Rip Van Essie

Hey Ess,

Right now, you’ve been asleep for twelve hours in a row, and your parents are awake and puttering around, kind of wondering what to do with all this sleep we’ve gotten. Wondering when you’re planning on getting up.

Lots of love,
Mama and Dada


Nine Years

It is our nine-year wedding anniversary. The dew points were near 80° today. I worked in Minneapolis, brought flowers home for Mykala. We had a summery dinner of vegan smoked apple sausage sage Field Roast sausages with potato salad and beans and then watched a little of Frozen and all of The Wrong Trousers and some of Chicken Run to stay out of the heat. Essie has awoken this morning and this afternoon with a head soaked in sweat — we assumed it was the heat, but tonight she told us she was scared of having dreams again. She’s becoming a master delayer, but this was clearly a very real fear. Mykala talked and talked with Ess, told her stories, helped her imagine us out together as a family on a beautiful day, riding bikes, having snacks, flying kites. Ess eventually picked out an octopus to take to bed in addition to her usual cadre.

I never imagined a nine-year wedding anniversary like this; never imagined it would be this lovely, sweet, romantic, low-key, memorable.


I just instructed and showed Ess how to do something, and she immediately said “Whoa. Cool.”

First and last time, I think.


I don’t know who wrote this, but however old they were, it was wise beyond their years:

Sometimes people use “respect” to mean “treating someone like a person” and sometimes they use “respect” to mean “treating someone like an authority”

and sometimes people who are used to being treated like an authority say “if you won’t respect me I won’t respect you” and they mean “if you won’t treat me like an authority I won’t treat you like a person”

and they think they’re being fair but they aren’t, and it’s not okay.

Tip o’ the pin to kottke.


Disability affects all of us, we are all temporarily able-bodied.


And there I am on the busy playground, looking up at my daughter with her two stuffed monkeys as she is about to put them down the slide. It is still a little cool out, winter into spring, and the clouds blot the sun, making it easy to see her clearly.

Down the slide goes one monkey, this one not quite as precious to Ess, this one the emissary into the world, spiraling down towards the ground. And up the slide charges someone new, one taller and bigger and stronger than my daughter. I had anticipated this: aware that these stuffed toys, so obviously having only spent time indoors, away from rain and dirt and vicissitudes, would attract all kinds of attention.

And so it seemed to go in slow motion, this new person’s run up the slide, and the picking up of the monkey and the taunting of my daughter. This other human, bigger and taller, with an affect neither sing-song nor menacing but rather flat as to almost seem bored, holding my daughter’s monkey aloft and saying “get it. get it. get it.” And my puzzled daughter, knowing she couldn’t reach it, wondering why she was being asked to, watching as the monkey, instead of being talked to, comforted, told what would happen, instead of being set down gently, ice cold water scrubbed away from the bottom of the slide, instead of being treated with tenderness and care, was flung indiscriminately back down the spiral again, not even worth the effort required to hurl it away into the distance.

The interloper drifted away and I picked Ess up, wrapping my arms tightly around her, whispering in her ear “you did nothing wrong” and pointing out other slides, other downward spirals that I thought might distract but I knew carried the same risk. It was all I could do when faced with the world again, this time walking my child through it.

It’s harder the second time through.


April 16, 1991

The Nationalist’s Delusion

Adam Serwer, in a slam-dunk piece in The Atlantic:

Among the most popular explanations for Trump’s victory and the Trump phenomenon writ large is the Calamity Thesis: the belief that Trump’s election was the direct result of some great, unacknowledged social catastrophe—the opioid crisis, free trade, a decline in white Americans’ life expectancy—heretofore ignored by cloistered elites in their coastal bubbles. The irony is that the Calamity Thesis is by far the preferred white-elite explanation for Trumpism, and is frequently invoked in arguments among elites as a way of accusing other elites of being out of touch.

But what about this:

The most economically vulnerable Americans voted for Clinton overwhelmingly; the usual presumption is exactly the opposite.

