I saw Hamilton last week. Like other art I partook of during Herr Gropenfuhrer's ascendance and first vollies, it managed to be comforting, inspiring, and galvanizing all at once. Having spent the better part of a decade at this point writing literary and historical criticism, I think it's no mistake and even indicative of our times that we have this powerfully political piece of art rallying us to RISE UP even as we have a Cheeto-in-Chief who is doing his best to tear us all down. And likewise, I think it's no mistake that if Americans were torn 50/50 over the Revolution itself, we have to remember that now, today, our current political balance is at *least* 60/40 if not 70/30--the Resistance is on point, we are gathered, we are prepared. Our greatest danger is the fatigue of it all, having to be aware and ready at all times. Per a friend and also Mad-Eye Moody, CONSTANT VIGILANCE. But here are some things that give me hope: The Mosque that was burned in Texas outpaced its rebuilding goal of $850k in donations in two days; the ACLU received $19 million in donations in just the single weekend when it usually gets $3mil in a year; people are showing up in droves to protests on campuses, at airports, at federal buildings. We have energy and anger and determination, and those are something.
As for Hamilton itself: I saw a wholly new cast, with an alt playing Hamilton. Black men played Burr, Washington, and Hamilton; Hamilton in particular had very dark skin, which highlighted the "I'm a shiny piece of coal" line from "My Shot" in a way I thought very interesting. LMM has written how he went back and forth on whether to play Hamilton or Burr when writing and workshopping, and it made me wonder when he composed that line which role he was playing at the time. The Hamilton actor also played young Ham as a combination of "angry young man" and "socially awkward" that was very interesting--it also made the whole sequence of "My Shot" extra emotional because "I've never had a group of friends before, I promise I'll make ya'll proud!" and the physicality of the group's interactions so neat to me--and especially because throughout the number and show Burr is distanced from the other actors; his line "Can I buy you a drink?" is bewildered confusion and social flailing as well. The whole sequence echoed their positions in "Story of Tonight Reprise" after Ham's wedding--Lafayette is handing out glasses and he makes like he's going to give one to Burr, who reaches out for it, and then he is bypassed with "You are the worst, Burr." So when Ham shooes them out, part of that is being kind/protective to Burr, which I thought was great characterization.
I brought tissues with me, because listening to Act 2 makes me cry, so I knew I was in for it with human beings, and yeah, yeaaaaaaaaah. The emotions were so powerful. The Hamilton actor in particular got, I think, "mature Hamilton" in a way that felt completely organic and impressive and in a way that seemed more so with his interpretation of young Ham. When he totally breaks down during "It's Quiet Uptown" it was truly impressive in a way difficult to describe, except that to see tears slowly coming down when talking to Eliza and then become absolutely streaming and shaking in a way that was moved and moving. (I can hear someone now say "And that's why it's called 'acting', Cait!" but still!) The actor who played Washington likewise made "Teach Them How to Say Goodbye" incredibly moving, and okay, yes, that song makes me tear up but this time I was close to sobbing. I'll admit part of it may have been the emotional hysteria of last week's politics, but still.
Lafayette/Jefferson was played by a light-skinned man. One of the things that visually struck me with images of Daveed Diggs's Jefferson was the visual hypocrisy in the scene with his slaves in "What Did I Miss?" I didn't feel like that sequence was as visually grabbing with a light-skinned man in the role; it made me wonder if we have normalized the image of "light person surrounded by dark servants" and how fucked up of itself that is. (SIDEWAYS: I love Legends of Tomorrow, and they did an episode where they went back to the Civil War to fight confederate zombies and hijinks ensued, but there's a scene when Jackson, the African-American part of Firestorm, opts to save some slaves with historical consequences/"aberrations" be damned: "This is the REAL aberration to history," he said, and I cried because yes.)
The actor who played Burr was absolutely incredibly and my favorite by far. He worked in a lot of humor into the role with certain vocal turns and body language; I'd love to know how that contrasted with Odom's performance, which always seemed very "straight man" to a mercurial Ham on the recording. It also made his bromance with Hamilton more interesting to me--like, it seemed like if Ham's rage was all externalized, Burr's was internalized, and that's a good deal of why he explodes into violence at the end. Somehow that interpretation had never occurred to me, but having read it that way I can't unsee it. Also, his "Sweet. Jesus." to Ham's "itemized list of thirty years of disagreements" was so frustrated and exasperated in a way that I felt absolutely encapsulated their love/hate relationship.
Finally, because I'm so shallow at the end of the day: We were second row center which meant we were RIGHT THERE when characters came to the edge of the stage--like they were four feet away and a few inches higher than us. Which also meant that like when Burr came up for the end of "Wait for It" I was kind of close to his junk. I mean, I could have looked up his nose I guess, but it was RIGHT THERE. *covers face in awkward embarrassment* "Aaron Burr, sir!!" (Sideways--where DO you look when that happens????)
