Friday, July 19, 2019

The Washington Post: "The Squad’s’ defenders argue for a better America than Trump does"

From The Washington Post:

‘The Squad’s’ defenders argue for a better America than Trump does
By Greg Sargent
Opinion writer
July 17

President Trump is once again in a rage, because the House of Representatives just voted to condemn his racist attacks on four nonwhite members of Congress. In a new tweetstorm, he offered a new set of claims to contrast the two visions of America that are the deeper subject of the big public argument we are now having.

So, let’s be as clear as possible: The vision of America represented by the “Squad” and its defenders in this dispute is a better one than the vision of America that Trump is defending.

The historian Jill Lepore has a new book out, in which she calls for a recommitment to a “civic and constitutional patriotism” that she believes is required as a rebuttal to Trump’s illiberal ethnic and racial nationalism. Winning this argument, Lepore writes, requires us to “make a case for the nation” on those grounds, that is, to tell a story about a better country than the one Trump is telling a story about.

The reason the new House resolution condemning Trump’s racism is significant is that it tries to meet this challenge. This is also why it’s significant that House Republicans almost uniformly voted against the resolution, going all in with Trump in this dispute.

The new House resolution basically tells a story about this country that is in keeping with the civic patriotism — also sometimes called “civic nationalism” — that Lepore’s book discusses. The basic story is that this country was founded on universal ideals of liberty and equality, and the act of belonging to this nation is defined mostly through a commitment to these ideals, as opposed to being defined by blood, race, ethnicity, religion or mystical devotion to soil.

National stories are always to some degree myths, and our actual history has been an unending struggle to bring us in line with those ideals, a struggle that continues today. As Lepore puts it, those who have been “left out” of this “vision of the nation” have unceasingly battled for inclusion in it, and “our nation is that battle.”

The text of the House resolution generally constitutes a restatement of this view. It outlines a commitment to that vision of America, and condemns Trump for “racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.”

To support this, the resolution cites Trump’s labeling of immigrants as “invaders” and his declaration that the four nonwhite lawmakers should “go back” to their countries of ancestry. Those four are Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.), the first three of whom were born in the United States.

President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi both face battles with four Democratic Congresswomen, known as the "squad." Here's what you need to know. (Elyse Samuels, Allie Caren/The Washington Post)
Virtually the entire House GOP caucus voted against this resolution. And some Republicans claimed Trump didn’t engage in racism at all. GOP Rep. Sean P. Duffy (Wis.) piously insisted that he saw “nothing that references anybody’s race” in Trump’s tweets, while also claiming the congresswomen are “anti-American.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) — the top Republicans in the Senate and House, respectively — both stated that Trump is “not a racist.” And Rep. Dan Meuser (Pa.) wept that the resolution was “harassing” Trump, who is always, invariably the real victim.

It’s worth pausing over what these Republicans are really defending here.


It isn’t enough to just say these lawmakers are nonwhite. The additional point here is that the lawmakers Trump targeted are united by the fact that they are all members of ethnic, racial or religious minorities. Trump suggested that by virtue of this fact — by virtue of their heritage — they don’t belong to the American nation.

Trump tried to fudge this point by claiming — falsely — that they weren’t born here. But the lie itself, which to my knowledge he hasn’t disavowed, underscores his real meaning. And in any case, he has continued to rage that if they want to continue criticizing America, they should “LEAVE,” that is, go back to where they come from, further emphasizing the point that they fundamentally don’t belong.

In doing this, Trump embraced a contemporary version of the illiberal, exclusionary, white-nationalist and ethno-nationalist vision of America, one that has a long and terrible history in this country, one that runs through slavery and through the national-origins quota system on immigration (which was based in part on theories of eugenics) and through Jim Crow.

This vision contrasts with the civic patriotism that the Dem-sponsored House resolution seeks to enshrine. And House Republicans could not bring themselves to condemn Trump’s vision, or even to call it out for what it is. The Republican Party is increasingly becoming a white-nationalist party.


In his latest rage-tweets on this matter, Trump just echoed a new argument that is revealing about the broader dimensions of this dispute. Trump approvingly quoted GOP Sen. John Neely Kennedy (La.) claiming “the four Congresswomen think that America is wicked in its origins” and that “we are all racist and evil.”

This conception of the country does have a role in the historical debates involving various forms of nationalism and the historic injustices that have defined the nation. But as Gary Gerstle’s book “American Crucible” details, the tradition of civic patriotism or civic nationalism has throughout our history regularly repudiated the idea that the American founding is irredeemably tainted by its origins amid slavery and white supremacy.

Instead, at the core of the tradition of civic patriotism is the essential idea that the country can, and will, be continually improved, and further brought in line with its ideals.

The argument Trump just tweeted tries to separate the four members of Congress in question from that tradition. But in fact, many of their criticisms of Trump — over his racism, over his abuses of migrants, over his contempt for the Constitution and the rule of law — put them squarely within it.

This is the tradition the House resolution reaffirmed. And it’s the one that Republicans are in the process of breaking from, while increasingly embracing Trump’s white nationalism.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Find A Way Through, Around, Or Over

These are the lyrics to a live version of the song "Simultaneous" by Puscifer.

Seems timely.

