In Our Bedroom, After the War

No petty act is unworthy of indulgence

“How’s that for justice? If I am reckless, it is because I am tired.” — Marlowe Granados, Happy Hour

“there is no more/ courteous thing to/ do for a friend than/ to allow them to be/ the false prophet/ of the room for ten/ mins; let me skin my/ fucking knees” — Talah Ezedien, “3:01am 2020-04-14

“but fear moves me less than love/ of petty theft./ If it’s petty/ to take what should already be free,/ is pettiness a small revolution?” — Kyle Carrero Lopez, “Petty

“i love locking my door like…you’re not coming in lmfao” — mercedesbenzodiazepine

Afternoon,

First things first: if you want to read my writing, you need to subscribe to my Patreon. I’ve been writing all year, and it’s all posted there. This is the only free content you’ll get from me until the ol’ hot take machine is fired up again, and even then, all the good shit will still live behind that Patreon paywall. I’m even questioning the ethics of keeping this newsletter around, all things considered. So if you like my work, if you want to read it, if you want anything more than these little diary-style musings, and if you think it would be cool to help me pay my bills, then please subscribe to my Patreon. You won’t regret it.

(OK! Now let’s go)

Lately, I’ve been thinking about home — in many meanings of the word. Taurus season has begun, along with gardening season; my adjourned hearing at the Landlord and Tenant Board is swiftly approaching; the province’s stay-at-home order is weighing heavily on my mind and body, and the threat of policing has kept my friends virtually trapped indoors; and of course, I am nearing my third tranniversary, another kind of homecoming.

I have just finished my first year of law school. It was strange and exhausting, but not in the way that you might expect. I can handle assignments, readings, whatever: this is my third post-secondary degree, and I’m not too proud to admit that school is one of the few things that I am simply, unqualifiedly good at. It’s not that I don’t need to put in effort, so much as that I know how much effort to give, and I can always somehow find it in myself to give it. An academic program, even a novel and unfamiliar one like a juris doctor, is still a sort of known entity. At this point, even when I’m in way over my head, I can mostly intuit what needs to be prioritized, what can be forgiven, and when it’s time to speak up or step back. So though the workload was heavy, what made this first year of law school so fucking difficult was really its weight on the rest of my life — namely, my bedroom.

Doing school on Zoom means relinquishing one’s right to privacy and comfort in one’s own home. It means that there is always an elephant in the room, sucking out the air, shuffling the space, making itself urgently felt. Every day, my bedroom becomes a classroom, an office, a library, or some other bullshit — a shared space, occupied by strangers, neither entirely safe for work nor for rest. Whatever little rituals I’d developed to keep myself awake and inspired over the cold winter months in years past were simply no match for this level of invasiveness. No intimate moment was left untouched. I felt constantly on display, never fully engaged and never full disconnected.

This feeling was, of course, exacerbated by being the only trans person in my section, and the only out transfeminine person in the entire year. And that was all made worse by the fact that I was (I am) a vocal anti-imperialist and communist, a radical (some might say polarizing) figure, even when you look past my tits. Law is a deeply conservative institution; it is both elitist and incremental. As a conceptual framework and a professional practice, as open-minded as it may imagine itself, it will always lean to the side of the state and capital. I am finding it increasingly impossible to stay motivated and interested in this kind of political culture, especially over time, as I have become more and more radical — or really, as I have become more radicalized, often by these very same kind of fricative encounters with the unfeeling opacity of Torontonian profit-driven liberalism.

So the workload didn’t drain me, so much as the sense of alienation. Finding common ground is harder work than it really should be. I am happy to do it when it comes to, say, talking about politics with family; love is a great driver of compromise, after all. But when it already feels like my space is being invaded, my capacity to make nice is basically threadbare. I want to just walk away, but I can’t. It’s a pandemic. I’m in my bedroom. Where else can I even go?

When doing something that is ultimately unpleasurable, for longer than you are ever prepared for, it is important to take your wins where you can. Celebrate acts of gossip, revenge, insolence, and refusal. Cheating, if one were hypothetically to ever do it, which of course I never would, might be a good example. Skipping class, smoking weed, jacking off. Whatever. No petty act is unworthy of indulgence. Even it means working extra hard another day, taking the day off is a necessary exercise in reminding your stupid, exhausted brain that it lives inside a body that is begging to be stretched.

