Black Lives Matter

black lives matter

Last night I was working on a story about our cultural obsession with Before & After pictures. The essay is about how we vilify the fat person from the past in order to celebrate the perfection of the skinny success story that lives in the future, and in so doing forever delay actually celebrating ourselves in this present moment.

I was struggling to write this essay, and eventually realized that it felt like bullshit for me to try and write about my white-lady-body-image issues while the city of Baltimore is both crying out in pain and standing up in strength.

In my life, the issue of wellness, the theme of this blog, is about improving body image. About fixing bad eating habits. About trying new recipes. And maybe making time for meditation.

It’s not about a fear of getting killed by the very people sworn to protect me. I’ve never had to make a public statement that my life matters, because that’s never been in question.

Cops smile at me; they call me ma’am. They reduce my speeding tickets. They give me directions, and hold doors for me. They call a locksmith when I’m locked out of my car.  I never have to worry that they might shoot me. Or beat me. Or strangle me.

The protests that are happening across America are important; the collective voices insisting on their own humanity are loud and vulnerable and powerful. And we owe it to our community to listen with our whole hearts.

“It is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.” — MLK, Jr.

How to Get a Beach Body

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As I mentioned yesterday, I spent last week at the beach. I grew up in a tiny beach town, and nothing could be more beautiful or perfect for me than the ocean. Sun, sand, salty-air, an entirely unstructured day. There is, of course, one dark shadow looming over the beach for most adult women–bathing suits. I largely stopped wearing two-piece bathing suits late in elementary school. The site of my shame has shifted over the years: My thighs in pre-teen years because of the confusing stretch mark, my breasts, large and victim to gravity in middle school, (I was almost 30 before I discovered bathing suits with underwire and bra-sizing. Get on that shit, people.) and later of course my belly.

When I got married, I wanted to take the upper hand on the cruel narratives playing on loop in my head. (My family calls these “old tapes,” an adorably out-dated turn of phrase, sure to confuse the young millennials.) Wearing a bikini at our pre-wedding cookout and the honeymoon–events centered around people loving me!–seemed like the ultimate safe spaces to tackle on these shitty narratives. So I rocked and (mostly) loved being plump in a bikini.

Eighteen months later, heavier, those two-piece suits felt more like a taunt. Wearing my bikinis felt impossible–gross. And wearing my one-piece felt like acknowledging my own failure–like a scarlet letter of gluttony and laziness. But some small part of myself knew that was bullshit, an old tape.

Fuck it, I thought. I’m wearing the bikini.

And so I did. Those first few days were fraught with insecurities and over-thinking and a few misplaced tears when my husband compliment my one-piece. (You mean you hate my bikini?!) And so I started writing a post in my head about the pressures of having a “bikini body,” the double standards for men and women, the pervasiveness of perfectionism, and the messed up ways that perfectionism prevents us from experiencing things–like a care-free day at the beach.

But an interesting thing happened. Day after day I lathered on sunscreen and pulled on my bathing suit, sometimes a one-piece and sometimes bikini, and gradually the post in my head started to grow stale. I still felt vulnerable with an exposed belly, nervous as a plus-size woman in a bathing suit. Who was I to jiggle and take up so much space at the beach? But the fierce narrative about the bullshit surrounding women’s bodies and bathing suits? Bit by bit, it somehow felt less raw.

I was still trying to find a way to speak to my experience throughout the week when I stumbled on a quiet passage in Yoga and Body Image that tore me open. In this book, Kate McIntyre Clere writes a moving essay about navigating the baggage we all carry about our bodies, and the desire to carve out a healthy and happy space for her young daughter. Contemplating a beach day with her daughter, Miro, she summarizes a possible conversation:

I am not feeling great about my body this morning. I don’t feel so great about wearing a bikini today. You know, Miro, sometimes my mind really believes these thoughts and it makes me feel really bad. So then I have to say to myself, it’s okay. Bodies change shape all the time. I’ve got a choice and I’m not going to let these thoughts ruin my day at the beach. Let’s go and enjoy ourselves!

