The house on 52 with the flag out front

On a road leading out of town there’s a house that for many years had a Confederate flag hanging out front. Actually, the flag was on a pole within the grounds of the house, behind a high, tightly bound picket fence, the kind of fence you might have seen around an early Puritan settlement. The residents of the house had also posted a large sign that said: “Loud bikes save lives!”

Not so long ago, the flag came down. A woman in town–a woman who works for social justice and is visibly and vocally liberal–was so pleased to see this that she baked a batch of brownies and went to the house and knocked on the door. And was admitted inside. And offered her brownies as a sign of her gratitude. And talked for an hour with people who had been, for years, both neighbors and strangers.

When she asked the man of the house what the flag had meant to him, he said that it had been through two wars. Which wars? The world wars, he said, in the 1800s. He also said that he liked The Dukes of Hazzard. He was being sincere.

People of Earth: Come to know your history. Come to know your neighbors.

Morning routine

This morning my son was lolling on the sofa in his pajamas after breakfast, as he often does. He asked aloud (to no one) where his clothes were, as he often does. I fetched an outfit from his dresser upstairs, as I often do, I’m sorry to say. I set the outfit on the sofa, and he said, in a voice that was both sincere and slightly exaggerated, “Thank you, Dada. That’s very encouraging.” And I laughed at his general nuttiness, as I often do.

Ponies will be ponies

At camp today, my seven-year-old son wore a swim shirt with a lavish scene from My Little Pony on the front. He loves this shirt. He gasped–really gasped with pleasure–when it arrived in the mail.

By the way, my son does not think of himself as a Bronie. He loathes stereotypes (the most dismissive thing he can say about something is that it’s “stereotypical”), so he’d never want to be part of a group like that, which, although it stands in opposition to a certain stereotype, has by now become a stereotype itself.

Anyway. This was a farm camp, run by–and appealing to–organic, progressive people. Nevertheless, as soon as my son put on the shirt, another boy ran over and pointed at it and laughed and called other kids to come over and laugh at it too.

I don’t have anything rueful or wise to say about this. My daughter defended her brother, and life went on. What I want, really, is for my son to be not “my son,” not a Bronie, not a stereotype, but just the person he is, liking what he likes, taking pleasure in the sight of ponies being ponies.

The pretender

Well! Here’s something so sad, I don’t have words for it.

It’s written by Laurie Penny, who is so smart, I would like her to have all the words. The piece describes Penny attending an off-site gathering during the RNC, overseen by a human-shaped ego named Milo. It is Milo’s business to pretend at being hateful, abusive, and amoral. One of Penny’s many sad, smart takeaways:

“I run into a British writer from the Spectator, who is as bewildered as I am by the way Americans take Milo and his ilk seriously, by their willingness to take pride in performative bigotry and call it strength. It works. It sells. It’s the unholy marriage of that soulless debate culture that works so well in Britain, transplanted to a nation with no social safety net and half a billion guns. It works, in part, because of the essentially cult-like nature of US culture and the structured ignorance that accompanies it. America is a nation eaten by its own myth. The entire idea of America is about believing impossible things. Nobody said those things had to be benign.”

Context is everything (a cappella version)

I think you need to watch this.

My daughter loved the original version of this song. The lyrics always felt hollow to me. You’re losing friends–why? You’re in too deep–in what way, exactly?

But now here’s an a cappella version of the song, recorded in service to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. And suddenly the song gains meaning and gravity. And now, in this context, it makes me cry.

I hate a cappella, by the way.

This version makes me cry because our culture is not post-gender, and women still have to fight twice as hard to get half the respect and dignity that men are granted by lot, and it is a big deal, it matters in ways that are both superficial and profound, that Hillary Clinton will accept the Democratic nomination tonight. And regardless of how you feel about her past or her positions, she has done work that few men have done, she has fought battles that few men would have the stomach to fight, she has made choices that most men have never been asked to make, and here she is. Here she is.

And so she deserves at least–at least–respect, and dignity, and a song that now takes on world-historical significance because it can be sung about her.

Haikus are for Trump supporters

Do you think that Rob Bywater knows that every Monday there is a professional football column produced by Peter King (a tireless Trump advocate) and Sports Illustrated? And at the end of that weekly 10,000-word column about professional football there is a weekly haiku? Maybe if Rob knew these things, he’d start writing sonnets.

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