Of course there is still beauty—the light this morning was like the light when it’s snowing, there were wrens in the borage plant outside my window, the sheep are funny and joyous companions, the color of the chickens against a frosty background is stirring, we listened to “Suzanne” sung in Irish—but I think a rush to refocus on the (nevertheless important) fact that the banal is to be cherished/there is beauty in dailiness is misguided. Terror and beauty coexist; always have, always will. And concepts like ‘home’ seem to me so easily turned against whatever a charismatic leader insists is a threat to ‘home’. US culture is Puritan in its roots: afraid of contagion. But beauty is not contaminated by acknowledging danger or articulating injustice or refusing to look away from horror. Its possibility, not as a pure quality without moral meaning but as an accompaniment to horror—sometimes bent in horror’s service, sometimes bent away—is preserved when we look squarely at horror and refuse to euphemize or ignore it, particularly in public places where we risk the most in doing so.
“The message to the crowd is a series of simple, basic, memorable words—nation, people, blood, family, comrade, friend, home, soil, bread, work, strength, hope, life, fight, victory, birth, death, honor, beauty.” The screenshot here is taken from this report in Life, May 2, 1938. Of course we should not cede beauty to demagogues. But it seems to me dangerous to focus on it without an accompanying critique of those who would press it into horror’s service. And they will. Stirring music, rousing speeches, pinnable images of aspirational products and lifestyles, evocations of belonging. It may not be the same as the daily beauty we experience (chickens, sheep, frost) but it uses the same word to identify itself: “To a people whose immediate past has been hard, muddled, and apparently irremediable, simple, emotional words have an immense, reverberating authority.” Bavaria was also beautiful. And home is evocative to most people. Beloveds, let us not stop observing and honoring what is beautiful in our lives. But let there also be a place for witnessing and testifying to horror; for difficult courage. I say it as much to myself.
White supremacist capitalist patriarchy in a setting where business and the State combine forces. That’s where we are. I will keep saying it.(Warning for content in the coming links: references to racism, homophobia, misogyny.) My teachers have included these writers and thinkers, if you’re looking for somewhere to start. Here is a dense but useful essay on the word ‘love’. This thread is very good. Read this and this and then this thread. Then read his. Don’t fall into easy confidence. It will not be ok after four years (and that’s what the German elite said, too: let them have their ridiculous candidate for four years). Whiteness is identity politics. And it is already happening. And it is on us to know what we are seeing and to push back against it. Because it will look like, it will feel like, resuming ordinary life and doing our jobs. But it will be much more.