Please read:

We in the modern age operate under the dangerous misconception regarding our heritage. If one should ask the average citizen whether or not they believe humans are more evolved than our ancient ancestors they will more often than not express the belief that we are indeed far, far superior.

Surely we are more sophisticated and more capable of reason than the hunter gatherers of 13,000 BC. More civilized than the marauding Vikings of 1,000 years ago. We imagine these peoples as ignorant, primitive, barbaric. We are not those peoples.

In fact Homo sapiens--modern humans--share an inherited gene pool with the earliest hominids like Australopithecus who lived 2.5 million years ago. We possess no significant physiological differences than Cro-Magnon or the Neanderthals. Nor does evidence suggest our tendencies toward the barbaric have lessened over time.

On the contrary, present day humans are capable of the same self destructive behavior, the same crimes against humanity, the same violent power struggles as our ancestors. We appear to be doomed by our DNA to repeat the same destructive behaviors our forebearers have repeated for millennia. If anything, our problem solving skills have actually diminished with the advent of technology and our ubiquitous modern conveniences.

And yet, despite our predisposition toward fear-driven hostility, toward what we anachronistically term 'primitive' behavior another instinct is just as firmly encoded in our makeup. We are capable--as our ancestors were--of incredible, breathtaking acts of kindness.

Every hour of every day a man risks his life at a moment's notice to save another. Forget for a moment the belligerent, benevolent billionaires who grant the unfortunate a crumb of cost-free cake.

I speak of pure acts of selflessness. The mother who rushes into the street to save a child from a speeding vehicle. The person who runs into a burning building to reach a family trapped on an upper story. The man who can barely swim who dives into a lake to rescue a drowning stranger.

Such actions, such moments, such unconscious selfless decisions define what it is to be human.

Should the oceans rise,
Should the sky come falling down,
Should the islands tremble beneath us,
See our better nature blossom.

Should the sun rain fire,
Should Hell on Earth freeze over,
And our inner beast wake hungry,
See our better nature feed them.

Should the sun rain fire,
Should Hell on Earth freeze over,
And our inner beast wait hungry,
See our better nature feed and calm them.

Find a way through, around, or over.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

BEAUTY: Collage--Leslie Peterson Sapp

Artist Leslie Peterson Sapp uses images from 1940s film noir movies to create her collage paintings.

Artist Statement for "Film Noir":

My pictures tell a story. Not in the traditional narrative style, where a complete concept or linear plot is described. Rather, the way I arrange figures and compose the image creates a scene that evokes a response in the viewer, drawing them in and encouraging them to become engaged by inducing them to fill in the back story themselves. For this exhibit I have created a body of work based on images from classic film noir. Each piece is created using a multi-step process. First I procure the source image from a film. Sometimes I find images from the internet, but more often I capture a screen shot with my camera directly from my TV screen as I play the movie. From this image I create a detailed charcoal drawing. Then I make a small collage based on the drawing. The collage’s tiny size makes it necessary for me to simplify and abstract the shapes in the image. I pay careful attention to simplifying shapes, color relationships, and the interaction of darks and lights. I sometimes start on a dark brown ground, which further helps me to edit out unnecessary details and distil the image to its essential parts. I then create a large piece based on the small collage.

Film noir are modern day myths. In spite of the decades that have passed, the intrigues and sensual tensions of the relationships on screen feel like a relevant reflection of my own life. I experience it as a cathartic, allegoric investigation into the inner workings of my relationships and my position in society. The characters are a part of a web of intrigue and moral ambiguity where everyone is susceptible to the workings of society’s shady underside. Their exploits involve daring and danger, complicated plot twists and mysteries to be solved. The sense of adventure reflects my delight in experiencing and pondering the mysteries around me. The classic noir style characterizes the sensual, aesthetic aspects that compel me in this work. In each picture I create, I have carefully crafted an image that is visually arresting and implies a relationship narrative that compels the viewer to wonder, and reflects the enigmatic complexities of my own life.

Top to bottom: Ambivalence; Anticipate; Backlight; Block; Carpark; Chandeliler; Context; Keys; Lamplight; Office II; Passion In The Suburbs; Search

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Friday, July 12, 2019

BEAUTY: Glass--Frida Fjellman

I am wild about the amazing work of Swedish glass artist Frida Fjellman. She has managed to invent a new style of light that is a post-modernist take on a traditional chandelier. Instead of a fixture with crystal drops, she magnifies the drop itself and fashions entire light fixtures out of clusters of these gigantic faceted objects. Her colors are gorgeous, and just look at them in actual rooms. Stunning. I can't wait to show these to interior design clients and see who might love them as much as I do!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

BEAUTY: Fabric Art--Salt Stitches

Mancusian fabric artist Emily Botelho creates magical hoop embroidery pieces based on sea shore life. She takes frequent trips to the ocean where she photographs rocks covered with lichen, moss, algae, seaweed, and shells. She then prints these images onto fabric and embellishes them with embroidery, beads, tufts, semi-precious stones, and real shells. The results are deliciously textured gems.


Aurantia detail

Cable Bay

Komatiite detail
Komatiite detail

Lapsis detail

Llys Rhosyr
Llys Rhosyr detail

Newborough Beach
Newborough Beach detail

Pannaria detail

Paupera detail

Rhosneigr Beach

Rhosneigr detail