Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is on, and has me wondering if anyone has ever done this concept but with people of a different class and/or race — and if so, did they do it essentially as-is, which would make a statement satirically, or did they have it play out very differently, which would make a statement (maybe technically the same one?) tragically.

Megan Garber is thinking about how we think and write about the alternatives.

To be alive in America right now is to be acutely aware of the paths not taken—to live, essentially, […] in the paradigm of the alternate history. Our news is doubly haunted: by the horror of real loss, and by the shadow of what might have been.

[…]

[…] The alternate history is doing the work it always has: helping people grapple with history’s cold contingencies. But it is doing something else, as well: providing a space to mourn the futures that never came.

Yi-Fu Tuan:

Space and spaciousness are closely related terms, as are population density and crowding; but ample space is not always experienced as spaciousness, and high density does not necessarily mean crowding. Spaciousness and crowding are antithetical feelings. The point at which one feeling turns into another depends on conditions that are hard to generalize. […]

[…]

Spaciousness is closely associated with the sense of being free. Freedom implies space; it means having the power and enough room in which to act. Being free has several levels of meaning. Fundamental is the ability to transcend the present condition, and this transcendence is most simply manifest as the elementary power to move. In the act of moving, space and its attributes are directly experienced.

Bo and Luke are wrong: the car is not “innocent”. It’s literally named the General Lee, literally has the Confederate battle flag on its roof, and literally plays “Dixie” for its horn. For many years, there’s been a guy in East Portland who drives a replica — complete with flag and horn. It’s a giant, rolling hate crime. When I was still out in Lents, whenever he’d pass by and hit the horn, I’d sing back, to the tune: “Here I am again driving in my racist car!”

“Seeing all that white marble,” writes Ian Forrester, “does have an effect on the way we see the past.” I’ve come across this surprising tidbit about ancient sculpture before, but now it occurs to me to wonder to what degree the mistaken sense of plain white marble informed and impacted the thinking of later sculptors when creating their work.

My beloved Oregon Zoo reopens tomorrow for three members-only days followed by resuming public access, and I am conflicted. For the past four months, I’ve not left my neighborhood. Even were I to calculate that public transit with its mask requirements, social distancing, and reduced capacity plus the zoo with its mask requirements, social distancing, and reduced capacity were not really a risk, I’d still have to contend with the question of whether or not my autisticness is capable of handling the hour-long commute (or more, given the reduced capacity) to the zoo, the restricted movement of a single-direction route through the zoo, and the hour-long (or more) commute back to home. I’ve reserved a slot for Thursday afternoon, in the event I feel like it’s worth the expense in psychic resources. What I really need is for the zoo to show us what Wednesday looks like, so I have some advance sense of expectations; then maybe I’d have enough data to weigh.

Pairing together two pieces on how two different groups of people are holding up under their respective strains right now: Crystal Milner for STAT photographed “family, friends, and others in my community of Southern California and spoke with them about how being Black in the U.S. affects them, especially right now”; Ed Yong for The Atlantic interviewed “public-health experts who have been preparing for and battling the pandemic since the start of the year” but are “very tired, and dispirited by America’s continued inability to control a virus that many other nations have brought to heel”.

That so many people were willing to embarrass themselves by signing their names to a letter which credits the conservative conspiracy theory of a war on expression being waged by the left alas is unsurprising. John Stoehr’s latest isn’t a direct response to this letter but it might as well be.

Free speech is not in crisis. Not in the way that “First Amendment warriors” mean. What they mean is that some people, usually “conservative intellectuals,” are being “silenced” by “mobs” of “angry radicals” intolerant of “liberal values.” To be sure, some conservatives are “disinvited” from campus speaking engagements. Some have even seen “angry radicals” throw stuff at their cars. But they are not silenced. First of all, they complain non-stop about their poor treatment, and powerful people take their complaints very seriously. Second, these people have enormous followings on social media, lucrative book contracts or cushy gigs at Washington think tanks. Saying they’ve been “silenced” would be laughable if it were not also conventional wisdom.