Upon reading this passage, I started scribbling in the margins frantically. What if you could acknowledge the pain of living in an body, a body that may never be officially “good enough,” but still go on to love your day at the beach?

Sometimes, in an effort to confront negative body image messaging, it can easily feel like we’re left with two options: love your body or hate your body. And so we tell ourselves we will love our bodies–once they are perfect and we no longer hate them.

But what if there was a middle way? What would happen if we acknowledge the moments or the days that we struggled to love our bodies? What if we said to ourselves: I know this is hard right now, but there’s a whole world out there to enjoy and, fuck it, I’m going to enjoy it?

Wearing bathing suits for eight days straight was at times intense. It started off raw, sometimes painful. But gradually, somewhat unconsciously, I found my way to a truce. I know I don’t want to hate this body, but I don’t know if I can yet love it the way I want to. But what if I embrace this in-between–to neither love nor hate this body, but let both co-exist? And to let myself be in the midst of this messy soup of feelings and fears and joy. This new kind of vulnerability didn’t necessarily come easily in Mexico, but gradually the allure of a pleasant day at the beach overpowered the old tapes playing in my head. And the scales tipped–in my favor.

On Stealing Time

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As those of us in the northeaster dig our way out from Snowmaggeddon 2015, I have to admit I’m missing the sunshine from last week’s vacation. My husband and I took each other to Mexico for a Christmas present, and it really felt magical. We spent the week sitting in the sun, reading books, swimming in the ocean, and eating tacos. I might have cried a little bit when it was time to leave. We were lucky enough to be staying right on the beach and I declared before we even boarded the plane that I would be waking up early one day to watch the sunrise. My husband smiled, a little doubtful that this would happen, but mostly relieved that I wasn’t asking him to wake up at 5:45 in the morning on vacation, too.

Each evening I would diligently set my alarm before bed, and each morning I would hit snooze for 30 minutes before shutting it off entirely. This is not a pattern unique to vacation; I cannot count the number of times I’ve signed up for an early morning yoga class or planned on writing, reading, or going for a walk before the work day begins, only to spend the morning hitting snooze and reveling in just how soft and warm my bed can be. I don’t think there’s something inherently bad about this; I don’t think that morning people are better or more moral than night owls. But on those mornings that I do manage to sneak out of bed early, and start my day with yoga or writing or just a quiet cup of tea before the maddens begins? It always feels like I’m unwrapping a treasure. So I continue to set my alarm ambitiously early, and occasionally google “how to be a morning person” while dreaming of a lifetime or quiet, productive, peaceful mornings. And my bed continues to be it’s softest and most alluring between 6 and 8am.

This was my predicament on the second to last day of vacation, hitting snooze, trying to convince myself to stay in bed, to get out of bed, telling myself, “Just five more minutes and I’ll be ready.” (“Five more minutes!” has become a bit of a joke in our house because of my consistently slurred, sleep-drunk delivery of the request to my husband when it’s time to go to work.) And then I thought–in a that striking way that only happens when you’re half dreaming–if you really want something you have to be willing to get a little uncomfortable in the process. And the sharpness of it pushed me out of bed.

If I’m sitting on my couch, comfortable, the likelihood that I’ll get up to make a cup of tea is directly tied to how badly I want that cup of tea. I mean, this is obvious, when we think of it in regards to the mundane. But what about other desires, the wants we carry around in our heart, that whisper to us in odd moments–when we’re in the shower, when we’re feeling brave after a glass of wine or two, when we’re setting our alarm clock, full of the promise of a tomorrow? I hear them, and I keep waiting for the convenient times to respond. I’ll go to yoga tomorrow, when I don’t have as much work to do. I’ll write later, when I feel more inspired. I’ll meditate when I don’t feel so stressed and frantic. I’ll see the sunrise when I’m not sleepy.

