Monday, July 3, 2017

My Brand of Patriotism

Tomorrow, July 4th, is the 241st anniversary of the founding of America as a sovereign nation.  It's a time for barbecues, fireworks, parades, and other happy gatherings.  Last year, my partner and I had some friends and family over for the afternoon, ate a lot of food, played lawn games, enjoyed a campfire, and overall had a lovely time.  Our neighbors, always happy to play with mild explosives, set off so many fireworks that the sky was quite literally aglow.  There was such a sense of happiness and contentment...

Cut to this year.  The mood is very different, for all the reasons.  There will still be barbecues, parades, and my neighbors will still light up the sky.  But my sense of America and what it represents has changed. For me, and the people closest to me, it feels as though there is little reason to be celebratory; there is less of which to be proud.  The face of this country is so altered, and I wonder what those revolutionary patriots would think of the current assaults to democracy and their founding principles.

It's with this thought in mind, and the fact that I'm a naturally bookish person, that I decided to think about this July 4th holiday in terms of the kind of patriotism that is so necessary right now.  That is, fighting for the principles that, when adopted, can make America great in the future - social justice, equal rights, education, tolerance, empathy, love.  With this in mind, here are a few books that I've been reading, and would recommend for those of you who, like me, crave progressive patriotism in these dark times.

Activism and Advocacy

What We Do Now: Standing Up for Your Values in Trump's America edited by Dennis Johnson and Valeria Merians
A collection of essays from prominent activists, politicians, religious leaders, and others who give readers concrete actions to take in order to resist the current political leadership.

Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals by Jonathan Matthew Smucker
A true handbook that gives actionable steps for those looking to build social movements

Resistance, Rebellion, Life: 50 Poems Now edited by Amit Majmudar
A diverse collection of poems that challenge our current political leadership, repressive perspectives, and the modern cultural climate.

March Trilogy by Rep. John Lewis
A 3-part graphic memoir of one of the most well-respected civil rights activists in American history, who serves the country as a member of the US House of Representatives.

Seeing Power: Art and Activism in the Twenty-First Century by Nato Thompson
A cultural critic analyzes how art can be used to subvert and promote societal values and political opinions.  

Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa
A fictional, yet well-researched, account of the WTO protests that took place in Seattle, WA in 1999.  It humanizes and gives agency to the many actors in the events - protestors, police, politicians, and bystanders.

Awareness and Consciousness-Raising

Guantanamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi
The first-person account of the author's time spent in detainment, and the extreme torture (called "enhanced interrogation") he endured at the hands of the US government in Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility and other sites.  He was a prisoner for 16 years, but never charged with a crime.

Look: Poems by Solmaz Sharif
A poetry collection that looks at the costs of war and humanity, as well as the manipulation and abuse of language to serve those ends

Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times edited by Carolina de Robertis
A collection of essays from over 30 authors, writing about how American society has changed since the 45th President took office, and why we cannot give up hope 

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
 A memoir that explores two specific topics - Ward's experience growing up in Mississippi, and the deaths of 5 men in her life in a 5-year period - in order to make a larger commentary on what life is like for the communities of poor and Black people in the American South. 

Political Rhetoric and Power

The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit
A powerful collection of essays, deeply criticizing the conservative agenda and its effects on society

The Ministry of Nostalgia by Owen Hatherley
A criticism of employing "the good old days" as a rhetorical device, which almost always serves only a particular group at the expense of everyone else

The Anatomy of Inequality by Per Molander
A popular culture-minded investigation into different economic/social/political factors and religious/secular justifications for or against (in)equality in modern times

Intersectional Feminism, Immigration, Racism, and More

Tell Me How It Ends by Valeria Luiselli
This brilliant little book is a searing exploration of immigration, not only from the author's own experiences but also from those of the children she met during her time as a translator in the New York Immigration Court.

Women, Race & Class by Angela Y. Davis
This book is a strong argument for intersectionality, in a time when that word did not yet exist.  In order to make measurable, impactful progress in our society, the concepts of feminism, racism, and class struggles need to be examined in combination rather than as separate issues.

Race-ing Justice, En-Gendering Power edited by Toni Morrison
A collection of essays focusing on racism, sexism, the heterosexual agenda, and other prominent social topics in the context of popular cultural events and moments in modern, American history

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
A collection of poetry that directly addresses police brutality, microaggressions, and other regularly experienced hardships in the lives of minority and oppressed groups in American society

Librorum annis,