Dear Senator Franken,
In December 2015 you wrote me a very kind note of congratulations on my NEA Fellowship in Literature. I have benefited immensely from this fellowship; not only, of course, in terms of the material support that the money has offered (I don’t have stable income, and this has allowed me to have savings I never did before), but in terms of the connections and opportunities brought simply by having my name connected to the NEA. It has been, and I suspect will continue to be, invaluable to the professional side of my writing life—making the quiet, often difficult part of actually writing books much more bearable. Thank you for your note; I hope I can count on you to push this administration to preserve the NEA and NEH. As I’m sure you know, arts and humanities are what make our lives meaningful and what help us find ways of making meaning. It would be an immense shame if these programs were defunded.
Thank you again, and best wishes,
2015 NEA Fellow, Literature (Prose)
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 18, 2017
The likely Education Secretary could not confirm that she would require all states to support children with disabilities in the classroom. (Article on the confirmation hearing here.) In case you didn’t know, that is federal law. Everything starts small. History gives us a magnifying glass so we can easily find the important things, but they all begin like this: a woman refusing to confirm that, in a position of power, she would require equal provision for vulnerable students. First you see the evaporation of equal provision; then you see the question emerge of whether ‘those children’ are really fit for school; then you start to hear that perhaps ‘those children’ aren’t ‘normal’ and should be sent away. I am not exaggerating (content warning on that link: euthanasia and Holocaust).
Trump regime making moves on multiple fronts, but among most aggressive are environmental. Resource denial to make survival sole focus.
— Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) January 24, 2017
This is why joy matters, and why joy, in Rebecca Solnit’s words, can be a “fine initial form of insurrection”. Scarcity—enforced scarcity—pits us against one another. Historically, that’s what states like this one have relied on. That we will be reduced, in our need and fear, to our most base actions. Joy is always surplus. It has no use. It will not feed us or keep us out of the rain; it will not keep us alive. But it is a way of refusing and of making absurd the demand and the supposition that, when resources are taken from us, most of us will react with miserliness, suspicion. Joy is not health insurance. It is not a paid grocery bill or rent. But it is a surprising and uncontrollable mode of refusal.
I don’t have any platitudes about how handwork has made the past weeks feel less horrifying. It hasn’t, except in the ways that sleep after a death makes you forget the death a little while. And yet the plans some friends and I made to have a market of handmade goods here in Minneapolis had already been set, and so I have been making things by hand (and others have as well), and we will gather on December 10 from 2-6 pm in Peace Coffee on Minnehaha. And if you’d like to come and have a coffee, say hello, find a gift for someone (or just look around), please do. Everyone is welcome. I’ll be there with a few MIEL books, a lot of stationery, and some other small objects. My mom will have some stockings. And there are a bunch of other great vendors. Click here for all the information. It will be warm, there will be lights, we will be glad to see you.