I once had a great professor in college who gave an inspired lecture that must have been under-appreciated by the room full of 19 year olds staring back at him for whom time was infinite, but his words still stayed with me ever since. I thought of him that morning on the beach. Rich Murphy told us: If you want time to be creative in life, to write or paint or make any kind of art, you have to steal it. The world will not give you this time; you have to steal it.

The beach was cold that morning, and the sky was so overcast that I never saw a sunrise. Just a gradually brightening grey sky. In other words, it was very different than what I expected, than what I thought I wanted, when I shuffled down the hotel stairs to the beach–and I was so very glad to be awake. To be uncomfortable, stealing time, writing in my journal on a rainy morning at the beach.

Bad Feminism, Roxane Gay, and Being Messy

bad feminist

I recently finished Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist. I have not been this excited to read a book in a long, long time. They tell you not to judge a book by its cover, but who isn’t excited about such a striking title, the crisp cover and neon pink lettering?  What even is a bad feminist? I immediately think of someone in high school who aced AP US History and Calculus, but skipped gym to smoke cigarettes in her leather jacket off campus. You know, the kind of girl who is effortlessly cool and also clearly possesses the ability to disintegrate ignorant people with a look. She’s a bad feminist as in bad ass; she gives absolutely no fucks.

But of course, no one is that girl. Even the person who is  that girl, doesn’t think she is.

For me, this book suffered because it couldn’t be the print version of that imaginary girl. I wanted Bad Feminist to be all things. I wanted a book that was equal parts deeply moving memoir and feminist manifesto, something that both spoke to the depths of my soul and rallied the masses. I wanted reading this book to feel like joining hands with Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Butler, and bell hooks as we danced and sang around the maypole (only something less phallic).  In other words, I had entirely reasonable expectations.

 All of this, of course, is one of the very things she’s writing against—the fervent and impossible hope we all carry around—for one voice to speak for and to us all.  Structurally, I think Gay is at her best when she includes her personal, which ranges from funny—an essay about competitive scrabble, another about her hate/love relationship with Shades of Grey—to heartbreaking—a haunting discussion of sexual assault, her own, the language used to discuss others. I think these are the moments she shines, which may say something about me, but it may also say something about what we want from feminism today. The 60s told us “the personal is political,” a phrase that has always felt strangely hollow to me. This is probably because I am a child of the 90s and we came of age, politically speaking, to see a president impeached over an affair, a lie, and something about a blue dress. The personal is obviously political to us, although perhaps not in the way second wavers meant. On top of that, we learned what politics was in the same breath that we saw it as a system, primarily investment in protecting and promoting its own self-importance. That kind of political awareness doesn’t bode well for the spirit of the early motto.

The truth is that feminism is inherently personal; it always has been. In the current age of feminism, I am most interested in the way we struggle to live feminism in our daily lives. How does feminism shape, inform, and help in the space of the personal?

An outspoken male co-worker speaks over and/or down to you at work? How can feminism be a tool to navigate that? The truth is, (and here I’m getting away from Gay’s book, but I like to imagine she’d agree with the idea), the response is different, even if we’re all feminists. Personally, I’m bossy as hell. I’m going to excitedly practice for the next opportunity to put you in your place. (Another way to read that: I’m going to obsessively dwell on your sexism until our next encounter, thereby carrying the burden of your idiocy with me on a near daily basis.) Another woman may see the man’s misogyny and also recognize that her colleagues see this guy for the moron he is. She may use feminism as a lens to place his shitty behavior, and then laugh the situation off, on her way home to her happy life and an OITNB marathon. Feminism is personal; it’s a tool we use to navigate life and sometimes to navigate politics.