Between the pandemic and school, I gave up on all but the most trivial and wasteful of my hobbies and outlets. This summer, I want to reclaim as many as I can — to fling my body recklessly across the city, day drinking, playing music, writing circles, picking weeds. I am determined to take space from school and law and its endless jagged impositions on my life and time. I am committed to make my home feel like mine again, to fill it with flowers and sweat and incense, to decline calls, to offer invitations, to indulge in the simple pleasure of saying No, to lock the door. It’s my house, and I live here.

Hope these months are filled with pleasure. After all, what else do we have?

Much love,

Alex

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Resolutions

Just because it's fake doesn't mean it won't work

“You had to hope for something in the first place in order to have those hopes dashed.” — Torrey Peters, Detransition, Baby

“Do nothing without intention.” — Solange Knowles, “Nothing Without Intention (Interlude)”

“There is a phallic column, a list of all the men watching at the time. Their sleazy login names. It is retracting. Shrinking. Very quickly. I am realizing what is fake and what is real.” — Nina Arsenault, The Silicone Diaries

“And there’s joy for us in this simplistic mode of taking care. It insists that we strip away complex understandings of the body and mind—and, yes, even our society—and find peace in basic terms: a crystal amulet shaped like an eye, oil in water, a prayer repeated like a chant.” — Erica Lenti, “I Believe in the Evil Eye — And You Should Too

Skip the preamble, see the post

Happy New Year,

I’ve mentioned this before, I don’t really put much stock in the Gregorian calendar. Part of this is due to the simple truth that January 1 is a remarkably inopportune time to begin the year. Look around you: what is reliably different about early January from late December? It doesn’t even line up with the winter equinox (which I think would also be a bad time to start the year, but is at least a sensible decision). It feels incredibly procedural to start the year like this, which is maybe why so few cultural calendars do it this way. The Lunar New Year coincides with the arrival of spring in East and Southeast Asia; Nowruz aligns with the vernal equinox; various Indian regions celebrate new years during the first month of spring; Diwali and Rosh Hashanah, in their respectively Hindu and Jewish calendars, occur in the fall; Neyrouz and Enkutatash are both autumnal celebrations; the Serer new year and the Dogon new year both occur in late spring; and so on. These are times of death and rebirth, where the world around us is noticeably changing — an itch that January 1 is just not able to scratch.

Another part of my hostility towards the Gregorian new year is due to my own aggressive commitment to the bit of my Jewishness. Our new year is in the autumn, at the beginning of what would traditionally be harvest time, a much more sensible place to start the year, and so that is what I celebrate; anything else runs the risk of idol worship. I’ve long held this belief semi-ironically, but this past December 31, I finally looked it up. Apparently, the January 1 new year comes from the Roman Empire’s bureaucratic procedures, as they would measure the date in reference to specific Roman consuls’ terms, which officially started on January 1. The date also, conveniently, lines up with Jesus’ brit milah, eight days after his birthday on December 25. It turns out I was right on both counts: January 1 is both procedural and goyische.

So I don’t really care about the new year. I do, however, care about resolutions. Goal-setting is just about the only non-medical thing I can do to keep my brain from spiralling off-track. My to-do list is my life. And I love setting intentions, making promises, creating obligations; as well as necessary structure, they gift me the opportunity to both exceed and rebuke expectations, to say Yes or No and have it mean something, to free my mind from worrying about details and instead, condense my hopes and anxieties into containers that can either be held close, or floated down the river.

In that spirit, I want to share a resolution with you, and some of its fruits. I’ve been working on a bigger project, something long-form and long-term. And I’ve taken some steps towards it — 13,346 steps, to be exact, a sample chapter, for what I hope may one day become a book. Everything is in early stages, still a bundle of cells, early enough that it is irresponsible to talk about it, tempting fate, god forbid. But I am excited, and more importantly, I want to bring my readers in on the process. I want to offer a window to my work and my goals, hoping that you can enjoy it along the way.