So what’s this about? Well, look at how the white voters voted:

Trump won white voters at every level of class and income. He won workers, he won managers, he won owners, he won robber barons. This is not a working-class coalition; it is a nationalist one.

Oh. Oh my. So…

White working-class Americans dealing directly with factors that lead to a death of despair were actually less likely to support Trump, and those struggling economically were not any more likely to support him.

Which means, as you can imagine:

…when social scientists control for white voters’ racial attitudes—that is, whether those voters hold “racially resentful” views about blacks and immigrants—even the educational divide disappears. In other words, the relevant factor in support for Trump among white voters was not education, or even income, but the ideological frame with which they understood their challenges and misfortunes.

So. Let’s say you go to your next family gathering and someone there is saying “gosh, people just voted for Trump because their jobs are going away and they’re making less each year!” Well then your everyday, intelligible, non-wonky response would be “then what about the millions of blacks, immigrants, refugees… all subjected to the same pressures — why didn’t they vote Trump, too?” This is summarized so, so well here:

Perhaps the CNN pundit Chris Cillizza best encapsulated the mainstream-media consensus when he declared shortly after Election Day that there “is nothing more maddening—and counterproductive—to me than saying that Trump’s 59 million votes were all racist. Ridiculous.” Millions of people of color in the U.S. live a reality that many white Americans find unfathomable; the unfathomable is not the impossible.

As the piece continues and the evidence mounts, you can see that wealth and education don’t help people see the world more clearly. Instead, they use their wealth to amplify and their education to justify away their preconceived notions, prejudices, and racism. So, I used to think, man, if you could just get everyone some economic security and fine education (yielding some time each day to read and think!) then, golly, we’d have racism licked. (I don’t say “golly” in my head when I form thoughts, but it is an accurate characterization of my general affect.) Now I am confronted with clear evidence that people just carry their worst traits right on through their lives. And that makes me sad.

Oh and by the way, there’s an idea here in fly-over country: “but I’m nice to everyone!” Which I’ve always been uncomfortable with. And in this Atlantic piece, Serwer states the problem so much more clearly than I can, by saying there’s this…

…widespread perception that racism is primarily an interpersonal matter—that is, it’s about name-calling or rudeness, rather than institutional and political power.

Talk about a big “rather.” Serwer then walks through United States history with devastating clarity. When he returns to present-day, you will see today’s racially divided America with startling perspective.

Read this. Read this. Read this.

Jordan Peele’s X-Ray Vision

Jordan Peele’s X-Ray Vision:

“I’ve noticed that the truth works. People can feel the truth. If you’re being yourself and you’re just using your own emotions, they can feel it. If you’re doing fake, they can feel it. It took me a while in comedy to realize that your truth is more powerful than your mask.”

For great advice, you can substitute “in comedy” with “in life”. And Wesley Morris’ entire profile of Peele is great; read it. But so that quote is an insightful and fundamental truth, yet it makes me think of the road that Peele took to get to winning an Oscar with “Get Out”. Specifically, the HILARIOUS sketches Key & Peele wrote and performed that can make you better understand racism, code switching, and black identity. Peele’s movie takes all those themes to another level of artistry, comedy, ambition.

Of course, since horror movies terrify me, I haven’t watched it yet. But I’d like to.


Why Bernie Sanders’ single-payer push is great policy and even better politics:

The United States, by contrast, is very rich, and already dedicates way more than enough resources to set up the world’s most generous health-care system, and a lot more besides. We spend $3.2 trillion per year — literally twice as much as the OECD average as a share of the economy. We pay enough in health-care taxes alone — that is, the government revenue that goes to Medicare, Medicaid, the VA, and a few other things — to cover a Canada-style Medicare-for-all system for the whole U.S., and then that much again in private money. In other words, if we could simply copy-paste Canada’s universal health-care system into America, taxes would actually go down.

All that means is that America doesn’t have to worry much about costs; it has to worry about allocating existing spending properly. We already have a gigantic pool of resources dedicated to health care — about half private and half public. We just have to adjust that spending so it can support a single-payer system.

People will eventually see this as better — I hope to see it happen in my lifetime.