics vs. culture' divide as a dead metaphor—a form of manipulation rather than explanation more likely to conceal the truth than to reveal it. The book is an understated howl of protest against the racialized blame game that has, for decades, powered American politics and confounded our attempts to talk about poverty."

I'm not sure I understand why so many think this book is so significant (e.g. "You will not read a more important book about America this year." --Economist; "Never before have I read a memoir so powerful, and so necessary." --Reihan Salam), nor, on the other hand, do I understand the fierce criticism it has received. Thoughts? A review may be forthcoming.

Talk -- No Action

In the news this week, ladies and gentlemen, our President-elect:

"Donald Trump, the former host of Celebrity Apprentice and president-elect of the United States, referred to Georgia congressman John Lewis, one of the Big Six civil-rights leaders of the 1960s, who was once assaulted as a Freedom Rider testing a federal law banning segregation on public transportation, and who, along with Martin Luther King, Jr., organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom to push for the passage of the Civil Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, religion, or sex, as 'talk--no action.' Trump called NATO 'obsolete,' referred to Brexit as 'a great thing,' and said it was a 'catastrophic mistake' for German chancellor Angela Merkel to accept refugees from the five-year civil war in Syria that has killed at least 400,000 people."
-Harper's Review

Also of interest: Trump's Errors on Europe and Kompromat vs. Maskirovka

A Time For Refusal

I can't quite get my mind around the reality of President-elect Trump, so I haven't yet written a post, but this NYTimes article on Ionesco's "Rhinoceros" sums up the "normalization" aspect nicely:

"Evil settles into everyday life when people are unable or unwilling to recognize it. It makes its home among us when we are keen to minimize it or describe it as something else. This is not a process that began a week or month or year ago. It did not begin with drone assassinations, or with the war on Iraq. Evil has always been here. But now it has taken on a totalitarian tone."