Anyways. Feels. They were had. I'm trying to post helpful/thoughtful things on FB, and this has become at least two people calling me "Pollyanna" which irks me, though I don't deign to respond. Like, I feel like I can either boost the signal or collapse in despair, and I choose the signalboosting. So, that's me, I guess. I was rereading some of my old journals recently, and I had forgotten how scared I was when Bush was re-elected, and how I promised myself I would always stay and fight, no matter what, and I have recommitted myself to that promise. And I guess if my biggest sin is hope, well, there's worse, isn't there?
We sat between a middle-aged black woman--who told us about how she got to see the limited run of Fences (another Wilson play) with Denzel Washington before the movie adaptation came out, and we were all TELL US EVERYTHING!!!!"--and two white dudes who were clearly theater buffs, but also one was having to explain to the other about how to take care of a newly-adopted cat and it was unintentionally hilarious (1. How do you get to be middle-aged without ever having interacted with cats before?? 2. Sample conversation: "And it keeps jumping on me in the middle of the night and biting my toes. What's up with that? It pisses me off!" "It's a kitten, it's playing with you. It might be cold in your apartment so it wants to be near you, too, so cuddle it.").
But anyway, I sat there watching the play, and the thing was, the decor of the jitney shop (jitneys are unlicensed cabs) from the early 70s looked **so much** like my dad's shop when I was little, it made me doubletake: there was the beat-up couch (the one on the set was tan instead of burgundy, and ditto the boss's office chair, which was otherwise like my dad's), the work desk, the magazine holders, the rotary phone on the wall. And the men onstage *sounded* like the men I knew growing up, too. And I mean, there's always intersections of race and class, but it was a feeling sitting there next to two white dudes who saw working class black folks and me seeing working class black folks who were my family growing up. (My dad worked with black folks all his life, and he was fairly dark-skinned too, which always makes my family's racism more bizarre and confusing to me, like, is this overcompensation or what???) And I wish I could articulate more about this in a more meaningful way, but it always strikes me that, for all of my current middle-class signifiers--academia, the ability to travel, and so on--there's a part of me that's still where I grew up and it is something that is going to be largely unseen by middle-class people around me, and part of this is because of whiteness and part of this is because, as a friend once said with a mixture of cluelessness and bluntness, I "sound educated." But on the flip side, there's also a bunch of--and I'll be blunt and say it--the classic white feminists who will tell me I "don't get it" because they assume things from my background that aren't there, and therefore have to ~explain to me things I already know which is it's own special kind of bullshit. But so, anyway, I'm watching this play that is like what I grew up with, the background and the nosiness of some people and other people trying to get by and so on, and it's just a rare thing when what you see is your real life and you know other people are watching a show.
Anyway, other things we did: We made pilgrimages to The Strand and to The Drama Bookshop where we mostly behaved; Scott got some more August Wilson plays (we have a bunch but it's always tricky to find them) and I got an oop anthology of SF women writers from the 1930s and 1940s, and a booklet of Hamilton-related stuff to sightsee, because tomorrow is going to be Hamilton Day for us. (Related: on Broadway, there is a Hamilton STORE for Hamilton merch. A whole STORE.) And today we spent at The Met, and I gotta say, I appreciate an institution that has so many antiquities that eventually they just stop making labels and put in computer terminals so you can look up objects by item number. But we got to see an entire Roman chariot, reconstructed ROOMS of Roman villas and Assyrian palaces, pieces of the Temple of Artemis from Sardis, an actual surviving garment from the Silk Road from the 7th c.--which also surprised me because it was a long tunic and boots that looked like they would fit a medium-sized modern person, which surprised me given how tiny most armor and such from the period is; ngl I'm enjoying pretending it belonged to a time-traveler. :)
But most of all the art has been an emotional restorative to politics. Even though the marches this weekend give me hope, I know we have a long, hard road to travel, and I think we can do it, but art helps so much. I was thinking about all the flack Amanda Palmer got for her piece on why we need to make art for the coming years, because I'm torn: one the one side, given the outright scariness and lunacy of TPTB, obviously art isn't enough, but at the same time art--making it and enjoying it and celebrating it--does help.
Scott and I saw a wonderful musical about how a businessman's mind (and life) changes when he befriends a drag queen and realizes he can save his family's ailing shoe business by aiming at a different clientele. All of the performances brought the house down, and it made me laugh and cry in good ways. The big finale is how your life can change if you change your mind and accept people for who they are. And it struck me, sitting there, that this is not only a message that TPTB need to get, but also that it would drive them crazy to see people enjoying art, especially art that fosters understanding and love, and also beautiful men in heels. And it also struck me that that too is behind their proposed attacks on art and education--these are things that *can* and *do* change people's minds, and that's what they are afraid of most.