Because of this, I like, not only that Gay writes about her personal experiences of living as a woman, as a feminist, but articulates the reality that living feminism means many things. Ultimately, Roxane Gay uses bad feminist to mean something other than my imaginary super smart “bad girl.” She’s talking about an inability to live up to the measure of what a “good” feminist looks like, in much the same way some of us struggle with the desire to be the “good girl.” This “good feminist” ideal, she recognizes, is an ugly combination of our own demons, the unfortunate influence of “feminazi” conspiracy theorists, and other anti-women narratives. Perfectionism is an ugly version of self-hatred-cloaked-as-ambition that I am all too familiar with. So, while I am personally very comfortable to be the feminist in glitter and neon pink lipstick, with a closet full of dresses, I understand the roots of Gay’s anxiety. Wading through that anxiety, Gay comes to an interesting and important place:

I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy. I’m not trying to be an example. I am not trying to be perfect. I am not trying to say I have all the answers. I am not trying to say I’m right. I am just trying—trying to support what I believe in, trying to do some good in this world, trying to make some noise with my writing while also being myself.

Roxane Gay is “bad” at being a feminist—so bad that she’s written a collection of brilliant essays on the topic. This book made me want to sit up straighter and be part of this conversation. It made me want to look inward, at my own preconceived notions and the issues I’m sitting on the sidelines for, and it made me throw some shade at some idiots in the world around me. Ultimately, Bad Feminist made me think and it made me want to write; it inspired me to make some noise and to be myself.

#MikeBrown

The news has felt especially heavy lately. Between the ebola outbreak, the fighting in Israel and Palestine, the crisis in Iraq, the refugee children on the US border, and Robin William’s suicide, the world feels frighteningly bleak. I try to follow the news closely, but sometimes I feel so overwhelmed by all the sadness, pain, and suffering that I retreat. So when the story first broke about an unarmed teenage boy being shot and killed by police in Ferguson, my heart instantly fell–and I turned away. As the atrocities continue in Ferguson, it is clear that Michael Brown and his community deserve for us to pay attention, to hear their voices, to care. These kinds of gross abuses of power only continue and flourish when we turn our backs on those in need.

All morning, I have been riveted by the unfolding events–the death of an unarmed black teenager, the arrest of two reporters and a city alderman, tear gassing and shooting of rubber bullets into peaceful crowds, terrorizing black communities by shooting these materials directly into neighborhoods–in short a complete disregard for the lives of the community these police officers have sworn to protect. And I realized I’d heard this whole story before; Ferguson, MO mirrors familiar and tragic stories of Jim Crow south–an era that clearly does not live as neatly in our past as we’d like to believe

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Earlier in the year I read The Devil in the Grove, the story of four young black men falsely accused of rape and the NAACP’s fight on their behalf. Two of the four men are murdered by the cops, an advocate and his wife are killed their house was bombed, reporters, lawyers and everyday black civilians were threatened and terrorized–and the sheriff at the heart of all this terror? The establishment closed ranks around him and he went on to serve as sheriff for many years to come.  The remarkable thing about this story is how unremarkable it was; this treatment was everyday reality for black Americans–and is clearly the present day reality in Ferguson, MO.

We have such a tidy, white-washed history of race in America. Slavery was a terrible thing, but then Abraham Lincoln and the 13th Amendment happened and solved everything. Then racism was really bad in the South (always only the South) and that was bad, too, but Rosa Parks didn’t give up her seat on a bus and then MLK talked a lot about being peaceful and ended racism forever.

I distinctly remember watching a film with my parents when I was in 5th grade about a white man who learns on his mother’s death bed that he has a half brother who is black. The movie is about their relationship and the white brother dealing with his racism. I will always remember this movie because it was when I learned that racism is still a problem. I understood it so completely as something that ended with the Civil Rights Movement. MLK had a dream, and hadn’t that dream come true? I turned to my parents halfway through the film, confused, and said, “Why is the main character driving a new truck? Isn’t this supposed to be a set a long time ago?”

