Monday, March 14, 2016

Not In My Name


I'm starting to get tired of John Oliver too.

Oh I know, he can be funny, and really a lot of it isn't his fault but I'm starting to dread the "John Oliver Completely DESTROYS X" clickbait pieces that will pop on on Monday after his show airs. It's a symptom of politics being turned into a professional sport the team with the most points can "win". Rather than politics being the incredibly messy, complicated affair complete with compromises that necessitate life in a pluralistic society.

And the illusion many liberals and progressives have that comedy can deliver a killing blow to tyrants, not to mention the fatal illusion that sharing a Funny or Die clip is a good substitute for voting, has only grown in the frightening wake of Trump's rise to the likely GOP presidential nominee.

Seeing the raging, churning mob Trump has unleashed and encouraged and the complete impotence of party officials and a cowed press to do anything to stop him has me increasingly seeking comfort in reminders of our species capability for humanity. And one of the best is Brandon Stanton's photo project Humans of New York.


Photo by Brandon Stanton for Humans of New York 

Stanton's eye for his subjects is matched only by the amazing stories he gets them to tell. Fragments of a memory unspool an entire life story in the mind's eye. His primary subjects are the people of New York City, but his project has taken him all around the world meeting celebrities, students and refugees.

It appears to be primarily the latter experience he was drawing from in the letter he posted this morning. I liked his letter, and I shared it. I know it doesn't "destroy" or "take down" anything. I shared  it so I wouldn't feel so helpless. That at least here was a record. A record of names, of words, of articles I find that say "Not In My Name". That say "enough". That say this is wrong and why it is wrong. So that when history looks back on us there will at least be a record that someone, anyone spoke out.

It's a luxury to be "above" politics. And at this point it's false pretense. Elie Wisel called out that kind of ducking responsibility in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech: "We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim." I'm starting to get really existentially scared by what's going on. So no I don't look for "my team" to "win" or John Oliver to anything besides start to wear thin. But I do like letters like that, and I share letters like that because they serve as a record, that somebody said no. No.

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