Read the excerpt here

I’ll be posting excerpts of this project to my Patreon. The first excerpt will be visible to the public for the next two days. On Saturday, it (and all subsequent excerpts) will be visible only to patrons. If you wanna read more, please subscribe — seriously, it’s only $7 but Patreon pays for my groceries for a month, and it means a lot to me.

Subscribe to Patreon

The post is now live — go read it, subscribe to read the rest, and thank you so much for being part of this.

Best,

Alex

Ideological Purity

There's no I in politics

“Looking at who we mourn is one way of understanding who we are… In war, we never mourn the countless deaths of our enemies. We mourn our own.” — Hamed Sinno, “on Pride and Mourning in the Middle East

“Right now, I’m on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Tompkins. It’s that specific. Where are you today, where will you be tomorrow, what are your human connections, what people do you talk to on a regular basis, who are you in conversation with, who’s your community.” — Simone White, “Poet, Scholar, Philosopher

“Anyway, national liberation isn’t extraneous to grief; it’s supposed to be a geography of relief for the aggrieved.” — Steve Salaita, “The Unlocked Turnstile of Palestine Solidarity

“What I’m doing right now—and where I want my work to go—is researching the parameters within which I function. What am I angry at? How does that manifest?” — Juliana Huxtable, “on the new politics of trans visibility in the social media age

Hey hi hello,

Right to it.

I had a conversation recently with a friend of mine who I consider a strategic and principled communist. We were talking about the value of forgiveness as a way of bringing people into a movement who been previously working outside or even against it. I found the concept repugnant. She recognized why, but argued that, even if forgiveness is perhaps an inappropriate term, acceptance and support provides the necessary foundation upon which to build a relationship of real solidarity, exchange, and unity. For her, forgiveness operates an act of both personal kindness and collective utility, and shouldn’t be dismissed.

I saw her point. But what, I wondered, for accountability? Shouldn’t people be held accountable? And then came another, better question: what the fuck does it even mean to hold someone accountable?

Accountability occupies a kind of fetish position in our contemporary cultural vocabulary. In this figuration, accountability is understood less as something done for its own sake, or for the sake of some collective good, but rather, for the purpose of facilitating forgiveness.

Legal language and practices have cultivated an image of injury as something fixable. There is a grievance, and it can be addressed through the proper processes. This is called accountability. At the end of this process, we arrive at a moment of redress. Some damages are awarded, flowing from one person to the other. The individualization of the parties here is essential — there is always, of course, a plaintiff and a defendant. After the damages are awarded, the grievance is over. Accountability has been achieved. Forgiveness, whether real or merely procedural, permits the parties to move on. Legal dramas often include a scene of the parties weeping, wishing that the process could “just be over.” Accountability is exhausting.

I’m going around in circles. I don’t think there are easy answers to questions of forgiveness or accountability. But what I mean to say, really, is that I think that problems inevitably come up when a person or group is meant to seek forgiveness for something which, no matter their intention, is largely beyond their capacity to meaningful address. So when people act and think in this way, as though all their acts can or should be forgiven, it feels rightly ridiculous — hollow, inauthentic, immaterial, too little, too late.

Nothing exists in a vacuum; the self-contained, dualist nature of accountability epitomized by the legal system doesn’t actually line up congruently with the world we live in. Trying to broker individual solutions to social problems, they are always biting off more than they can chew, and the outcomes feel similarly unsatisfying and outsized. If you are the more privileged person in this scenario, you can accept that this arrangement will often lead to people finding you inauthentic and paltry, and strive to do better anyway, or you can get mad about it and dismiss it as “radical liberalism” and “idpol.” Most people choose the latter.

There is the problem of the Internet. We live, famously, in a society; or, more to the point, we live in a superstructure. Whatever we say and do online, and in proximity to online consumption, becomes a profitable piece of information; it spreads because there is commercial incentive to spread it, and then, to meme it, merchandise it, brand it, and invest the proceeds in overseas palm oil plantations. No event is just an event; it’s a node in a vast network, digital and commercial, that feeds back into itself. So what we do does something. This, I think, is what people mean when they call something performative: these gestures of guilt, apology, and accountability are both performed (ie, displayed for an audience), and they also perform, by creating and recreating notions of what “accountability” or “allyship” means, is, or appears to be. And as a simple function of how the capitalist Internet works, the end product of this viralizing process is going to be the least radical, and most available for consumption.