But this isn’t in our past. This isn’t something that was fixed. This trauma is in the very fabric of our nation. Ferguson isn’t an aberration; it exists as part of a very long history of state-sanctioned violence against black Americans. The fight for civil rights is not something that lives in history books; we need to continue to fight. These images are taken 50 years apart; the one on the left is from present day Ferguson, MO. 50 Years of Civil Rights Proress

I certainly don’t know what to do or, really, what to say. I remember after Treyvon Martin was killed and then the George Zimmerman verdict came through I felt a profound desire to do something, but I didn’t and still don’t know what action looks like. Sometimes I think I turn away out of a sense of helplessness, but importantly also turn away because, as a white woman, I can. Ultimately, though, if we want a different image 50 years from today, to turn away is to be complicit.

Search Terms: A Lovely Surprise!

Occasionally I like to look through my search terms to learn how people found their way to my little, often neglected, corner of the internet. It’s most a depressing enterprise, because 95% of the time it’s someone searching for naked pictures of women. “Nipple” is probably the number one search term driving people to this site, mostly because of this post from last year.

But then some glorious person was searching for glorious things:

the house of mirth fanfiction

I’m sorry that you didn’t find any fanfic, but I hope you enjoyed your time here. (Although I can try and dust off my attempt at, essentially turning House of Mirth into a romcom.) I cannot express how immensely happy it makes me this is a thing that exists in the world! Carry on, my good Wharton fan.

It also brings me joy that people searching for various nipple shots are most definitely finding themselves disappointed when they land here, so really–Cheers all around!

I wanted to title this “To be or not to be: Fat”: Signs I’m taking myself too seriously. Or terrible at titles.

While I was writing my last post, I used the adjective “fat” a handful of times, and I distinctly remember thinking “I hope no one feels compelled to tell me I’m not fat.” (In an honest-to-god Freudian slip of writing, I initially wrote for the first two drafts, “I hope no one feels compelled to call me fat.” Yup. Let’s discuss that later.)

In the meantime, let’s discuss my desire to leave let my fat identifier stand. In large part, this is rooted in the truth is: I am, technically speaking, fat. (This is new. I’m saying this online, but I’ve yet to say it in person.) Presently, fat has come to be shorthand for lazy, stupid, and ugly. I am not any of those things, and on a good day I believe that I’m not. When a plus-size lady identifies as fat, and everyone rushes to tell her it isn’t so, it stings in a particular way because you’re efforts–despite coming from a good place–reaffirm that fattness is a really bad thing. Ironically you’re reinforcing that fat = lazy, stupid, and ugly. And we all sure as hell know that your fierce friend is none of those things! But here’s the nasty secret–when we jump up and down about how NOT FAT a plus size lady is, we’re reinforcing that fat is inherently a bad thing, when in reality it’s just a thing.

I grew up in a house with beloved fat relatives. I also grew up in house where, if someone was an asshole and fat, their weight was a legitimate target for ridicule. There were lots of “fat idiots” on the chopping block. I don’t think this experience is unique.

In this moment of my adult life, I am, technically speaking. fat. However, I am not lazy, stupid, or ugly. (Feel free, in the comments, to tell me how active, smart, and beeeeautiful I am. Okay, just kidding.) I think it is a little bit my hope that acknowledging “fat” as a reality, but not a dirty word can take the sting out of all the implications that come along with that word. I am fat. I also have brown hair, glasses, and a birthmark on my right ankle.

And now to the “omg, don’t tell me I’m fat” thing. This, in perhaps obvious ways, is harder to write. I really want this blog to be an honest and feminist space. In order to make the former true, however, I have to give a voice to the negative battles I struggle with. So here’s my confession: I have at many points in my life, looked around to see “how fat I was” in comparison to the people around me. If I could find worse offenders, I could pat myself on the back–for telling myself I was better–whatever the eff “better” meant. (And here’s where I should disclose, despite talking about this as an activity solidly in my past, there’s a 50% chance I did this within the past week.) I’m writing a blog on body positivity, but I’m in this shit deep.

The truth is, I want to be okay with being fat. I also, desperately, want to wake up being 40 pounds lighter. I want to be liberated from the expectations and pressure of our society–but I also don’t want to be engaged in constant warfare with them. In my dream world, I wake up many sizes smaller and, magically, don’t give an eff. I want to both escape and beat the system in one fell swoop. On good days, I know that not giving an eff is more valuable than playing the game, but I’d be lying if I said that was an easy thing to see as truth.

