It can bring tears to your eyes, make you think: "I don't see how [President Johnson] can send troops to Africa, and he can't send troops to Selma, Alabama. Last year I saw the great film, Selma, directed by Ava DuVernay, and was moved to write a blog-review praising it as strongly as I could. She has since made a film about the slow replacement of slavery for huge numbers of black men in the US through sharecropper-servitude backed by lynch law, to a brief couple of decades of civil and voting rights, from which the criminal injustice system establishment has moved to mass incarceration, the 13th (amendment).
So with all due respect to Remnick, I have to disagree with him when he writes that "Lewis remains nearly alone in his capacity to tell the story of race in America." There are thousands of black men and women, who have equal capacity to tell this story alive today in all age groups. Such a one is the African-American preacher-journalist, professor of sociology, author, Michael Eric Dyson, in his Tears We Cannot Stop, reviewed in the Washington Post by Carlos Losada: what is it like to drive through a street in the US aware that at any time you might be pulled over for a minor infraction of the law and end up killed ("We think of the police who kill us for no good reason as ISIS")? Ask the mothers and fathers and spouses and children of all these dead black people. They can tell it like it is. I saw a foolishly "feel-good" film (all piety, triumph, it flattered the mostly white audience watching) about three black women who worked as scientific technologists for NASA today: Katherine Goble Johnson, Dorothy Vaugh, and Mary Jackson (Hidden Figures, as a film, it's beating Rogue One at the box office). Johnson is still with us, at age 97, finally awarded a Freedom Medal of Honor by President Obama: she could tell us a thing or two.
Remnick and so many others fall for this perpetual seeking for big people, for the hero (or heroine), for the "special genius" as a site of history. But we are all history, the person no one pays attention to, no stories in newspapers are written about offers the perspective which do not obscure the dominating effect of culture, circumstances, other people, contingency, other issues: gender, class, sexual orientation. Bernie Sanders does acknowledge like that.
Let us honor Martin Luther King today by imagining all these other people under this regime that is about to get much worse by trying to prevent it from getting much worse. Angus Wilson does this for one family in his Fences -- which I hope to get to this Thursday. The New York Times had a good interview about Wilson's drama: Jitney, an early play is on Broadway just now. As literary critic and woman writer, I also recommend Margaret Drabble in 1995 from a British perspective: Wilson as an enemy of false sentiment, self-delusion, dwelling on class. Anglo-Saxon attitudes can tell us much too: irreverent, iconoclastic, angry, very funny.
I'm going out on the March on the 21st: the day after the 20th when a man who thinks he can get away with being a dictator, will not be held accountable by law and the constitution once he takes power, remove the social programs set up by Roosevelt and since, give millionaires yet more huge tax breaks, what he pleases in foreign policy and war conducted by tweets (which defile anyone who protests). It's going to be the most massive demonstration we've seen in years. The people in charge of parking the buses estimate 180,000 people. Many many women's groups. It's estimated by my local JCC (Jewish Community Center) that 200,000 people will show, many organized from a group of JCCs around the East Coast, some of whom have had bomb threats since the election. Unions are coming. Be there if you can make it. Wear strong boots, a warm coat with hood, and carry plenty of water.
Enough from me for this week,