This whole behind-the-scenes drama of symbolic activism is what I think hits harder than simple inauthenticity. Speaking personally, I don’t care if someone’s apology is real or fake. My forgiveness makes no impact on their lives, nor, really, on mine. But liberalism has such a fetish for the real that everything gets reduced to a mere question of authenticity, of true emotion, good intention, etc. That is the problem, and it’s a big problem: when this sort of confessional, cringey, Catholic reading of what it means to “do the work” becomes accepted as activism in and of itself, as marking the shift to The Good Side, instead of an ongoing process requiring both community and criticism.

As frustrating as it sometimes is to be on the receiving end of this characterization, especially if it feels misapplied, it pays us to be very critical in locating ourselves in relation to the new and profitable micro-economy of white guilt and righteous electoralism. People have built storied and successful careers out of essentially pointing vaguely at moments of unspeakable violence, promising to “do something,” and then taking a pic with a politician while other people get shot; if this isn’t you, great. But it’s not coming from nowhere. Whether or not it’s good politics to say so, there is something absolutely fucking maddening about seeing the grimiest, least qualified people in your “community” collecting capital, liquid and social, off of doing the bare fucking minimum, too little and too late. Walk softly.

This is not a case in favour of the feel-good gestures of social media identity politics. Rather, I am trying to make a case for realizing that none of this exists in a vacuum. The problem goes deeper. We must recognize what liberalism is and how it works— especially online and particularly on social media. The problem is not rad-libs gone wild, or ideological purists, or even annoying TikTok communist influencers, but simply good ol’ fashioned liberal capitalism applying itself to new and fun problems; we are invisibilizing the invisible hand of the market.

A takeaway: Activism, allyship, accountability, and even apology are not events. They are processes. Capitalism fetishizes forgiveness because it is profitable to imagine social harm as individual injuries requiring individual forms of redress, to map a moral arc of redemption onto our personal entanglements with imperialism and oppression, and understand “doing the work” as something that gets done. When people brag about their recent switches from conservatism, the disgust they encounter is not “political purity” or “gatekeeping,” but a recognition of the violence contained in politics as distilled into an event. If you participated in or cheered on state violence, that doesn’t just disappear; no display of authentic remorse will do a damn thing for anyone, except maybe, possibly, make Jack and Mark some money.

It’s ugly to say this, and probably uglier to hear. But get over yourselves. What we need to accomplish, and how we need to get there, far exceeds the vocabulary of the system at hand; anything approaching real accountability, or real forgiveness, cannot be realized through the tools we’ve been given, at the pace and standards presented to us. You never just become “good enough,” because it’s not about you. And this is true for everyone: Who gave you the right to ask for forgiveness? Who gave you the right to accept or deny it?

There is strategic value in becoming bigger than oneself. It is a risky act of kindness. Move quietly, and continue.

In solidarity,

Alex

Donald Trump Jr. Calls Nike Communists for Canceling Betsy Ross Sneaker |  Complex

On The Hyper Real

Is anyone a feminist anymore?

The revolution is not molecular; rather, movement resides in the interstitial shuttling—“the ruptural moment in which to intervene”—between intensive multiplicity and its most likely recapture. — Jasbir Puar, The Right to Maim

All I really wanted, I think, was an excuse to dream, to get away from my family, to get taken care of in that neutral, uncomplicated, transactional and tenable way that the exchange of money goads to promise. I wanted spontaneous pettyisms. I wanted the blasé simultaneity of sharing space with strangers. I wanted detachment. — Tiana Reid, “Getting Done Up When You’re Coming Undone

We are faced once again with a dilemma: What must be done? Our reply is: Violence is not the monopoly of the exploiters and as such the exploited can use it too and, moreover, ought to use it when the moment arrives. — Che Guevara, “On Guerilla Warfare

Is anyone a feminist anymore?