I don’t have a neat conclusion to this post. I think tidiness would actually be really dishonest. Ultimately, it’s important to realize that my complicated relationship with my body is not actually tied to my weight. I’ve been 20, 30, 50 pounds lighter, and still struggled to find peace with this body. I’ve been strong enough to commute 20 miles round-trip on a bike, to run a half marathon, to hike mountains–and I was still at war with this body. Weight gain might bring these issues more sharply into focus, but I’m not struggling to see the strength and beauty of my body because I gained weight. I’ve struggled my whole life to accept my body–whatever it looked like–because the game is rigged; we’re bombarded with reasons to feel dissatisfied and uncomfortable. And, ultimately, what I’m trying to figure out is: can I just stop playing the game?

Favorite Books: A Chronology of My Feminist Education

booksReminding me why A Practical Wedding remains one of my favorite blogs, this entire month is devoted to feminism over there. (Infusing popular wedding narratives with active discussions of feminism? Talk about shifting our discourse.) This week the staff shared a round-up of some of their favorite feminist books. It’s brilliant list! In looking through, I was reminded of some old favorites (Undercover, lady-knight, people!) and discovered some books to add to my to-read list.

I’ve been trying to read a lot more lately, and I thought this was a good opportunity to do my own round up and hope that you share some of your favorites in return. This is not an exhaustive list, or even what I consider the “best” feminist titles. But these are books that had a the most formative influence when I was just a wee, budding feminist through graduate school, so they have a special place in my heart.

Ellaenchanted Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

I still remember the day I found this book. My family used to make regular trips to Barnes & Nobel when I was a child, and I would make a bee-line away into the YA stacks. I had discovered that if I found a book quickly and read enough of it before it was time to leave, I could almost always convince my parents to buy it for me. Ella Enchanted was one of these books, and it set the wheels in motion for something much bigger for me. It’s a re-imagining of Cinderella, in which she puts up with all that housework and drudgery because she’s cursed to always be obedient, so she runs away and has adventures and eventually breaks the curse. I think it should be mandatory reading for all pre-teen girls; personally I was so intoxicated by the idea of flipping these traditional tales so that the woman was active, was the hero and in charge of her own destiny. It opened up so much possibility for me: we didn’t necessarily need to start over to look for female heroes; we could apply a different lens to the stories we’ve always known. To some extent, this idea of applying a lens that shifts women and gender issues into a different focus is still at the heart of my brand of feminism.

House of Mirth by Edith Whartonthe house of mirth

In high school, I went through a classic-novels-about-romance phase, which involved a lot of Jane Austen. I picked up House of Mirth, expecting it to fall into the same vein. Oops. This might be the first book that broke my heart. (My one and only foray into fanfic was a rewrite, giving House of Mirth a happy ending.) I suspect any literary-minded feminist has a book that drove home the particular struggles of being a woman, the role of femininity, and the crushing, absurd weight of societal rules and expectations for women, and it was Lily Bart who brought that message home for me.

why_are_all_the_black_kids_sitting_together_in_the_cafeteria1  Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum

I read this book my freshman year of college, and it was the first time I studied contemporary race issues. I spent a lot of time learning about slavery and Jim Crow laws in high school, and I had a vague sense that racism was still a problem, but I didn’t know anything about it and I definitely didn’t know how to engage with it. This is the book that taught me about institutional racism. We can all claim to be (and want to be) “not racist” but are, in fact, products of a racist society so, in truth we probably each have some ugly ideas floating around in our subconscious. We are each responsible to adjust our behavior and question our assumptions, accordingly. This is not a book about feminism, but it was an essential read in making me a better feminist.

