They are today’s indisputable shrine to our cuddly overlord, the cat. Meow! You embed them in your text messages, your tweets, your Facebook posts, your Instagram stories. A shorthand for our daily feels, they’re also unifying symbols and rallying cries for a common cause. We’re talking about internet memes. They’re everywhere, on- and offline. And they’re shaping and reflecting our pop culture and politics in real time.
By Linda McQuaig and Neil Brooks | After years of basking in the glow of a flattering limelight, by the fall of 2011 the very rich were experiencing something new and altogether jarring: the glare of a harsh spotlight trained directly on them. The temptation to bark orders like: “Dim that light, or else!” was natural enough, but perhaps unwise. After all, those shining the spotlight were not their employees and were swarming in large numbers through the streets of lower Manhattan, behaving like the sort of unruly mob one finds in faraway places where the ways of the free world are insufficiently appreciated.
By Mary Frances Berry | What Greg Malveaux told me about electoral fraud in Louisiana was disturbing. He explained how campaign operatives paid the poor small amounts of money for their votes while making policy contrary to their needs. He talked about the family fiefdoms that perpetuated their power illegally. He described how election officials cavalierly accepted payments to let buyers view the ballots to make sure the bought stayed bought. He related how poor voters didn’t mind saying they got paid small amounts of money and treats for their votes, perhaps a pork chop sandwich and a cold drink.
This year’s Human Rights Day marks the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the perfect day to reflect on the US’s treatment of the immigrant community. And let me tell you: It’s going to be a stark reckoning. Just look at some of this year’s headlines. Many migrant families are still separated. Border patrol agents fired tear gas at migrant families at the US-Mexico border to disperse them. This is inhumane treatment. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims the “inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being—regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” That’s not what we’re seeing. Where are the inalienable rights for this community?
By Mary Frances Berry | Protest movements began to shift tactics in the late 1980s. Unlike earlier movements, which had identifiable leaders who demanded specific policy changes, political protests increasingly relied on creative expression to influence the public and public policy. Using storytelling, graffiti, alternative music, street theater, puppetry, and new media technologies, protests sought to change popular culture and mobilize support for progressive change. The medium became the message, as Marshall McLuhan had recommended decades earlier. Now there was rap music, zap actions by the Guerrilla Girls, and Critical Mass, which brings hundreds of people together for bicycle riding in the streets, and which San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown was finally forced to accept. Disruption remained the aim of these gatherings; however, it would be misleading to draw sharp distinctions between protest styles of the 1960s and 1990s.
By Philip Warburg | Faced with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report, some environmental leaders are all too ready to toss a lifeline to aging, uneconomic nuclear power plants. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), long venerated as America’s most rigorous nuclear watchdog group, joined this chorus in early November.
By Mirta Ojito | On November 8, 2008, having had a few beers and an early dinner, Marcelo Lucero, an undocumented Ecuadorian immigrant, took a late-night stroll with his childhood friend Angel Loja near the train tracks in Patchogue, a seaside village of twelve thousand people in Suffolk County, New York, a county that only three years earlier had been touted by Forbes magazine as one of the safest and wealthiest in the United States. It is also one of the most segregated counties.
By Alexandra Minna Stern | It’s been widely reported that Robert Bowers, the man who gunned down eleven congregants at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018, was active on the platform Gab. Although it went offline after the massacre, Gab has consolidated itself as the Wild West alternative to Twitter, where anything goes. Its message boards are awash in a constraint stream of obscene, demeaning, and dehumanizing memes and messages about Jews, women, people of color, and LGBTQ people.
By Mary Collins | I have a transgender son, Donald Collins. Let’s start by erasing the D and make that onald Collins just to show how distorted this sentence becomes with that one edit, with that one irrational erasure. Let us now move on and erase onald and only use Collins, because the Trump Administration wants to define gender solely on the basis of genitalia at birth.
By Jonathan Rosenblum | “Power concedes nothing without a demand,” abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass declared 161 years ago. Last week saw that truth on broad display as Amazon, facing growing political and organizing pressure, announced it was setting a minimum wage of $15/hour for its US workforce and also raising wages in England.
