“If your family doesn’t want your stuff when you’re alive, they sure won’t want it when you’re dead.That’s the blunt assessment of yet another self-help author from abroad who is trying to get Americans, who have an addiction to collecting and storage units, to clean up their acts.The latest volley in the decluttering business comes from Stockholm, where 80-ish artist Margareta Magnusson has just published a slim yet sage volume, “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning.” The book will be published in the United States in January.”
“The reason that students at Yale and places like it can “afford” to major in history is that they have the luxury of seeing college as a chance to learn about the world beyond the confines of their home towns, and to try to understand where they might fit in. That’s what history does best. It locates us and helps us understand how we got here and why things are the way they are. “History instills a sense of citizenship, and reminds you of questions to ask, especially about evidence,” Willis told me. In a follow-up e-mail after our conversation, Mikhail wrote, “A study of the past shows us that the only way to understand the present is to embrace the messiness of politics, culture, and economics. There are never easy answers to pressing questions about the world and public life.” Bruce Springsteen famously developed a profound political consciousness after happening upon Allan Nevins and Henry Steele Commager’s “A Pocket History of the United States,” first published in 1942. In his recent Broadway show, Springsteen explained, “I wanted to know the whole American story. . . . I felt like I needed to understand as much of it as I could in order to understand myself.”
A group of “contrabands,” between 1861-1865. A stereograph showing a group of seven African American men, former slaves, dressed in old Union uniforms standing in front of a wagon and shack. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)By Gillian Brockell September 11, 2014On a rainy night in early 1865, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton arrived in Savannah, Ga. — which the Union had captured weeks earlier — with a question: What should become of newly free black people? It was a question that many in power had been asking for some time. What was different this time was to whom the question was posed: the newly free black people themselves.It was a visit born of a massacre about a month before, and it launched a debate that continues to this day.The issue of where these people should go had dogged Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, too, as he marched through Georgia in the fall of 1864. Sherman had expected to pick up able-bodied black men to assist his troops (but not to join them; Sherman would not allow that). An unintended consequence of his scorched-earth policy was that all manner of freed slaves — including women, children and the elderly — abandoned the plantations and fell in behind him.More than 10,000 black refugees followed Sherman’s March to the Sea. That many mouths to feed would have proved challenging for a well-stocked force, but for an army that survived by foraging, it was nearly impossible. James Connolly, a 21-year-old major in the Illinois Volunteer Infantry (and future congressman), wrote that the refugee camps were so numerous that they often ringed the camps of the corps. The “contrabands,” as they were called, regularly wandered into Union camps to beg for food. And as Sherman’s force approached the sandy and less fertile Georgia coast, it became even more difficult to accommodate them.There was one corps, however, the refugees seemed to avoid: the 14th Corps, led by a brigadier general with a most unlikely name: Jefferson Davis. Davis — derisively called “General Reb” not only for having the same name as the Confederate president but also for his hatred of black people — had become notorious two years earlier when he shot dead a superior officer, Maj. Gen. William “Bull” Nelson, during an argument at a hotel. He escaped punishment only because the military couldn’t afford to lose an experienced field commander.Davis blamed the 600 or so black refugees following his unit for slowing down his 14,000 men in the closing weeks of the march. But from other accounts, it seems that the problem was the relentless winter rain. “At one time an officer counted 24 wagons sunk to their beds in mud,” writes Jim Miles in “To the Sea: A History and Tour Guide of Sherman’s March.” “He witnessed several mules sink out of sight.”Speed was vital. Davis knew that Lt. Gen. Joseph Wheeler’s Confederate cavalry was hot on their heels.For several days in early December, Davis drove the 14th Corps nearly nonstop, resting for two or three hours a night. One soldier reported falling asleep in the middle of “a fearfully hard march” and found himself in lock step upon jerking awake. Little more than coffee sustained them.On the night of Dec. 8, the corps arrived at the western bank of Ebenezer Creek. The bridge had been destroyed, in anticipation of their arrival, and the frigid waters had swollen to 10 feet deep and 165 feet wide. Scouts from Wheeler’s cavalry harassed Union troops in the rear.A pontoon bridge was in place by midnight, and Davis ordered the corps to cross the creek in silence and under the cover of darkness. According to Miles, a single Confederate cannon could have destroyed the bridge and stopped the entire corps, then only 18 miles from Savannah.But in this tenuous artery, Davis saw an opportunity.