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
We're gonna get through this. It's going to take a lot of work and coming together, but we're gonna do this.
The Atlantic made an awesome video from Obama's speech about the origin of the "Fired Up! Ready to Go!" chant:
It's going to be a thing I quote to myself for the next few years.
So. Fired up? READY TO GO!
So, here are some links for hope, where you can do good, and here are some so that you can SEE good being done:
How you can advance quality journalism by supporting the Knight News Match
Support the White Helmets
How to defeat an autocrat: flocking behaviour
99 Reasons Why 2016 Was a Good Year
In George Orwell’s 1984, the first act of rebellion undertaken by Winston, the protagonist, is to acquire a blank book and begin to write down his thoughts and memories. He does so despite the glare of a Big Brother poster, and under the watchful eye and keen ear of the two-way telescreen.
Orwell wrote that freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two equals four. He wrote that he who controls the past controls the future, and that he who controls the present controls the past. If you can colonize the minds of a population with untruths and confusion, you forcibly re-write reality. This is done with stories. It’s done with language. How we speak about the world is a reflection of how we see it.
2) This takes less than 1 minute, but the consequences for Brietbart could be massive if enough people reach out to Google.
Here is the info if you want to participate.
Inspired by Kellogg's and other companies pulling their advertising from Breitbart, here's a fun action to take. From your laptop or phone, follow these directions and pass it along. I did it through my phone, so instructions below are for the phone.
(1) Go to Breitbart.com (I know, ugh, but keep going).
(2) Find a Google AdSense ad. It will have a teal triangle and an x in the upper right corner.
(3) Click on the triangle.
(4) Click "Why this Ad?"
(5) On the Google page that loads, Click "learn more" in the text toward the bottom.
(6) A page loads called About Google Ads.
Scroll down and click to "Leave feedback on the website you just saw."
(7) You are given a choice between "the website" and "the ads". Choose "the website".
(8) Check the box saying that the website (Breitbart) promotes racial intolerance. If you like, add a comment. I did. (I used this link to prove my point: http://www.motherjones.com/…/stephen-bannon-donald-trump-al… )
(9) Click submit!
Adding two notes: 1) To more quickly find the ad, look for an ad for a site you've been to recently; the ad I used was for a store where I had just ordered christmas flowers. 2) When you get to the About Google Ads page, you have to scroll down ALL the way to the bottom to choose between the website and the ads. Good luck!!
And what I find myself thinking when I'm exhausted/scared of what's going on is how nice it is to concentrate on my work, to read less news and focus on what's "important" and my deadlines. But that's the slippery slope, right; I don't want to look up from finishing a chapter draft and realize that people are being rounded up and gods know what else. So being careful to stay engaged, to make my voice heard, to signalboost the other voices, to not let things become "a new normal." But man, figuring out this new balance...it's a thing.
So my social media feeds have mostly become about signalboosting posts with information on how to assist Standing Rock, the ACLU, how to fight back against Trump, etc. etc. It gives me hope that people aren't lying down about these things; a local elementary school had swastikas spraypainted on its doors over the weekend, and the community made a wall of hearts to counter against it. So there's that. I earnestly hope and pray that we can continue to fight against the darkness, but it's already been only two weeks and I am so, so tired. But the fight will continue, because it has to. It has to.
I told myself I was going to do any number of things to avoid thinking about politics tonight, and then I did a number of things while obsessively checking 538 and the NYT and feeling increasingly nauseous.
And because I am me, I thought about Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "The hardest thing to do in this world is to live in it."
This statement has often felt true to me, and feels true to me tonight. But live in it we must, and change it we must, and fight for the world that needs to be.
Imagine, if you will, the epitome of mediocre white boy whom life has handed a silver spoon: The Daddy in government, the mother ostensibly a homemaker but really that stonecold appearance-driven automaton that was manufactured throughout the 1950s. Like, Betty Friedan called and then noped out of there. ("Fun" fact: Friedan was involved in Nixon's campaign, because the world of wealthy white women is a scary place. ANYWAY.) So mediocre white boy has the best that life and money can offer, but all he wants is to be wuved. But plot twist: His parents will always love his dipshit of a little brother more. Georgie needs their help, you see. You're a grown man, Jebediah! Deal with it.
And that's how Georgie becomes two-term president of the US despite a coke habit, being unable to run a ranch that was bought for him, being unable to manage the BASEBALL team that was bought for him--and imagine that family party, Georgie gets a baseball team and Jeb gets, what, seats to see CATS, but like the super-shitty seats where the balcony supports cut off a third of the stage? Anyway, that all goes SO WELL as you know, and Georgie retires to paint dogs somewhere and Jeb just tries to keep on keeping on.
