The following are excerpts from essays written by graduate students in the History program at California State University, Los Angeles in reaction to the recent Presidential election.
The fall of 2016 was a difficult time to teach, especially as the battle for the American Presidency was being waged before our very eyes. Both faculty and students were on edge parsing the news obsessively, trying to find reasonable solutions among the many speeches that we heard from every side of the political spectrum. My safe haven was my graduate seminar, entitled Russia in World History: Personalities and Events. My students — avid, critical, and passionate — and I read the works of Leo Tolstoy, Emma Goldman, Peter Kropotkin, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, among many others. Contrarian and difficult individuals, these original thinkers rejected the notion that any political formation, be it a nation or an empire, could prosper in the long run by violating the rights of others. They claimed that it was impossible to accumulate unlimited material wealth without impoverishing many, and cautioned against building the spaces of modernity at the expense of the environment. We discussed Tolstoy’s ideas about global justice, Goldman’s prescriptions for a transnational and humane economics, and Solzhenitsyn’s arguments for a moral commonwealth. My students brought new insight to these old works and I realized once again how important the past is when dreaming about a better future. We met a week after the elections and my students had used the time in between classes to write these thoughtful, heartfelt, and politically astute essays. Continue reading
By Kelly Candaele
This short pro-union film is by Kelly Candaele, who has written frequently for LARB and is a journalist and filmmaker. You can find his film about construction workers and poetry here. Continue reading
By Rhian Sasseen
On and around November 8, 2016, American history changed. The transition was at once immediate — in the days that followed, an uptick in hate crimes were reported across the nation — and subtle — the newspapers still refreshed as usual, though now each front page was emblazoned with the headline that Donald Trump had just been elected president. Now, a few weeks later, it is still early; life has proceeded onwards, though with telltale clues scattered like breadcrumbs. When speaking of the president-elect’s incoming Chief of Staff, a member of the transition team described their role as: “to make sure the trains run on time.” Continue reading
By Emmanuel Ordóñez Angulo
You’ve heard it time and time again: plagiarism is a sin, one which secures you a place in the Eighth Circle of Hell, among fellow thieves and falsifiers. It is also the lowest type of crime with which an intellectual or creator can be charged, so it’s no triviality that, last week, the Argentine justice found writer Pablo Katchadjian guilty. Continue reading
By Onnesha Roychoudhuri
“You’re just in time,” the woman tells me when I come back to the table. I haven’t retained her name, only the details — recently relocated from Tampa, Florida; thin, bright lipstick. The rest of my dinner companions have been living in New York for years, a group of primarily young white men at a friend-of-friend Thanksgiving dinner. Around the table, the men fell silent — a rare occurrence since I’d arrived. “We’re debating,” Tampa explains, “whether women are funny.” Continue reading
By Joe Donnelly
Not ignorance, but ignorance of ignorance, is the death of knowledge.
-Alfred North Whitehead
Of the many forensic narratives that have been stitched together to try and shape the potentially-nightmarish November 8 election results into some kind of cloth of understanding, one in particular has approached one-size-fits-all: the Rustbelt pastoral. It feels like I’ve read dozens of these instant anthropologies in books, magazine and newspapers over the past year or so, and they just keep coming. Most are handwringing, liberal guilt trips and almost all follow the same schematic: a righteous scribe from one of the coasts ventures into the heartland, gains a keener sense of the region’s economic and psychic wounds and then bundles it into a sympathetic homily that’s meant to explain, well, everything. Continue reading
By Henry Godinez
Since the inception of Democracy in ancient Greece, theater has existed to keep it honest. Continue reading
By Robert Yusef Rabiee
The Sunday, November 20th edition of the Los Angeles Times contains a puzzle of Pynchonian complexity. And like the postmodern novelist’s finest inventions, the solution to this puzzle reveals profound contradictions in liberal Los Angeles’s self-imagination. Continue reading
By Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee
We do not have to reach the excesses of Nineteen Eighty-four to recognize ourselves as beings who need an enemy. We are witnessing the fear that can be caused by new influxes of migrants.
-Umberto Eco, Inventing the Enemy Continue reading
By Carl Tobias
Last Friday, Donald Trump, thousands of Trump University students, and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that they had settled three long running cases alleging that the school had defrauded many students. The lawsuits’ settlement resulted substantially from concerted efforts by Southern District of California Judge Gonsalvo Curiel. The jurist persistently moved toward resolution one case, which he had scheduled for trial next Monday while suggesting that the parties consider a settlement. At Thanksgiving, Mr. Trump and millions of Americans should give thanks for the dedicated service rendered by Judge Curiel and hundreds of federal judges, who assiduously labor every day to deliver justice. Continue reading