“On the pretence that there was likely to be fighting in front, the negroes were told not to go upon the pontoon-bridge until all the troops and wagons were over: a guard was detailed to enforce the order,” recalled Col. Charles Kerr of the 16th Illinois Cavalry in a speech 20 years after the incident. “As soon as we were over the creek, orders were given to the engineers to take up the pontoons and not let a negro cross. . . . I sat upon my horse then and witnessed a scene the like of which I pray my eyes may never see again.”Just before sunrise, the refugees cried out as their escape route was pulled away from them. Moments later, Wheeler’s scouts rode up from behind and opened fire. Hundreds of refugees rushed forward into the icy current. Several Union soldiers on the eastern bank tried to help, pushing logs out to the few refugees still swimming.Some of the refugees were crushed under the weight of the stampede. Most slipped under the water and drowned. Those who remained onshore were either shot or captured and re-enslaved.And when Wheeler’s men began shooting across the creek, the Union soldiers helping the black people were ordered to rej
An Open Letter to Those Who Still Give a Damn
JULY 21, 2018 / JOHN PAVLOVITZ
It’s exhausting to give a damn isn’t it?
To be a person of compassion in a time when compassion is in such great demand?
To wake up every day in days like these, and push back against predatory politicians and toxic systems and human rights atrocities and acts of treason and spiritual leadership failures and Presidential Tweet tantrums—the volume and the relentlessness of the threats can be wearying.
You may have noticed.
I think you have.
And you’re not simply carrying around these big picture, larger systemic sicknesses and political realities—but the people behind them; the names and the faces and the lives of specific human beings who are under unprecedented duress right now; people whose stories you listen to and know and are living within, people you dearly love.
And day after day, all these massive realities and these individual stories begin to accumulate upon your shoulders and in your clenched jaw and in your elevated heart rate, and in the knot in your stomach that returns every morning when you check Twitter or turn on the news or step out into your community or walk into the kitchen—and you see so many reasons for grief, places so many places compassion is so needed and yet so scarce.
And worst of all, is how many people both at distance and very close to you, just don’t seem to give a damn; how the pain of other people simply doesn’t register in them anymore.
It seems like fewer and fewer people are capable of even an entry-level empathy for the suffering around them, and you’re seriously considering joining their ranks, because of how tired you are of carrying both your own and their share of compassion for a hurting humanity.
Not long after the election I purchased a blood pressure monitor. And not one of those manual base models, either. I went high-end, top of the line; full upper arm cuff, automated pressure, digital readout—the works. I soon stopped using it though, as it was a daily reminder of how stressed I was. I don’t look at it any longer. I don’t measure my blood pressure anymore. Now I just assume it’s dangerously high.
Those of us who give a damn all have new dangers assailing our hearts these days, and it is in this time of relentless urgency and sustained trauma and prolonged fatigue and profound fracture that you and I find ourselves.
I’m not sure why you’re reading this, but it’s probably because still you’re a damn-giver; because you are a fierce lover of humanity and of the planet, and of people who don’t look or worship or sound like you. As a result you probably find yourself pissed off, disconnected, isolated, worn out, and exhausted because how few people are as moved by the need around them as you are.
Whether you’re an activist or a minister or a parent or a caregiver, or just a citizen of the planet who is moved by other people’s suffering—you likely feel the immeasurable heaviness of these days. Sure, speed and activity can mask it for a while, but if you stop long enough, the reality of the fatigue catches up to you—you can measure the toll it’s all taken on you. I want you to measure it. I want you reckon with how tired you are. I want you to hear yourself exhale with the heavy sigh of someone who feels the weight of it all.
