Have you voted? If no, close browser, proceed immediately to your polling place. This is not a drill.
The next few years will be painful no matter what. The question is will that pain be in service of building back or will it be because the American people revealed ourselves to be a whole lot worse than anyone suspected or that our democracy revealed itself to be a whole lot more fragile than we thought.
Today, to kill some time, we bring you some of the best writing we've come across this year to help us understand where we are and where we need to go.
The Atlantic: The Cruelty is the Point
We can hear the spectacle of cruel laughter throughout the Trump era. There were the border-patrol agents cracking up at the crying immigrant children separated from their families, and the Trump adviser who delighted white supremacists when he mocked a child with Down syndrome who was separated from her mother. There were the police who laughed uproariously when the president encouraged them to abuse suspects, and the Fox News hosts mocking a survivor of the Pulse Nightclub massacre (and in the process inundating him with threats), the survivors of sexual assault protesting to Senator Jeff Flake, the women who said the president had sexually assaulted them, and the teen survivors of the Parkland school shooting. There was the president mocking Puerto Rican accents shortly after thousands were killed and tens of thousands displaced by Hurricane Maria, the black athletes protesting unjustified killings by the police, the women of the #MeToo movement who have come forward with stories of sexual abuse, and the disabled reporter whose crime was reporting on Trump truthfully. It is not just that the perpetrators of this cruelty enjoy it; it is that they enjoy it with one another. Their shared laughter at the suffering of others is an adhesive that binds them to one another, and to Trump.
Taking joy in that suffering is more human than most would like to admit. Somewhere on the wide spectrum between adolescent teasing and the smiling white men in the lynching photographs are the Trump supporters whose community is built by rejoicing in the anguish of those they see as unlike them, who have found in their shared cruelty an answer to the loneliness and atomization of modern life.
New York Times: Gamergate Interactive Series of Articles
These articles taken together are appalling, terrifying and intensely familiar for women. If you still have PTSD from 2016, this will help you understand how we should have seen in coming. From How an Online Mob Created a Playbook for a Culture War:
ON AUGUST 15, 2014, an angry 20-something ex-boyfriend published a 9,425-word screed and set in motion a series of vile events that changed the way we fight online. The post, which exhaustively documented the last weeks of his breakup with the video game designer Zoë Quinn, was annotated and punctuated with screenshots of their private digital correspondence — emails, Facebook messages and texts detailing fights and rehashing sexual histories. It was a manic, all-caps rant made to go viral.
And it did. The ex-boyfriend’s claims were picked up by users on Reddit and 4chan and the abuse began. Ms. Quinn and her immediate family members were threatened. Her private information was exposed, including old nude photos from a past relationship. Chat rooms popped up to discuss the best ways to “ruin her life” and fantasize about elaborate ways of killing her.
For most of my career, I’ve been reluctant to take a public stance on the issues of the day. I’ve felt more comfortable in character—or in a mankini. Yes, a lot of my comedy is uncomfortably pubescent. But when it works, satire can humble the powerful and expose the ills of society. As Abbie Hoffman, who helped lead the 1968 protests against the Vietnam War during the Democratic convention in Chicago, liked to say, “Sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger.” By getting people to reveal what they really believe, I have at times exposed the ignorance, bigotry and conspiratorial delusions that often lurk just below the surface of our modern lives.
Using unhinged lies and conspiracies to gain power and subjugate others is, of course, nothing new. The blood libel—the myth that Jews murdered Christian children and used their blood for religious rituals—is the world’s oldest conspiracy, dating back to the Middle Ages. The lie that Black people are genetically inferior or inherently violent is at the core of white supremacy. The lie that women are biologically or mentally unequal to men—to be treated as property and body-shamed—has perpetuated millennia of patriarchy. The lie that there is an epidemic in the U.S. of babies being executed shortly after birth has helped fuel state bans on abortion, even in the case of rape or incest.
The Paris Review: Fuck the Bread. The Bread is Over.
“I have no real job,” I say. “Of course you have a real job,” she says. “I have no flour,” I say. “Fuck the bread,” says my mother again. “The bread is over.”
And maybe the bread, as I’ve always understood it, really is over. The new world order is rearranging itself on the planet and settling in. Our touchstone is changing color. Our criteria for earning a life, a living, are mutating like a virus that wants badly to stay alive. I text a friend, “I can’t find bread flour.” She lives in Iowa. “I can see the wheat,” she says, “growing in the field from outside my window.” I watch a video on how to harvest wheat. I can’t believe I have no machete. I can’t believe I spent so many hours begging universities to hire me, I forgot to learn how to separate the chaff from the wheat and gently grind.