odds and ends / 7.13.2018













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Snippet of text from The Moon Jumpers by Janice May Udry, one of our favorite summer reads.

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She used every tool available to teach young readers (and especially young women) how to see history in creative new ways. If the available textbooks were tedious (and they were), she would write better ones. If they lacked illustrations, she would provide them. If maps would help, so be it: she would fill in that gap as well. She worked with engravers and printers to get it done. She was finding her way forward in a male-dominated world, with no map to guide her. So she made one herself.

Ted Widmer, "America's First Female Mapmaker." The Paris Review, 6/18/2018.

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Patricia Hampl: 'That’s it. That’s all. That’s the poem that has beguiled and vexed me all these years.'

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Trump administration officials, under pressure from the White House to provide a rationale for reducing the number of refugees allowed into the United States next year, rejected a study by the Department of Health and Human Services that found that refugees brought in $63 billion more in government revenues over the past decade than they cost.

NYT, 9/18/2017.

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'let america be america again'

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.  
(America never was America to me.) 
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.  
(It never was America to me.)  
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)  
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.  
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!  
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.  
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”  
The free?  
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.  
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.  
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!  
O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!  
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

Langston Hughes, 1902-1967. Brought to mind thanks to the wonderful people at Terrace Books.

'all you fascists bound to lose'


Posted way back on 4/10/2011; more relevant now than ever.

'what comes after idealism'

Because countries are not people, it’s tricky to translate whatever “loving one’s country” means—it’s quite abstract—into the language of heartbreak. It sounds melodramatic. What can heartbreak mean as a civic matter? And yet it is what I feel.

Lili Loofbourow, 'The America We Thought We Knew is Gone.' Slate, 6/28/2018.


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I’m beginning to understand what it means to live with an idealism conjoined with despair, with cynicism. It means you work despite futility. You go to a protest, shout alongside strangers, and come home to read the terrible news. You plot out your new series of mystery novels while dying in a hospital bed. It’s easy, I see now, to write five lines of condemnation. We do it on Twitter every day. It’s harder to live absurdly, as my grandmother did, to drag the folding table down to Greenwich Village to collect signatures on petitions that will most certainly not remove US death squads from El Salvador, to water the ivy even though one day it, too, will die. We fail and fail. We stand abashed. We are doing something wrong. But look how beautiful we are, as we keep sweeping the darkness back each night, to allow one more day to arrive.

From a beautiful, beautiful piece by Heather Abel in The Paris Review.

(It's a minor crime to try and pull a quote out to represent the whole from either of these pieces, but I did it anyway, because they helped me this week, and maybe they will help you.)

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Tomorrow, we march. If you need a sign: Everlane shared this and Phoebe Wahl created this. Both are free.

I am so grateful to the brands and artists and humans who have spoken up against family separation these past weeks; I've been saddened at the silence of others I have followed and admired for years. If ever there was a time for speaking up, this is it. But maybe seeing things as they are, seeing people as they are—not as we'd wish them to be—is what will make real change possible.