There is a cost to compassion, a personal price tag to cultivating empathy in days when cruelty is trending. There is in your body and head and in your midst, a collateral damage to you giving a damn when others do not, and it manifests itself in many ways: in irritability, impatience, physical illness, eating emotionally, addictive behavior, the inability to be present to the people who love you, an obsession with social media, a fixation on how jacked up everything is.
Notice these things in you today, and give them your attention.
Extend some of that compassion you’re so willing to extend to the world—to yourself.
Take some time to step away from the fray and the fight. It will still be there when you return, and you’ll be better able to face it.
Friend, I know you’re exhausted. If you’re not exhausted right now your empathy is busted. But I also know that you aren’t alone.
Millions of people are as tired as you are right now.
We too, live in disbelief at how callous so many people we know and love have become.
We too, are incredulous witnessing our elected leaders and parents and neighbors and pastors and parents and favorite aunts abandon any semblance of kindness.
We too, feel the fatigue of believing we’re doing this damn-giving alone.
You are in good company, so keep going.
Fight like hell to keep your heart soft, even while so many people have become hardened.
Yes the world is upside-down right now, but we can make it right—one beautiful act of decency at a time.
Get some rest and keep going.
The world needs people like you.
Blessed are the damn-givers, for they will right-side the world.
John Pavlovitz is a writer, pastor, and activist from Wake Forest, North Carolina. In the past four years his blog Stuff That Needs To Be Said has reached a diverse worldwide audience. A 20-year veteran in the trenches of local church ministry, John is committed to equality, diversity, and justice—both inside and outside faith communities. In 2017 he released his first book, A Bigger Table. His new book, Hope and Other Superpowers, arrives on November 6th.
JULY 6, 2018
It is estimated that between 5 and 8 percent of children and teens are addicted to this form of entertainment. In recent days, the World Health Organization (WHO) has categorized video game addiction as a mental health disorder, an opinion that is not shared by all experts on these games.
One of the conditions that make their use attractive for children is that they can be practiced with very few elements, unlike more traditional games. At the same time, they allow children to have an escape from the difficulties and demands of the real world.
[OUR COMMON GROUND Voice Matt Taibbi deconstructing the Madness]
There wasn’t one capable or inspiring person in the infamous “Clown Car” lineup. All 16 of the non-Trump entrants were dunces, religious zealots, wimps or tyrants, all equally out of touch with voters. Scott Walker was a lipless sadist who in centuries past would have worn a leather jerkin and thrown dogs off the castle walls for recreation. Marco Rubio was the young rake with debts. Jeb Bush was the last offering in a fast-diminishing hereditary line. Ted Cruz was the Zodiac Killer. And so on.The party spent 50 years preaching rich people bromides like “trickle-down economics” and “picking yourself up by your bootstraps” as solutions to the growing alienation and financial privation of the ordinary voter. In place of jobs, exported overseas by the millions by their financial backers, Republicans glibly offered the flag, Jesus and Willie Horton.
In recent years it all went stale. They started to run out of lines to sell the public. Things got so desperate that during the Tea Party phase, some GOP candidates began dabbling in the truth. They told voters that all Washington politicians, including their own leaders, had abandoned them and become whores for special interests. It was a slapstick routine: Throw us bums out!Republican voters ate it up and spent the whole of last primary season howling for blood as Trump shredded one party-approved hack after another. By the time the other 16 candidates finished their mass-suicide-squad routine, a tail-chasing, sewer-mouthed septuagenarian New Yorker was accepting the nomination of the Family Values Party.
Why the Alex Jones industrial complex must be dismantled
About a week ago I released a new video called “Fuck Alex Jones.” Since the track has been released I’ve been bombarded with hundreds if not thousands of angry comments from the Infowars crowd, calling me a “faget,” a sheep, and a “New World Order shill.”