I am, probably, about three years too late on this question. It’s been done to death, albeit at times indirectly, and now feels almost tasteless. Of course we’re feminists, you could say, duh. And true, how manly it is of me to even bait the question this way. But the unfortunate result of being so online is that the speed of interactions and new events sometimes forces you to move too quickly from one subject to another. I talked about this the other week with my friend Vince Rozario, who actually reads and cares about art or whatever, and they mentioned a man name Jean Baudrillard (who I immediately went home and did not read— I’m different!). In Vince’s words, we’re experiencing a kind of hyperreality, wherein different models of or ideas about what constitutes the observable, experiential world are generated somewhat a priori, sans tether to an actual observable, experiential reality. Wikipedia, my bashert, frames it thus: “hyperreality is a representation, a sign, without an original referent.”

Digging in, I brought up another contemporary theme: conspiracy. In these unprecedented times (a phrase I have borrowed from about a thousand March 2020 emails and now sprinkle generously into every conversation), conspiracy is fabulously in vogue. And why not! “Conspiracy theory boasts an impressive lineage in the settler politics of this continent,” I wrote not too long ago; COVID-19 has only crystallized it, entrenched its hold. That, compounded with right wing fear-mongering and the very real, very present danger of infiltration and surveillance by the state, has made us all a bit conspiratorial, and certainly suspicious — to ourselves and to others. The hyperreal of the internet allows such theories to flourish, popping up in WhatsApp chains and Facebook groups, Twitter threads and Discords. I do not like to think about the Internet as having qualitatively changed how and why politics and culture move the way it does; what-could-have-beens are sad fantasies, plus my social sciences background scoffs at the notion of any kind of predictive capacity). Instead, the term I prefer is acceleration. Everything is moving very, very quickly, and climbing much, much higher than our monkey brains can reasonably imagine. We are living in a parabolic culture. Whatever niches might form organically have been turbo charged into dense pockets of extremophilic politics, the Platonic cave as echo chamber. Part of this means that certain ideas and tropes have become redundant, almost blasé, before they are even dealt with in any meaningful way. Certain truths are just accepted. Connections are formed before they’re fully baked. The discourse speaks for us, even when we are not aware of what we speak.

For me as a writer, it is unsettling seeing how the productive logics of venture capitalist media have forced my hand in participating in a hot take economy for which six months feels like 10 years, where everything must be remarked upon, where newsworthiness is a constantly shifting terrain upon which I must maintain even footing, churning out new work on new topics in order to stay relevant, whatever that means. Laid out diagrammatically, imagine ill-advised investors as the “base,” and all your favourite anxiety-ridden writers rushing to discern the political weight of a new music video or politician’s tweet or piece of ad copy as the “superstructure.” The means of production shape the forms of culture in which we live, and in turn, the ideological conditions that appear to naturalize this culture, even among those old enough to remember a time before it.

Back to my initial question. Is anyone a feminist anymore? I mean, on some level, yes, obviously. But also, I’m not so sure. In November 2019, on the subway on my way to a protest at a Toronto university campus that would overnight become infamous for the outright lies told about it by politicians who were not in attendance, I read a BuzzFeed essay about “dissociation feminism.” It sucked. But I was struck by the plethora of examples the author found for a kind of ostensiblefeminism defined by the lackadaisical, almost bored affinity of female protagonists, real and fictional, for their not-entirely subjugated circumstances. Nihilism, for girls!

I was struck by it, mostly because I found it utterly unrelatable, and frankly, way too generous. The feminists I know are hardly the off-white dissociating deadpans of Fleabag or Red Scare; they are engaged, pithy, exuberant, coordinated, and if they dissociate, it is because they are inundated with trauma are overwhelmed by the lifelong project of its healing — they are, as the kids say, doing the work. Feminism is in the streets, literally right now as you read this. Feminists are putting themselves in danger for liberation from police violence and the anti-Black carceral state and its attendant technologies of surveillance. Criticism is valuable, sure, and it’s what I have to offer, but I don’t pretend that my exhaustion and frustration constitutes a feminist program, nor that any petty, stupid hostility I may bear to other women is defensible on the basis of “feminism.” The question of “what is to be done” is not just a good line. It’s an incitement, a call to action, awaiting real response.

