Reading Group

Reading Group

This is a good week to read books that make you feel uncomfortable. Actually, any week is, but given the latest news about efforts to censor books and keep unsettling ideas out of the hands of school-age kids, this seems to be a particularly appropriate moment in history to engage in what in more rational days would be called “learning.” Tell that to the genius school board in Tennessee that is targeting Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Holocaust narrative, “Maus,” as subversive, pornographic and inappropriate for school libraries. Or to like-minded educational authorities in Texas whose purge of controversial textbook content has a chilling effect nationwide. That’s because publishers mindful of that lucrative market tend to target the lowest common denominator of tolerance about messy stories like the American genocide of indigenous peoples, the role of slavery in the making of our economy or the enduring legacy of Jim Crow and racism. In many states today, initiatives by educational administrators and legislative bodies are targeting the teaching of historical material that makes some students (read ”white students”) squirm. It’s the next logical step in the authoritarian censorship of ideas that have an edge. Having banned the teaching of a subject, Critical...Read more

The Rage That Lurks

The latest public outbreak of antagonism towards masks and vaccinations isn’t just a biomedical issue and it’s certainly not confined to health care settings or schools. It’s starting to creep into everyday life in a way that suggests a broader, more deeply embedded culture war that will not go away soon. We got a sense of that the other day when a sub-contractor for our basement build-out up showed up without mask and made a point of refusing to wear one. It led to quite the verbal scuffle; one I worried might escalate into something worse. It embarrassed our normal, all-purpose genius home repair and improvement guy, our version of Eldin from the 1990s TV series “Murphy Brown,” who witnessed most of the scene and who later apologized for it – though it was not his fault and he had nothing to apologize for. Turns out we needed sheet rock installed in what will eventually become my new downstairs office. Getting quality workers these days is tough in every construction or landscape trade, but the sub-contractor who was called has a good reputation for his work – or did, anyway. The sub-contractor showed up early, without a mask, and while...Read more

Vaccine Suicide

Amidst a global pandemic involving a readily communicable disease whose airborne method of transmission is widely known, it seems fairly simple to invoke some basic methods of suppression. But no, the Republican governors of two of our larger states, Florida and Texas, are intent on a public policy of mass suicide. There is no other way to interpret the wanton disregard for the safety of citizens shown by these two political leaders. What’s really scary is the extent to which roughly 45% of the population nationally has bought into this refusal to get vaccinated and wear masks. I’ve held off writing this because I find it extremely difficult not to convey my disgust at this state of affairs. I wanted to make sure my judgment was sound and I was not showing a lack of respect for the choices that people were making. And I am fully aware that a certain percentage of the populace has justifiable reasons for not wanting to get poked with the now spectacularly successful inoculant that has proven to raise considerably the resistance to infection. Communities of color have good historic reason to be suspicious of the claims made by the medical community. There are...Read more