It Takes a Village 

Klara is wearing a jacket my colleague Toby gave us, a hat my friend Caroline gave her, a dress from her niece Klubnikis, a onesie bought with a Target gift card from our former office manager Carolyn, pants my friend Graciela gave her, and socks that I got for her. 

Voters Just Want to Have Fun

I thought at the time that it was a mistake for Clinton to bring up Alicia Machado but I should have known that she never makes a comment unless it has been tested on a bizillion focus groups. It has become clear that the comment is all that anybody retained from the debate. I wish, of course, that people were as passionate about the subject of the minimum wage as they are about Machado’s weight issues but that’s the kind of voters we get.

On the positive side, once again Hillary has managed to get Trump to star a vendetta against an individual, send out weird tweets and make an impression of being very unstable. 

I keep misjudging these things because I always forget that in a rich society, the weight issues of a beauty queen are always going to attract more attention than education, healthcare, parental leave, etc. People just want to be entertained, and comparing photos of Machado to see how much weight she gained (which every TV channel has been doing for 4 endless days) is apparently fun.

Buttery Butter

A colleague protests the honoring of Shimon Peres because he was “the prime instigator of Israel’s Judaization of the Galilee.” I wonder sometimes if people even hear themselves.

“Judaization of the Galilee”, “Ukrainization of Kiev”, “Americanization of New York.” And butter is very buttery.

Shimon Peres

I was wondering why the flags were flying at half mast, and it turns out it’s because Shimon Peres died. This is causing a massive debate among my colleagues. I, too, find it kind of bizarre that this fellow would be honored in such a big way. But then again, the flags were lowered for Nancy Reagan, so it’s not like it often makes ton of sense. 

Racists

I got no sleep tonight, so I’m remembering all these stories from my past. Back in Canada, I met these two students from the US, twins. They were from a well-to-do East Coast family. Passionate Bill-Clintonites. (This was in 1999.) 

These women were the biggest racists I have ever met in my life. It’s like they couldn’t open their mouths without letting out some racist barbarity. They trashed African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans. They even had shit to say about Australian Aborigines. It was insane.

I obviously wasn’t friends with them but we were in the same classes. Once they overheard me telling my friend, “So I went to lunch with John and he told me. . .”

“You are speaking to John!” one of the sisters exclaimed. “Eww!”

“What?” I said. “What’s wrong with John?”

“He’s from Georgia,” the other twin explained. “You are not from the US, so you probably don’t know. Those people are all racists!”

The most hilarious part about this whole thing was that during the lunch in question “the racist Georgian” John told me that he’d just gotten engaged to his black girlfriend. 

My Correspondent 

Back in Ukraine, I loved writing snail mail letters. I had a bunch of fascinating correspondents all over the world, and we exchanged long hand-written letters. 

My favorite correspondent was a Native American history professor in his sixties who lived in the Deep South. He was disabled and no longer teaching. And fascinated with post-Soviet countries. 

I was very ignorant about American history, and the questions I asked of my correspondent were often very naive. Since he was from the South, I asked him what the official narrative was on the Civil War. Please remember where I was from if you wonder why I believed there needed to be an official party line on everything. 

“One would assume that the general feeling would be that the slave-owning South was bad and the North was good,” I wrote. “But I recently saw Gone With the Wind, and it’s very sympathetic to the South. And I know it’s a massively popular movie in the US. How is this possible?” 

The Native American history professor actually deeply identified with the Confederacy. And he told me about the whole “The South will rise again” thing, about the resentments of the Southerners that are still very much alive, about the Southern vision of the Civil War and its economic legacy. 

When I moved to Canada, I was really looking to meet with my correspondent in person. But when I called him, his son told me that his father had passed away a week earlier. So we never got to meet in person. 

Out of the Closet

I’m a closeted fan of Rod Dreher’s blog. 

The fellow and I couldn’t be further apart ideologically. He hates women, he is creepily obsessed with gay people, he keeps saying silly, uninformed things about the evil Russian Orthodox Church, he constantly does the deeply annoying “Trump is not that bad” thing. I could keep listing the areas of my disagreement with him forever. 

But I love the blog. It’s currently my favorite non-academic blog.

First of all, I like the blog because Dreher writes very well. His writing is passionate, and I dig that. 

Second, he is a seeker, and that’s my favorite kind of person. I love it when people keep looking for answers, reading, thinking, coming up with something new. Dreher is the only blogger other than me who reads Bauman and talks about liquid modernity. He reads a ton of other stuff. I can’t stand people who have already found an answer to everything and repeat the same ancient pseudo-insight for years. I actually unfollow bloggers who repeat the same idea without any variation for over half a dozen times. 

Another thing that I like about this blog is precisely that it’s so different from anything I know. It’s a different world with the kind of people I never meet. And thanks to Dreher’s blog, I now understand the anxieties of the religious people a lot better. I now know that they are not crazy, and many of their concerns are real and worthy of respect. (Obviously, I don’t mean the obsession with gay people.)

So the reason I’m sharing all this is a funny encounter I just had. A fellow academic who is super-duper ultra-liberal said, “There is this blogger called Rod Dreher, and he’s just the worst!” Then, the academic went on to quote one of Dreher’s posts after another, demonstrating a stunning familiarity with the blog. 

“I see you read him a lot,” I remarked. 

“I know,” my colleague said, looking puzzled. “I can’t explain it. I disagree with almost everything but this is my favorite blog. No offense.”