I will freely admit that it is kind of uncool to be so earnestly concerned with the future of feminism. But I can’t help it. Feminism is too easy a target, for no fucking reason, and the stakes are too high. Men are too emboldened. The high-speed simulacra of the digitized having conversations industrial complex, desperate electoralism, tumblrified ad-speak sloganeering, and outright grifting by weird white women with memeable misogyny have both produced and been produced by this space; an unsettling state of affairs. We have given ground, and it means we are losing. What we are witnessing, I believe, is a recursion to models of womanhood mired in blood and offal, or else, in a kind of post-feminist abandon, a willing submission to the senselessness of the hyper-real, a sign without an original reference. It has generated a sort of frantic politics of what feminism “thinks” that women “should” do, the politics of being a feminist subject — someone who is good or bad for feminism — rather than fixated on the goal of becoming free. This is a problem.

It is boring and tacky to turn personal gripe into polemic. So read me generously. I am asking not to simply block and report, or any such pettiness. Rather, I want us to be able to recognize infiltration when we see it.

As feminists, as communists, as women, as lovers, our enemies are everywhere. How do we overcome these obstacles, and build livable worlds for one another even in their midst? How do we develop programs and politics that speak to and with each other, across difference, towards common goals of liberation and equality? How can we step outside of the constricting culture of criticism, reaction, what gets passed off as “discourse” or “debate” by forces openly hostile to women’s freedom to enjoy meaningful lives beyond the threat of patriarchal violence, whether that violence is intimate or at the hands of the state?

If I can be expansive: How do we win?

With love,

Alex

I’m almost done. Keep reading.

Some housekeeping: I know I haven’t written to you in a while. It’s been a difficult summer. Most of my energy in July was spent on three articles that came out in quick succession, which you can find on my website. And to be honest, the pandemic has really impacted my ability to work the way I normally want to. It has been hard to be productive.

Still, I am hoping to devote more time to Patreon, and my hope is that the stricter schedule imposed by law school will help me stay focused on regular writing in the Fall.

If you didn’t already know, ALL Patreon proceeds collected this summer are being matched and donated to For the Gworls, a Black trans organization based in New York; I’ve donated $710 USD so far, and am track to make it $1000 by the end of August.

After this summer, I will be holding onto earnings to support myself while in school, so if you like me and my work, and you think I should be able to eat and stuff, please subscribe to my Patreon.

Combat Liberalism, Mao Zedong

To let things drift if they do not affect one personally; to say as little as possible while knowing perfectly well what is wrong, to be worldly wise and play safe and seek only to avoid blame. This is a third type.

The Case For Facial Feminization Surgery, Alex V Green, BuzzFeed

Calls for gender-affirming care like FFS are therefore not mere recursions to individual choice. Instead, they represent a demand for an entirely new and better way of life, including a healthcare system premised on bodily autonomy and opposed to austerity. There is nothing diversionary about this. In fact, it is exhilarating in its revolutionary breadth. And this, I believe, is why we must recognize that the over-politicization of transition does not exist in a vacuum. Political and cultural attacks on our access to gender-affirming care in the name of women’s rights, public safety, and financial responsibility are occurring now alongside the militarization and privatization of public life, expanding regimes of tracking and surveillance, and the spiraling descent of feminist politics into electoral euphemism and commercial brand strategy. These events are not only coincident, but contingent — they enforce and entrench one another. They are all symptoms of fascism, liberalism’s twin sister, and must be fought as one.

Mounting 008, Harron Walker, The Mounting Series

Melanie saw how Delilah had figured it out, and wondered, amidst pangs of jealousy and regret, whether she should drop out of her content gig and try to do the same. But she’d already invested so much of herself trying to make it as a writer—to make it like Natasha. Success like Natasha’s was nearly hers. She knew it. She could feel it. She could graze it with her fingertips—just reach out and grab it if she wanted to. Something was going to give sooner or later, and it wasn’t going to be her.

(read it from chapter 1)

BLOG | Mysite

Shifting, Moving

Tracing connections, plus Patreon

Hi all. Sorry for being quiet for a while. You know how it is. It goes without saying, but there is power in saying: Black Lives Matter. If you have not yet contributed financially to the struggle for Black liberation, please help support Black trans people in NY and NJ by donating to For the Gworls through these links.