I can’t lie it’s been really amusing, but it’s also a really sad statement on our culture. Why do I even care? Why would I go after Alex Jones? Because I meet too many good people who are looking for answers in this insane, confusing world and are being spoon-fed dog shit disguised as “truth” by people like him.
I went after Jones specifically because almost all of his propaganda plays into the hands of the extreme right wing in the United States. He dismisses feminism and gay rights as part of a New Word Order plot to reduce the population. He dismisses climate change as a hoax, and backs it up by giving weather reports on Mars. He attacks non-existent, nameless, faceless organizations like the Illuminati but ignores the evils being done by right-wing billionaires like the Koch Brothers.
His supporters are certified experts on the Bilderberg Group, but they seem to know nothing about the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group that literally writes laws for corporations and passes them into law. Who needs the Illuminati when you have people like that? What if we just do away with the word “Illuminati” and start talking about capitalism and the state?
You will never hear conspiracy theorists talk about class war; they are far more concerned with preserving their own status in this economic system. Like missionaries and populist demagogues of the past, they prey on the young and downtrodden, give them an all-encompassing worldview, call it “truth, and and label everyone who doesn’t believe it a “sheep” who needs to “wake up.”
I attack Infowars because it is not a revolutionary movement. It is chasing a mirage. It imagines the good ol’ days of ‘merica, when white slave-owners wrote a constitution for other property owners, before they pushed west, killed multitudes of Native Americans (historical estimates range between 30-100 million) and stole their land. Those are the glory days of 1776 that the right-wing conspiracy crowd holds up as an ideal that we need to return to.
Will someone please tell them that those days never left us? It’s not the Illuminati that are sending drones to kill children in Yemen or having the NSA spy on us; it’s the logical endgame to the “spirit of 1776.”
What just played out in Bundy Ranch is instructive in this light. According to the cult of Jones, we shouldn’t worry about homeless people in cities being pushed out of the common spaces; we should worry about a white rancher in Nevada having his “liberty” trampled by the federal government. Both lay concerns of how public space should be used, but the latter believes that rights of cows to encroach on protected habitats is more important than the right of a homeless people to cover their bodies when they sleep outside in the winter.
Many criticize Jones because he uses his Prison Planet ™ store to sell things like expensive water filters and male enhancement pills, but what he is really selling is fear. His show is a never-ending litany of new things to be afraid of: FEMA camps, cities stockpiling hundreds of thousands of body bags, a government that knows everything you’re gonna do before you do. Name your fear, and Alex is selling it!
Its been said that if Alex Jones didn’t exist, the FBI would have to create him; I think it goes the other way. If the police state didn’t exist, Alex Jones would have to create it. We have yet to be corralled into giant communist style re-education camps, but the fear of your name being on a list or of impending marshall law keeps many “infowarriors” locked indoors “spreading information” instead of engaging in their communities, improving lives, and fighting the powers that seek to destroy us.
Do conspiracies exist? Of course they do. History is the greatest conspiracy of all; it is a never-ending tale of power grabs, deceit, and mass killings. Banks conspire to steal homes. The U.S. government conspired to spy on its citizens, politicians conspire to retain power and riches, and Facebook conspires to sell ads. This is your beloved “free market” working its magic. This isn’t “crony capitalism;” it’s just plain capitalism in its late stages.
So why do we need the Illuminati? The Illuminati theory simplifies things of course, but offers no means of resistance. The Illuminati has no home address, no tax records to sort through, no lobbyist to call out. There are too many real enemies out there—Suncor, Exxon, BP, Halliburton—to make up a catch-all scapegoat.
Many of the responses to my video that are attacking me say I don’t provide any facts to back up my claims. How can I prove that 9/11 was probably carried out by terrorists? If I’m wrong does it change anything about the way I should engage with the power structures I wish to dismantle? And when you are dealing with zealots, for whom the answer is always “the New World Order,” do facts even matter?
Correction: This story has been updated to clarify the discrepancy over the number of Native Americans killed following European arrival.