Did You Really Think Trump Would Mourn With Us?
The president’s indifference to collective grieving is of a piece with a political movement that denies our collective ties.
More than a hundred thousand lives have been lost to the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States, and while individuals and families have certainly grieved for their loved ones, there has been almost nothing in the way of a public remembrance of the lives lost. No national address; no moment of silence or official recognition beyond the occasional tweet and the flying of flags at half-staff over the Memorial Day weekend. No sense from the president or his subordinates that these were untimely deaths — needless losses that ought to occasion collective mourning. There will be no speech like President Barack Obama’s in the wake of the Mother Emanuel shooting in Charleston; no address like President Ronald Reagan’s after the Challenger disaster.
Civil society has tried to fill the gap. Both The New York Times and The Washington Post have devoted their pages to memorials, as have local and regional newspapers across the country. But the political vacuum matters. It’s also predictable.
The president’s indifference to collective mourning is of a piece with a political movement that denies our collective ties as well as the obligations we have to each other. If Trump represents a radical political solipsism, in which his is the only interest that exists, then it makes all the sense in the world that neither he nor his allies would see or even understand the need for public and collective mourning — an activity that heightens our vulnerability, centers our interconnectedness and stands as a challenge to the politics of selfishness and domination.
In the face of collective tragedy, mourning can’t help but be public. And in a democracy like ours, that means it also can’t help but be political. In her essay “Violence, Mourning, Politics” — written in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks and the nascent “war on terror” — the philosopher Judith Butler observed how grief and grieving can bring the foundations of our social arrangements into clear view.
Sure, The Velociraptors Are Still On The Loose, But That's No Reason Not To Reopen Jurassic Park
Hello, Peter Ludlow here, CEO of InGen, the company behind the wildly successful dinosaur-themed amusement park, Jurassic Park. As you’re all aware, after an unprecedented storm hit the park, we lost power and the velociraptors escaped their enclosure and killed hundreds of park visitors, prompting a two-month shutdown of the park. Well, I’m pleased to announce that, even though the velociraptors are still on the loose, we will be opening Jurassic Park back up to the public!
Now, I understand why some people might be skeptical about reopening an amusement park when there are still blindingly fast, 180-pound predators roaming around. But the fact of the matter is, velociraptors are intelligent, shifty creatures that are not going to be contained any time soon, so we might as well just start getting used to them killing a few people every now and then. Some might argue that we should follow the example of other parks that have successfully dealt with velociraptor escapes. But here at Jurassic Park, we’ve never been ones to listen to the recommendations of scientists, or safety experts, or bioethicists, so why would we start now?
The Neoliberal Era is Ending
What Comes Next?
Mariana Mazzucato at the 2019 World Economic Forum in Davos.
In a crisis, what was once unthinkable can suddenly become inevitable. We’re in the middle of the biggest societal shakeup since the second world war. And neoliberalism is gasping its last breath. So from higher taxes for the wealthy to more robust government, the time has come for ideas that seemed impossible just months ago.
What we’re talking about here is nothing less than a revolution in economic thinking. Where the 2008 crisis was followed by severe austerity, we’re now living at a time when someone like Kelton (author of a book tellingly titled The Deficit Myth) is hailed by none other than the Financial Times as a modern-day Milton Friedman. And when that same paper wrote in early April that government “must see public services as investments rather than liabilities”, it was echoing precisely what Kelton and Mazzucato have contended for years.
But maybe the most interesting thing about these women is that they’re not satisfied with mere talk. They want results. Kelton for example is an influential political adviser, Perez has served as a consultant to countless companies and institutions, and Mazzucato too is a born networker who knows her way around the world’s institutions.
After the Cure
Elizabeth Evitts Dickenson
On an autumn morning in 1949, over a bowl of oatmeal, my mother, Carole, then 7 years old, started feeling ill. She begged my grandmother to let her skip school and return to bed, and in a rare turn my grandmother acquiesced. A first-generation German American, my grandmother had survived the Depression. She knew how to pull flavor out of the cheapest cut of meat, she saved pennies for special occasions in envelopes, and she believed only an actively vomiting child should skip the wonder of public education. My aunt, just 3 years old, couldn’t believe her sister’s luck. She dipped her spoon into my mother’s abandoned bowl and finished the extra helping of cereal, and then she scuttled off to the small bedroom that the two girls shared. My mother lay in fetid darkness, curtains drawn. “Get Mommy,” she said meekly. “I’m really sick.”
A fever bloomed through my mother’s body to fight the invading virus, but the poliomyelitis had already taken hold in her central nervous system. Her limbs ached and then atrophied, and by evening my mother could move only her eyes.
In high school, I began reading up on polio to try to understand my mother. Researchers had identified three coping styles used by survivors of the polio epidemic, and she fell into the category of those who could “pass.” To meet my mother when I was in high school was to never know that she’d had the disease as a child, or that she continued to suffer the physical effects of the virus, what is medically known as post-polio syndrome. Her muscles ached. She had trouble raising one arm over her head. But she vehemently refused to see doctors.
Mental health experts were rarely staffed in polio wards to help children process the natural fear they felt. My mother didn’t talk about her time at Kernan in much detail, but what scraps of story she did relay signaled that she had felt confused and abandoned. Whenever I suggested that she might benefit from physical and mental therapy, she turned the argument on me. I was the one who needed help, she said. I was delusional. At the height of my mother’s yelling — to end the argument or stun me into silence — she would sometimes say that she should kill herself.
When Meat Plants Shut Down, What Happens to the Animals?
Three weeks ago, Chris Petersen, a small-scale pig farmer in Clear Lake, Iowa, brought nine of his Berkshire hogs to slaughter at a nearby meat locker, which typically processes fewer than 10 pigs a day. Last week, he called to schedule another appointment, hoping for mid-June. But with demand for direct-marketed meat growing, thanks to coronavirus-related supermarket shortages, the plant was booked through July 21. Petersen wasn’t thrilled, but his business would survive. A friend with 2,500 head ready for market was in far worse shape: he found space for 300 pigs to be slaughtered, but immediately afterward the plant closed. The rest of the animals have nowhere to go.
“It’s a huge problem,” says Petersen.
As of April 28, 16 meat-packing plants have shuttered, with many others running at half speed: nationwide, pork production has dropped by more than 20 percent over the last month. Now, industrial farmers like Petersen’s friend, on a highly regulated production treadmill, find their barns filling up.
“It’s a biological system,” says David Newman, a Missouri pig farmer and president of the National Pork Board. “From sow and pig to nursery to growing and finishing, there’s an impact on the entire chain. Each backs up the others.”
Meat eaters have come to terms with the inevitability of the production process: we all know where it ends. Now, with packing plants closed, the end for hundreds of thousands of pigs is likely to arrive in an orgy of waste that turns the stomachs of even the most pragmatic. Asked to describe how a farmer decides to “depopulate” – the word of choice – a barn full of market-ready pigs, Newman sighs heavily. “It’s a tremendously emotional time to be in the livestock business. We’re trying to be creative.”
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