[The first few paragraphs of this are about a reading practice that I’ll be trying out this summer on Patreon, for which all earnings will be matched and donated to For The Gworls. The second part is a set of reading recommendations. If you’re not interested in the first part, keep scrolling!]

Some months ago, me + my comrades in the campus BDS movement got together for a structured reading of one chapter from Jasbir Puar’s 2017 book, The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability.

It was fascinating and challenging. Our work focuses on Palestine, and this event was part of a series we had focusing specifically on Gaza. But from even just one reading, the connections between the material and other movements and struggles were very clear, and kept revealing themselves the deeper we went. It was exciting to engage seriously with Puar’s work, and to think critically about the space that such a work opened to engage with questions of protest, state violence, disability, identity, sexuality, internationalism, imperialism, etc.

The events of this past week have been outrageous yet unsurprising. One thing, a relatively minor moment, stuck out as illustrating the horrific absurdity of our predicament: Joe fucking Biden encouraging killer cops to shoot people “in the leg” rather than “in the heart.” It is, as Jasbir Puar well illustrates, a tactic borrowed almost directly from the Israeli Occupation Forces in their repression of Gaza. The connection only became more and more unsettlingly obvious as we watched the police use “non-lethal” weapons that blind, disable, incapacitate, and generally harm protestors, observers, medics, and journalists. I thought of Palestine again as the media and even otherwise well-meaning activists reinforced what seems to me to be a largely arbitrary and coerced distinction between so-called “peaceful” and “violent” protesters, a distinction that is constantly shifting to suit the whims of the colonial state.

I got my political education from the Palestine movement, which sometimes makes me a bit of a one-trick pony when it comes to speaking and thinking about popular struggle and collective resistance. But as the intifada in America continues, it feels necessary to name the commonalities and differences and recognize them as sites of solidarity, strategy, and strength. So this summer, I want to explore this further by reading The Right to Maim and sharing my thoughts—chunk by chunk, half-chapter by half-chapter, passage by passage—with you all. I am going to do so on Patreon. You can read my thoughts, or read along with me, by following me there. In addition, you’ll also get access to more original content, early drafts, and critical reviews of other work—the kind of stuff you’d get here! And because it’s Patreon and it has a messaging feature, we can actually talk about the work and be in better conversation with one another.

If this appeals to you, great!! I’m really looking forward to reading and thinking together. Please follow my Patreon here. If you’re reading this on Patreon, click here for a link to a digital copy of The Right to Maim so you can read along!

All funds earned through Patreon in June and July will be matched and donated to the For The Gworls rent and surgery assistance fund.

Ok, thanks for reading this far. Read on for some recommendations!

The Revolution Can’t Be Quarantined / Groundings Podcast by Devyn Springer

Groundings is a podcast created by Atlanta-based abolitionist and anti-imperialist Devyn Springer (@HalfAtlanta on Twitter)—a smart, critical, caring thinker and organizer who I had the pleasure of hearing speak in person about the global politics of prison abolition at Israel Apartheid Week 2020 in Toronto. Groundings is named for Walter Rodney’s concept of “groundings,” a method of activist scholarship that centers communities of struggle.

This episode is a conversation with Steven Powers, whose organizing in Philadelphia demonstrates what mutual aid can and should mean, and offers a glimpse into the kind of programs and politics that become possible when we organize together. Honestly one of the most exhilarating and inspiring episodes of anything I’ve ever encountered. Abolitionist politics involves imagining and creating justice and accountability outside of policing, getting to the root of what can and should be done, and refusing to give up on liberation and justice. This episodes describes exactly that in action, and it’s absolutely beautiful.

"On Algorithms and Curiosities" / Keynote lecture by Dr. Katherine McKittrick at the 2017 Feminist Theory Workshop

Dr. Katherine McKittrick is a scholar of Black studies and gender studies at Queens University in Ontario. In this lecture, she discusses algorithms and crime, or, more precisely, the complex interrelation between statistical and other ostensibly “scientific” measures of behaviour and morality, and the surveillance and targeting of Black communities for state violence. This lecture is a fascinating look into how ideas of risk, criminality, threat, and vulnerability are built into the foundational logics of our social systems. It’s a challenge to the way physical space, and its coercive regulation, is constituted according to these racist notions, in a way that goes well beyond the common understanding of tech as being “biased” or of individuals as putting their own “unconscious bias” into otherwise “neutral” forms of mapping, categorizing, ruling, and regulating.

