My favorite part of third grade was D.E.A.R. time. Drop Everything And Read. For 10 or 15 minutes after recess, we all grabbed a book and read quietly to ourselves. It was heaven for bookish little me. “Bullied” isn’t the word I would use for what I experienced in third grade, but it was something close. I didn’t fit it and my peers made sure I knew it. I wasn’t nearly as sophisticated as my classmates who were were having crushes and layering their neon socks. They wanted to gossip and dare people to break rules. I just wanted to drop everything and read. But the girls I was reading about were like me. They often had the same thoughts and feelings, and they seemed to be doing ok out there in their boxcars or dug-outs on the prairie. Reading was a coping mechanism then–a way for me to make sense of the world and my place in it–and it still is for me today.
This week it’s been comforting to read how other people more erudite than myself are expressing the same things I’ve been feeling. Here are some of the passages that have most struck a chord with me.
From Leah Letter
“What happened in this election?” People are asking. Well, let me tell you a little story. In 1943, a Polish resistance fighter named Jan Karski traveled to America to meet with President Roosevelt and the revered Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. Karski had infiltrated the Warsaw Ghetto and the Belzec camp and collected his findings — that Jews were being tortured and killed en masse — in a report to present to the Americans and the U.N., who had minimal information about the rumored genocide happening in Europe. Mind you, this meeting occurred in 1943, and 80 percent of the Jews killed in the Holocaust were already dead. After Karski presented his findings to Frankfurter, the justice replied: “Mr. Karski, a man like me talking to a man like you, I want to be totally frank — I am unable to believe you.” Roosevelt, for his part, asked Karski how Poland’s horses were doing.
This true parable is not exactly analogous to the media’s failure in this election, but you see my point: The inconceivable can, and does, happen, most would rather just not believe it to be possible. During the Holocaust, there was a bewildering lack of information — anything coming out of Germany was propaganda tightly controlled by the Third Reich; the world had no idea what was happening, save for seemingly left-field reports like Karski’s that went ignored. What’s terrifying is that today, we have more information than ever, being shot up into our systems like government-prescribed heroin, and we apparently still have no idea what is going on.
From Capital Public Radio
Californians legalized recreational marijuana, raised the tobacco tax and implemented tighter gun and ammunition control measures, while rejecting a bid to abolish capital punishment.
Californians also approved a $2 tax hike on packs of cigarettes; Proposition 56 also extends the state’s tobacco excise tax to e-cigarettes. And by passing Proposition 55, voters extended the income tax increase on wealthy individuals that they approved four years ago.
From The Washington Post
“California is America before America is itself,” de Leon said in an interview. “That means the good, the bad and the ugly, not just the good things that happen in California.”
In 1994, California voters passed an initiative designed to set up a state-run immigration system and deny most benefits, including education, to undocumented immigrants. Backlash to the proposition, which was strongly backed by then-Gov. Pete Wilson, is widely considered a watershed moment that eventually led to the decimation of the Republican Party in the state.
Today, California allows undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses and access in-state tuition at public universities. The state is also one of the most diverse in the nation. According to the census, 38.8 percent of Californians identify as Latino, 14.7 percent as Asian and 6.5 percent as black.
Those demographic changes are spurring political ones here in Orange County, once a mostly white bastion of Republicanism that has become increasingly Latino and Asian. While blue-collar Democrats who switched parties to vote for Trump in the Rust Belt helped propel him to the presidency, voters in Orange County chose a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since the 1930s.
From Cup of Jo
Tomorrow I’m going to dust myself off. Because I also feel love. And fervor. And a commitment to my children, friends, neighbors and people in our country, especially marginalized people who may fear for their future.
“The worst thing that can happen in a democracy — as well as in an individual’s life,” says Hillary Clinton, “is to become cynical about the future and lose hope.”
We’ll make big changes on a larger scale, but also here are ways to help on an individual level, as Rachel Howe pointed out: Ask everyone if they are okay and if they’re not see what you can do. Say hi to strangers. Volunteer, anywhere. Shop locally. Host people in your home. Cook for yourself and others. Speak up when you see racism and sexism in action. Protest. Donate time and money. Talk to older people more. Talk to kids more. Teach empathy. If you feel your future is in danger, start now to build a secure foundation for yourself. If you’re in less danger, reach out to those who are and offer your time and money and care to them.
From The Huffington Post
“During the campaign, I found so many of President-elect Trump’s comments to be deeply abhorrent, and I never want to be — I am not ever prepared to be — a politician who maintains a diplomatic silence in the face of attitudes of racism, sexism, misogyny or intolerance of any kind,” Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament on Thursday. “We hope that President-elect Trump turns out to be a president who is very different from the kind of candidate that he was and that he reaches out to those who felt vilified by his campaign.”
As leader of the Scottish National Party, Sturgeon broke a diplomatic taboo before the election by publicly saying she supported Trump’s rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Her condemnation of “diplomatic silence” is in keeping with this unconventional approach.
It also echoes German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who pointedly noted in a Wednesday congratulatory message to Trump that U.S.-German ties rest on a shared concern for human rights and the rule of law.
From the LA Times
I’ve looked at libraries from at least four sides now, as a full-time book critic, a federal grantmaker (in a red administration!), a nonprofit lending librarian in an immigrant, working-class neighborhood, and on the faculty at UCLA. While midwifing the nonpartisan NEA’s one-city-one-book program, The Big Read, I visited more than 100 public libraries in 40-some states, with a fat deck of library cards in my desk now to prove it.
If all these experiences have taught me anything, it’s that librarians may be the only first responders holding the line between America and a raging national pandemic of absolutism. More desperately than ever, we need our libraries now, and all three of their traditional pillars: 1) education, 2) good reading and 3) the convivial refuge of a place apart. In other words, libraries may be the last coal we have left to blow on.
All the research out there — Census data, NEA reports, the Pew Research Center’s work on libraries and reading in low-income neighborhoods — all of it points toward reading enjoyment as the surest predictor of health, wealth and good citizenship. Readers volunteer more, vote more, even exercise more. And a recent Yale study categorically shows what most of us have long suspected: Readers live longer than nonreaders.