There is, however, a real crisis of free speech. It’s the same crisis all out-groups have faced in the history of our country. College students, very often students of color, use their free speech to express views contrary to the interests of those with the power to establish the terms of debate. Put another way, young people of color are establishing new terms, and those invested in the old terms are reluctant to change. That’s fine. That’s what the marketplace of ideas is about. But partisans aren’t paid to let the marketplace work things out. They’re paid to accuse college students of suppressing speech, thus creating conditions in which student speech is effectively suppressed.

“A Letter on Justice and Open Debate” noises about a “need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences” — it never uses the term “cancel culture” but you know that’s what they’re on about — but as Stoehr notes that’s the very point: the people punching down at the marginalized are not now, nor ever have been, engaged in “good-faith disagreements”.

That’s just the one of the many phrases they wield as if an abracadabra summoning for them a total freedom from consequences. There are many names on there I’m unsurprised at (Brooks, Frum, Pinker, Rowling, Singal, Weiss), but at least one (Nell Irvin Painter? really?) that saddens me.

The sad thing here is that so many people somehow really felt that signing onto this letter was a pressing need, when all it really does is steady the hand of the powerful when they claim they are the oppressed. At least we know whose side they are on.

As a footnote of sorts: that’s around 400 words on the topic, when this tweet not by me is so much better: “Real Time with Bill Maher panelists are a step closer to unionizing.”

If the abolition of policing has been giving you trouble, try this Derecka Purnell piece for The Atlantic in which she explains going from growing up in a Black neighborhood that “called 911 for almost everything except snitching” to thinking of abolition as “white and utopic” to becoming an avowed abolitionist.

Police couldn’t do what we really needed. They could not heal relationships or provide jobs. We were afraid every time we called. When the cops arrived, I was silenced, threatened with detention, or removed from my home. Fifteen years later, my old neighborhood still lacks quality food, employment, schools, health care, and air—all of which increases the risk of violence and the reliance on police. Yet I feared letting go; I thought we needed them.

Until the Ferguson, Missouri, cop Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown. Brown had a funeral. Wilson had a wedding. Most police officers just continue to live their lives after filling the streets with blood and bone.

I’ve finished Hanna season two; better than season one, but still not as good as the movie. Now I’m faced with dozens of shows I’ve not yet started, and around half a dozen shows whose latest seasons have been waiting for weeks or months — none of which are calling out to me. Normally this is where a really good full series rewatch would come in handy, but I’m all out of those.

Wanted soup. Didn’t have any. But had vegetable bouillon, brown rice, and a frozen food hash of turkey sausage, sweet potato, red pepper, and onion. So, I did have soup.

Your double whammy for the day: Eric Boehlert on how the press inexplicably continues its whitewashing of Trump’s speeches pairs nicely with John Stoehr on how critics of so-called “cancel culture” are koshering Trump for white people who don’t want to appear racist.

Boehlert:

There comes a point — and we’re way past it — when reporters covering Trump should be honest with what they’re witnessing. It shouldn’t be left to “opinion” writers to note that Trump speeches aren’t merely “divisive” as the New York Times reported on Friday. The speech was undemocratic as Trump demonized civil protesters, and dangerous as he portrayed them as lurking enemies of the state.

This kind of chronic whitewashing has come to define political journalism in the Trump era. As he becomes increasingly desperate while his polling numbers fall, Trump’s loud cries for armed confrontation may become more acute, and it’s the job of journalists to describe exactly what’s happening, and not hide behind polite euphemisms.

Stoehr:

I’m not going to say much about “cancel culture” except that it’s almost entirely make-believe. Critics do not generally take into account actual arguments made by social reformers but instead fabricate arguments in order to undercut them. The point that I want to make is that Stephens and other dishonest intellectuals comprising maybe half the pundit corps are in effect, to borrow from the late Philip Roth, koshering Trump. In the novelist’s The Plot Against America, Charles Lindbergh, renown for antisemitism as much as aviation, defeats Franklin Roosevelt in 1940 with the help of a rabbi who “koshers” him—that is, makes clear to non-Jews who do not want to vote for an antisemite that Lindbergh’s antisemitism is fine. It’s OK to vote for him. (Many thanks to Seth Cotlar for bringing this aspect of Roth’s novel to my attention.)