The lecture is about 50 minutes long; if you’re like me and you have trouble focusing on something for that long, just put it on in the background while making dinner and rewatch parts of it later for reference. Dr. McKittrick’s work is insightful and innovative, and the language she uses is relatively easy to understand even for people unfamiliar with the vocabulary of the field.

What Do People in Solitary Confinement Want to See? / Doreen St. Félix, The New Yorker

Willie Sterling III imagined this: a line of people, bonded by a belief in his humanity, travelling up a hill in southern Illinois to a cross that sits at its peak. The cross was Bald Knob Cross of Peace, a colossus more than a hundred feet tall. It was made of concrete and varnished with porcelain, and wherever you were, within thousands of miles, you strode in its shadow. Sterling saw his believers huddled at its base, praying for his deliverance from solitary confinement and for him to be granted parole after more than three decades behind bars…

… Laurie Jo Reynolds, the organizer of Tamms Year Ten, recently described to me, over the phone, the work that was done to fulfill Sterling’s request: “We got a caravan of sixteen family members. I got an a-cappella singer, one of our volunteers, to sing ‘Amazing Grace.’ And then we had to work it out with the proprietor of Bald Knob Cross that we would have dinner there, because it was dark by the time it was over.” In the wide-shot photo, the cross looms against a colorless sky as a crowd of people, dressed in white and black, huddles nearby, heads lowered. To Sterling, the image was an amulet, a prayer frozen in time. One year after Sterling received it, he was granted parole.

Desmond Cole: 'Disarm and defund police' and give money to communities / Desmond Cole speaking on CBC News

“Who are we kidding when we contrast ourselves to the United States? We don’t even need the United States to have conversations here. It’s like every time is starting from the beginning. Every time, “is it racist, is it racist, is it racist.” And the media is complicit in this by acting very naive and brand new every time something happens, rather than saying, “What about the patterns and histories of systemic violence among Canadian police, among Canadian child welfare systems, among Canadian schools and workplaces?” We have to start further along the line instead of pretending like it’s new every time.”

Settler Atmospherics / Kristen Simmons, Society for Cultural Anthropology

The conditions we breathe in are collective and unequally distributed, with particular qualities and intensities that are felt differently through and across time. For indigenous nations, the imbrications of U.S. militarism, industrialism, and capitalism have always been palpably felt on indigenous lands and through indigenous bodies, from extraction to experimentation. The regimes of these foundational violences are the surrounds of settler atmospherics. Christina Sharpe (2016) argues that antiblackness is as pervasive as the climate. This, too, is the surround of settler atmospherics. Put otherwise, settler atmospherics are the normative and necessary violences found in settlement—accruing, adapting, and constricting indigenous and black life in the U.S. settler state.

[Related: To Breathe Together: Co-Conspirators For Decolonial Futures by Sefanit Habtom and Megan Scribe]

We can’t breathe until we’re free! Palestinians stand in solidarity with Black Americans / Statement by the Palestinian BDS National Committee

The system of structural racism in the US is violently enforced by paramilitary police departments, many trained by Israel, including the Minnesota police. These police forces have been tasked with doing whatever it takes to protect this rotten system of white supremacy and Black, Latinx and Indigenous disenfranchisement.

The indiscriminate, extrajudicial murder of Black Americans; the unconscionable US prison system; and the inhumane and racist treatment of migrants and asylum seekers at the southern borders are all symptoms of an increasingly militarized security state that is wreaking havoc and destruction against communities of color in the US and globally. As long as this system of oppression continues, it is up to our grassroots movements to work collectively and intersectionally to dismantle it, from the US to Palestine.

Thank you for reading.
With love,

Alex

“Prayer vigil at Bald Knob Cross”—Willie (Illinois)Photograph by Rachel Herman / Courtesy Photo Requests from Solitary

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