By Howard Bryant | Look at the ugly faces, twisted but not betrayed. The betrayed face contains a hint of hurt, that layer of justified anger that makes you stop and feel a little compassion. This is not that. These are the faces of rage. They don’t get it. Well, that part isn’t exactly true. They get some of it. They get half of it, their half, the half that convinces them they’ve always been the good guys, and when you’re the good guys, then there is no other half. When they look down from their seats at the football field, they get the enormous American flag unfurled across the field bigger than Rhode Island. They get the color guard, faces stoic, grimly professional, the immaculate Navy uniforms, with the porcelain-white gloves holding the massive flag. And the soldiers? They always get the soldiers.
Students across the country are returning to the classroom, and our concerns for them run deep. The Trump administration’s rampant anti-immigrant sentiment has fueled policies that separate migrant families. And it is affecting the lives of immigrant children who are going to school. What can educators do to fight against it, to become co-conspirators of resistance during our troubling times? This back-to-school season, we reached out to some of our authors to find out and share their responses with you here.
By Philip Warburg | Amidst all the reportage on swing states and swing districts crucial to the 2018 Congressional elections, I recently decided to buck the trend. I ventured instead to a remote community in north-central Kansas where Democrats seldom run for political office and rarely win if they do. In visiting Cloud County, I was hoping to find a few strands of hope that might span the chasm between red and blue America.
By Marcus Eriksen | On the table were familiar objects from Kamilo Beach, Hawaii: degraded toys, bottles and caps, glow sticks, small net ﬂ oats, and pieces of crates with Chinese characters on them, arranged in glass cases like museum artifacts. “Do you know this place?” Sophie asked.
A Q&A with Alan Michael Collinge | First: Let's look at the facts. TruTV rose to cable prominence airing shows including: America’s Dumbest. This is a series which features videos of people doing very stupid things. This has expanded to include World’s Dumbest and also Dumbest Criminals. These shows all ridicule, humiliate, and degrade their subjects.
By Steve Early | Since the election of Donald Trump and inauguration day protests against him across the country in January, 2017, some women involved in that nationwide movement have decided to run for office themselves. At the local, state, and federal level, first-time female candidates are challenging both conservative Republicans and corporate-backed Democrats. One of the most widely-noted examples of this electoral wave was last month’s New York City primary contest between a long-time Congressional incumbent and twenty-eight-year old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
A Q&A with Margaret Regan | On a blazing 99-degree day, I visited the US Port of Entry at Nogales, the border town sixty miles south of my Tucson home. On the Mexican side, I saw something I’d never before seen on the border: a refugee camp. I counted forty-eight people living outdoors on a tile floor, mercifully protected from the sun by an overhanging roof. Half of these asylum seekers were mothers or fathers, the other half were kids: babies, young children, teenagers.
By William Ayers | The US Supreme Court ruled earlier this week in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and found in favor of Mark Janus, a child support specialist with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, who chose not to join the union, but was required under Illinois law to pay what are called “fair share” fees to AFSCME as the collective bargaining agent for all state workers. Janus argued that even though he was covered by the collective bargaining agreement, it was a violation of his First Amendment rights to force him to support the union. AFSCME con-tended that requiring workers who choose not to join the union to pay a smaller portion, or a “fair share,” is reasonable since they, along with their dues-paying colleagues, benefit concretely from collective bargaining. Without agency fees, those who don’t pay anything at all are essentially “free riders”—or “takers” to borrow a term-of-art from the conservative playbook—benefiting from the work of others, but neither participating nor contributing.
By Karl Giberson | The emergence of “Trump Evangelicals” is baffling and confusing. The latest puzzle in what has become a political sideshow is Jeff Sessions’ ill-considered appeal to St. Paul—the primary source for Christian theology—in a futile attempt to mute the national outcry about the Trump administration’s decision to abuse immigrant children as a strategy to discourage immigrants from seeking to enter the United States illegally.
A Q&A with Mary Frances Berry and Adam Eichen | The Court Republican majority simply joined the effort to remove people who would likely vote for Democrats from the rolls. However, even if registered voters don’t vote, there is no compelling reason to remove them from the rolls.