December 29, 2016
Getting to know people who know what we do now: George Saunders, Gloria Steinem, Nato Thompson
by Melville House
As you might have heard, in time for Inauguration Day we’re putting out What We Do Now, a collection of short, powerful essays on what we can do now to cope with Trump’s election, and how, moving forward, we can protect our values, our politics, and our country. The book’s twenty-seven contributors are prominent progressives, writers, and activists.
For the rest of the year, we’ll be sharing info on a few of our contributors every day — just a way to help you get acquainted with who’s on that list, and to help all of us remember that now’s the time to be preparing ourselves for the difficult and vitally important struggle ahead.
George Saunders is the author of numerous books of fiction, including Pastoralia and Tenth of December.
Read David Bahr’s 2000 profile in Publishers Weekly, and George’s 2011 interview with Patrick Dacey in Bomb. Check out this 2013 appearance on PBS’s NewsHour:
“They swooped down upon us, so thin and quick on their feet, and soon we had all been taken prisoner. Except for the Sergeant. He just took off like a shot. We were like: Where does that emaciated old dude get all that energy? So that sucked. Especially because all they gave us to eat was like vegetables or fruits or whatever. There was this bean paste, and also some soup, I guess it was? Just all this weird-ass food. And they didn’t give you very much, either. Extremely small portions. And when I requested some Sno-Caps they gave me this blank look, like, Uh, sorry, we do not even know the name of Sno-Caps in this country.
“So much for the Geneva Conventions.”
What to look at:
If you haven’t yet read George’s phenomenal dispatch from last summer’s Trump rallies, “Who Are All These Trump Supporters?”, do that immediately.
Gloria Steinem is a political and social activist and organizer, and is widely recognized as one of the leaders of the second-wave feminist movement.
Where to begin with one of the most consequential activists of the twentieth century? Well, one possible starting place is “A Bunny’s Tale,” the two-part exposé on life as a Playboy bunny in the early sixties that made Gloria a household name.
“The truth is that for two and a half centuries, this country has excluded females of every race from its top leadership; also the 40% of males who are African American, Hispanic, Jewish, or otherwise seen as needing an adjective; also the 5% who identify as gay or lesbian; and also the 60% who can’t afford to purchase a college degree. There has been only one president who wasn’t married, and none who was openly atheist or agnostic. Add this up, and we’ve been selecting our top leadership from 10% of our talent at most. We may be giving birth to democracy, but there will be years of labor to come.”
What to look at:
Be sure you’re following her on Twitter! Read her recent interview with Joanna Walters in the Guardian (and our write-up of it). And check out her speech earlier this month at the gala of Equality Now:
Nato Thompson is an arts activist and the artistic director at Creative Time.
Read Georgia Kotretsos’s interview with Nato for the Art21 blog, and David Freedlander’s profile from the Observer a couple years back.
“Increasingly, the experience of an activated public space, a space full of political vitriol and community participation, is a rarity. We could point toward moments of political protest or rallies, but whatever happened to the spaces of regular activity? The place where folks are not forced into political positions but instead can participate in forms more convivial: BBQing, lounging, strolling, making out. We can point toward the growth of discussion on the internet as a sign of an emerging virtual public space, and certainly there is some validity to this. But these online moments nonetheless leave us feeling empty. They leave us with a hankering for tangible physical proximity. As the internet’s primacy as public space expands, we find a concomitant shrinkage of public geography. After protesters at the DNC and RNC were arrested preemptively as they considered using public space for protest, and as the privatization of cities across the country limits what can be done in terms of expression, we find the idealized ‘town square’ more theoretic than actual. This tendency to minimize the right to be political in physical space is very serious, and has deeply political implications.”
What to look at:
Follow him on Twitter! Read his book Seeing Power (and get psyched for his forthcoming Culture as Weapon). And then check out this public conversation he had with Waris Ahluwalia at Creative Time’s recent summit in DC: