Category Archives: Current Events

Brevity in the Age of Trump and Twitter

By Jerry Griswold

Donald Trump prefers communicating with the public via Twitter, a messaging service that insists a “tweet” be no longer than 140 characters. (As a way of measuring, you should know that the previous sentence — since spaces and punctuation are included in the count — is exactly 140 characters long.) To his critics, this suggests an inability to have long thoughts or possibly Attention Deficit Disorder. But it is worth noting that brevity, while perhaps unknown in previous presidents, is a genre with a long historical pedigree. Continue reading

Recovering and Tempelhof

By Jennifer Croft

Like many, I spent part of the last weekend in January at an airport. Across the country thousands protested detainments in the wake of Donald Trump’s executive order, signed on Friday, January 27th, banning refugees from seven countries. Being at an airport without travel plans, in an atmosphere of kindness and community distantly removed from the usual airport experience, brought to mind another airport I went to — not through — not long ago that has been transformed into its opposite. Tempelhof, once the world’s most noble aerodrome, then a Nazi stronghold, now a public park, was also slated two weeks ago to become the largest refugee camp in Germany. So I wondered, surrounded at LAX by supportive sign-bearers chanting welcome slogans, contemplating Tempelhof: how do places change and heal, and can people — individuals and populations — follow suit? Continue reading

Resistance at the Crossroads of the World

By Benjamin Reeves

Between President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the border with Mexico, his threat of a trade war with China, rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and skepticism about funding NATO, there’s no question that he seeks to separate the U.S. from the rest of the world. Virulent racism and explicitly anti-immigrant rhetoric are beginning to metastasize into actual, though disjointed and poorly executed policy. Yet a robust resistance movement is rising to meet it, and airports — perhaps the perfect symbolism of benevolent globalism — have become a locus of that resistance. Continue reading

Alec Baldwin, James Baldwin, and Apocalyptic Exceptionalism

By Matt Seybold

Ratings for Saturday Night Live steadily declined for four consecutive seasons, starting in 2011, as Lorne Michaels struggled uncharacteristically to cultivate a new crop of stars. In the fall of 2015, the overhauled cast began to rally around Kate McKinnon, particularly her portrayal of Hillary Clinton. SNL’s current season is on pace to be its highest-rated since, perhaps not coincidentally, the election of Barack Obama. Among the most viral videos the revitalized show has generated is “Hillary Actually,” which aired during the final episode of 2016. Parodying a famous scene from the romantic comedy Love Actually, the sketch features McKinnon, as Clinton, using cue cards to coyly communicate with members of the Electoral College. McKinnon ventriloquizes efforts to persuade electors to abandon President-Elect Trump and, as one of the cards reads, “just vote for literally anyone else.” One could interpret the scene as mocking increasingly desperate and delusional public figures who couldn’t seem to come to terms with the reality of Trump’s impending presidency. But it isn’t satire exactly. The cue cards, though witty, actually make a cogent and compelling argument for faithless electors, complete with bullet points like “2. He’s already provoked the Chinese,” “6. He knew Russia was involved in hacking the election,” “11. His Vice President believes in conversion therapy,” “12. More than a dozen women have accused him of sexual assault,” and “15. He doesn’t know how the government works.” Continue reading

Being an Immigrant is Hard Enough. Can’t We Just Be Compassionate?

By Ani Kokobobo

I arrived at JFK almost 20 years ago from Albania, a Muslim-majority country then torn apart by political and economic instability. We waited for years for the F-1 visa. I remember starting school and wondering whether I would be able to finish the year before we had to drop everything and leave. I tried to get two tourist visas before my F-1 finally came through. I cannot forget the adolescent embarrassment of showing up in front of US immigration officials with my middle school report cards and letters of recommendation from my teachers in order to make a good impression. Both times we paid significant fees, only so I could be rejected for unexplained reasons. Continue reading

Trump Revisits Vichy’s Rafles

By Robert Zaretsky

Across the country, people woke to the alarming news: police were breaking families apart, assigning fathers and mothers, sons and daughters to legal limbo as they prepared to deport them. Citizens rubbed their eyes, but should not have been surprised. Their newly installed government, led by an aged man with questionable morals, had won support by spinning stories of national decadence and decline. Parading its religious faith while demonizing those who did not share it, protecting the people by creating categories of “others,” the government had already issued a series of laws to realize their program. As for the people, they went about their lives, some thrilled by and others indifferent to the laws. Until, that is, the morning they awoke and saw, with their own eyes, the horrifying human consequences of government decrees. Continue reading