But okay so imagine, like, the obligatory awful Christmas dinner sequence alone. The WASPiest of WASP families with the Christmas tree that was beautifully decorated by other people and also the presents that were also bought and decorated by other people. And like, EVERYONE wants to drink but they can't because of the recovering alcoholic little brother, but then the nieces sneak in some hootch, and EVERYONE is bribing them to get a secret bit of it (not just their dad and uncle but even GRANPA) (and this is also how they go home every year with new cars and shit), except for Babs who gives no fucks and has wine with dinner and smiles at everyone being uncomfortable and its implicit that she thinks everyone is weak
and the patriarch gives no fucks anymore. None. Actually, no, he's planning going skydiving the next day
because why not and if he dies it will be better than the life he has to lead anyway.
Anyway so Jeb just has to leave the room at some point and then sees the Charlie Brown Christmas Special on tv, and he realizes that HE IS CHARLIE BROWN and that the FOOTBALL IS HIS POLITICAL LIFE that he is NEVER EVER GONNA HAVE. BUT IT'S CHRISTMAS GODAMMIT! So he puts on his coat and a fuzzy hat and grabs an axe and some hootch and people are concerned but like, not enough to tell him this is maybe a bad idea, you know, AXES AND ALCOHOL, and so anyway he goes out into the Connecticut snow to look for the tiniest little tree he can find and rescue because IT WILL BE SYMBOLIC, THIS SHITTY CHRISTMAS TREE IS HIS COUNTRY AND HE WILL SAVE IT. So he finds the tiniest most ridonkulous tree and and is trying to cut it down, and the birds that were quietly sleeping in it are PISSED about this so they go for his eyes, and remember he's kind of toasted now so he takes a swing at them with the axe but slips and it the axe falls on his foot and there's blood in the snow and he howls the existential howl of the dumbass lone wolf that wasn't meant to survive anyway, HE IS EVOLUTION'S DEAD END AND THIS IS IT OKAY.
So he's lying in the snow in shock, kinda sorta waiting to die but mostly staring at the falling snow, like some James Joyce The Dead shit, and for maybe a split second the universe makes sense. Maybe. Life is hard and full of pain even for mediocre white men who can buy baseball teams and judges.
And okay so then he wakes up in the hospital and he's surrounded by his family, and this should be reassuring except of course it's not, this is his family, why would it be reassuring? So his beloved Mom who has never liked him has to explain that the reconstructive surgery went well, he's not going to spend the rest of his days as a clubfooted mutANT (AND this is how she pronounces it, mutANT, like she saw This Island Earth as a young woman and decided that was all she ever needed to know about science), so that's something, but on the negative side he totally killed a miniature blue-furred pine, there are only EIGHTY of those left in the wild and he KILLED one, the hippie wildlife protection people are losing their damn minds, what were you THINKING, Jebediah?
And Jebediah laughs, because nothing can be saved that can't be destroyed, just like his family, just like Christmas. And he continues laughing as he is wheeled to the psychiatric floor, and George Sr. sighs and takes out his phone to cancel his skydiving appointment, he'd been looking forward to it so much, but what can you do. This is family. But he does want half the $20k down payment back.
Okay, HBO, I would like Emmies now. Thank you.
As a bookstore employee announced to the milling crowd that there was no reading scheduled for that night, a man jumped onto a stage and began loudly reciting the opening words of the book’s recent introduction: “Everyone agrees. It’s about to explode.”
Sigh. Lucky bastards.
Signed by Oberon and Edain McCoy, this calls for people of all faiths to protect Obama via prayers, magick, etc. on specific days, such as Election Night and Inauguration Day.
*Yule/Midwinter. For those of us who are Pagan, we know that this is a time of new beginnings, a perfect time to add protection to the man who will be in the White House within the following month. (Our non-Pagan friends may wish to work together at Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Twelfth Night.)
*Inauguration Day (January 20). Sen. Obama will take the oath of office on the portico of the Capitol Building in front of as many as 250,000+ people. He will then take a car or will walk down Pennsylvania Avenue in his own inaugural parade to the White House. There he and his family will sit outdoors and watch the rest of the parade.
Please use all your networking resources to pass along this request to as many Pagans and Pagan organizations as you can. After that, the momentum will build on its own. Leave no one out! Do not leave out Christians, Jews, or others who may wish to join this effort, assisting us by connecting with the face of the creator they worship. This is not a political issue, it is a value-of-a-single-human-life issue. If the racism situation were reversed, many of us would offer the same lifesaving energy to Sen. McCain.
And, when all this is complete, maybe we should start sending love and healing to those people living in blind hatred who created a need for this sort of mobilization in the first place. With love to all and harm to none,
Oberon Zell-Ravenheart, author and artist
Headmaster, Grey School of Wizardry
Primate, Church of All Worlds
Edain McCoy, author, teacher,
student and Concerned Citizen
Yes we can, gang. I'm generally not into ceremonial, but anyone up for some special workings on these dates?