The Sunday Post for January 22, 2017

Piecing together the Sunday Post is usually easy and a pleasure; in fact, it’s an excuse and justification for the most idle pleasure possible: endless scrolling through the world of online content, mind half alert, fingers on autopilot.

But the Internet after the inauguration of our 45th president is no place for the idle or unalert. As much as Donald Trump has dominated the media, social and otherwise, since his presidential bid began, this week has been different. A single subject, on every front page and in every channel. Not a single voice, though — a cacophony. Anger, sorrow, and calls to arms; reflection, determination, and calls to hope.

What deserves to be heard in a week like that? Writing that clarifies, that provokes thought, that reveals. Writing that reminds us: the written word is a powerful voice. Use it.

And so it begins

Post-inauguration, George Will, pointedly, and David Remnick, thoughtfully, both remind us that our government has built-in protections against misuse,  even with an “unenlightened statesman” at the helm — and that an informed and engaged citizenry is first among them.

But Dan Rather’s impassioned, outraged response on Facebook may be the definitive statement on the Trump inauguration (via Meena Jang at The Hollywood Reporter):

Of the nearly 20 inaugurations I can remember, there has never been one that felt like today. Not even close. Never mind the question of the small size of the crowds, or the boycott by dozens of lawmakers, or even the protest marches slated for tomorrow across the country. Those are plays upon the stage. What is truly unprecedented in my mind is the sheer magnitude of quickening heartbeats in millions of Americans, a majority of our country if the polls are to be believed, that face today buffeted within and without by the simmering ache of dread.

I have never seen my country on an inauguration day so divided, so anxious, so fearful, so uncertain of its course.

What Art Under Trump?

No rose-colored glasses for Margaret Atwood, who is well aware that artists are imperfect and their work is often trivial — and yet —

With the Trump era upon us, it’s the artists and writers who can remind us, in times of crisis or panic, that each one of us is more than just a vote, a statistic. Lives may be deformed by politics — and many certainly have been — but we are not, finally, the sum of our politicians.

The Great Exception

In November, in response to the election outcome, Rebecca Solnit made her treatise Hope in the Dark freely available online. This week she writes again on hope and resistance: “There is another America rising and taking action, and it is beautiful.”

Among other examples, she highlights ongoing efforts by California’s legislation to protect its citizens as our nation’s values shift, starting with a bold and quickly viral statement published Nov. 9 of last year. Andy Kroll has the dramatic political (and human) story behind that statement:

At 6 a.m., Dan Reeves, de León’s chief of staff, got into his car to drive back up to Sacramento from L.A. He stopped at a Carl’s Jr. to help with a hangover and then started making calls. As drafts of the joint statement flew back and forth between the two offices, Reeves had each version read aloud to him while he was driving the I-5. Cut that line. Too slow. Good, good, good. Rendon’s people wanted more time, but Reeves insisted the statement go out as soon as possible. The staffs settled on a final draft at 10:57. Rendon and de León signed off an hour later, and at just past noon, the two offices hit send.

The statement, released in English and Spanish, had come a long way from de León’s phone call and Rendon’s late-night riffing. But the opening line had remained intact just as Rendon had first written it: “Today, we woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land ….”

Yes, science is political

I’m dead certain that when Warren Ellis said “science will fuck you,” what he meant was that science is splendidly and gloriously implacable, tenacious, and defiant. Science isn’t cold, uncaring facts —  it’s art with evidence. Powerful stuff.

The New Scientist has a four-part special tracking intersections between scientific endeavor and the new administration, starting with a piece from Sally Adee on how activists and protestors can cover their electronic tracks as Trump expands surveillance.

Bill McKibbon, at Wired, reminds us that dismantling the Paris accord strikes not just at environmental action but at the “building blocks of our common home — science and diplomacy and also civility.”

And Elizabeth Lopatto, science editor at The Verge, speaks out on why their science coverage can’t and won’t ignore Donald Trump.

Science is a way of seeing that provides us with facts. What we do with those facts is deeply political. Determining whether pollution harms people is a matter of scientific inquiry, but deciding what to do in response to that data is politics. Who uses the water and land, and how? Those aren’t scientific questions — they’re political ones. Do we value the safety of our citizens or the profits of our corporations? What’s the balance between the two? Those are also political questions.

Tower of Babble

If you truly want nothing this weekend but to indulge in some righteous rage, here are two highly satisfying diatribes.

Jesse Berney is a little indignant:

Of course he’s getting rid of the NEA and the NEH. What use does Donald Trump have for the things that make life beautiful and good? He surrounds himself with gilded ugliness. He’s a billionaire who hangs a Renoir reproduction in the $100 million abattoir he lives in, because why would he want an original? He has enough money and fame to access to the finest tailors in the world, and his suits don’t fit. His hair is stupid.

And a gloriously breathless temper-tantrum from Joe Kloc. Not even sure to how excerpt from this, here’s one almost-random sample:

Trump, who once dumped a glass of wine on a journalist who wrote a story he didn’t like, told his supporters that journalists were “liars,” the “lowest form of humanity,” and “enemies,” but that he did not approve of killing them. “I’m a very sane person,” said Trump ...

Today is the day we start taking the country back

Finally, in case you missed it (as the kids say), both of the co-founders of this publication have responded to the Trump inauguration and deserve the final word. Martin McClellan bears witness through the lens of Marcel Duchamp, and Paul Constant has marching orders for Seattle Review of Books readers:

If you think of an institution that you hold dear, chances are good that institution will be under attack over the next four years. It’s going to be brutal, and it’s going to happen on multiple fronts.

So here’s what you do. You pick the areas that you care the most about, that you understand really well. And then you fight for them.