Bodies that Matter by Judith Butlerbodies that matter

This book is like hiking through a really dense jungle, up a mountain, following a seemingly overgrown path all the way up. Reading Judith Butler is hard and exhausting work, and you will likely find yourself profoundly uncomfortable at times (because it is complicated, because her ideas challenge fundamental assumptions you may have, because even when you think you get what she’s trying to say, you still have to wrestle with those ideas so they make sense to you).   And then, after struggling through the dense jungle, you get to the top of the mountain and all the hard work has finally paid off: the view (aka whatever insight you have from reading) is so incredible that it rearranges your entire way of seeing, thinking about, and interacting with the world.

Bonus Book: On the Road by Jack Kerouac

As a young reader, I hated this book with a fiery passion. I would indignantly stomp around, complaining about the flat female characters and the ways they were being used as props in the novel to advance the male characters’ narrative. I think that kind of feminist rage was really import to experience; it felt liberating to hate a book on the grounds that the author wrote lame female characters. It was important to realize that I could demand more from my books.

How about you: What are your favorite feminist books? What titles formed your current social consciousness? What should I read next?

American Privilege & the Shutdown

I’ve been wanting to say something about the government shutdown, but every time I got to write about it all that comes out is, “KFNL%#)MWQ!KKXTE##$^DMAAK!?!?!?!!!”

Thankfully, some other folks are saying much more articulate things about the situation. Unsurprisingly, outside of the U.S. there is a whole lot of confusion and justified disgust at the idiocy of the whole situation. I found Anthony Zurcher’s comment, from the UK, striking:

For most of the world, a government shutdown is very bad news –- the result of revolution, invasion or disaster. Even in the middle of its ongoing civil war, the Syrian government has continued to pay its bills and workers’ wages. That leaders of one of the most powerful nations on earth willingly provoked a crisis that suspends public services and decreases economic growth is astonishing to many.

Zurcher goes on to comment on the impact this may have on the global economy. In the era of globalization, playing these sorts of games threaten not just US, but the global economy as well. In my last post, I wrote briefly about privilege, and I think that’s an important part of the current political mess. There has been much discussion about how avoiding the immediate effects of the government shutdown is possible from a privilege position. If you don’t rely on food stamps or WIC formula, the government shutdown may feel like any other day. And that’s a convenient position, but there’s a baffling lack of empathy required in order to fail to recognize that’s not a universal position. Fox News (as filtered through The Daily Show) does a good job of demonstrating this attitude (right around 2:30):

(Side note: I love the show deeply, but I could do with at least 60% fewer penis jokes on TDS.)

But the ways that privilege plays into the House Republican stand off are deeper, even,  than the failure to recognize this. Those who support (and also those who do not oppose) this shutdown and impending debt ceiling crisis are able to live in their delusional bubble because they take for granted America’s position as an international superpower, as a global economic powerhouse, as “the greatest and/or most powerful country on earth.” The comparative wealth and power of the US, and the comfort that affords us as Americans, is completely taken for granted and, dangerously, taken for a constant.

It’s like the rich kid in college, who can spend all his rent money on booze and late-night pizza delivery,  because he knows his parents will always bail him out. James Fallows discusses this in a short piece in The Atlantic:

As a matter of substance, constant-shutdown, permanent-emergency governance is so destructive that no other serious country engages in or could tolerate it. The United States can afford it only because we are — still — so rich, with so much margin for waste and error.

And in this way, in addition to highlighting the danger of extremism and gerrymandering, this current manufactured crisis is a profound example of America’s sense of exceptionalism. Our national mythology is one of invincibility; we cannot imagine a world in which we do not dominate. Like that rich college kid drunk and full of pizza, we only see possibility and infinite lives. House Republicans can risk the national and international economy on a bet, because they cannot imagine a world in which we do not win. Not only do they fail to grasp the arrogance of that bet, it is precisely that attitude that weakens America’s national health as well as our global position of strength.

P.S. If you’re looking to stay up-to-date on the saga of our federal government, I’ve been really enjoying The Slate Political Gabfest’s 15 minute daily digest throughout the shutdown.