Fox and Foes

Imagine that you are writing a book which opens with your central character, “a powerful, 6’2″, finely dressed man of proud stature and handsome face,” leaping “like a lion” from a bus to save a woman from two knife-wielding thugs. Imagine that, within the next page, you have further described your protagonist as “a musician, and artist… quick in mind and step… (with) an unusual grace of movement…  magnetic charm,” and a “creamy” skinned Afro-American, bearing a “noteworthy resemblance” to Clark Gable.

Imagine that your book is a first-person narrative, whose central character is describing himself.

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General Kelly’s Devolution

General Kelly is back in the news.  He yesterday announced that he has no reason to apologize to Congresswoman Wilson, also that Robert E, Lee was a hero, since “It was always loyalty to state first back in those days.”  This last pronouncement would have startled both the 115, 000 Southern whites who enlisted in the Union Army and their 180,000 or so black comrades, the vast majority of them southern, who also bore arms for the United States.

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Feasting on a Fiend

And so, the monster that is Harvey Weinstein has been banished, and soon, perhaps, he will be incarcerated. Troops of celebrities have rushed to condemn him, some claiming ignorance about his m.o. and nearly all expressing horror. It’s been a long time since the word disgusting was used by so many men who, if the tropes of pornography are to be believed, harbor fantasies very close to what Weinstein acted upon. I suspect that the conflict between what men and women feel sexually (which isn’t a single thing) and what we feel politically (which is) reflects a climate of anxiety amplified by social media and by newspapers and TV shows that have everything to gain from scandalizing. The result has been a two-edged sword. There’s a real struggle against sexual oppression and a more ambiguous fostering of uneasiness about sex that is potentially as oppressive as the situation it is meant to address.

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Fit to Print

Last week, The New York Times ran a strange story about Louis C.K., whose comedy walks an artful line between insight and indecency. The piece cited “unsubstantiated internet rumors of his sexual misconduct with female comics.” I call this story strange because of that word–unsubstantiated. Substantiation is the essence of good reporting. You don’t print what you can’t pin down. But at the Times, this standard is changing, at least when it comes to allegations of sexual abuse. Hearsay is permissible, as long as women are doing the saying.

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Mancunian Lincoln

Mancunian Lincoln

It seems like maybe we could all use a good story about a civil war statue, a good story about an American President, and a good story about the power of the common people against the rich and powerful, so I’m going to start with this one. It’s probably for the best that you’re reading this here because I haven’t managed to tell this story in person without crying.

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