When I read the solution offered by Wayne LaPierre, the CEO of the National Rifle Association, to the ever-growing number of massacres at schools—that we need “good guys” with guns to protect us from “bad guys” with guns—I initially thought he was joking, a bad joke, yet joking nonetheless.
Reading about the latest controversy at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles—the apparently forced resignation of the longtime head curator Paul Schimmel over the pop-culture exhibitions that the new director Jeffrey Deitch is bringing to the museum—I experienced my usual feelings of disbelief.
“Isn't it cool to be that much closer to the viewers of the first and second century?” This, I learned as I read the New York Times the other morning, is how Steven Fine, director of the Arch of Titus Digital Restoration Project and professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva University in New York, expressed his enthusiasm for the recent finding that the famous menorah in the bas-relief of the spoils of Jerusalem was originally painted a rich yellow ocher that would have looked like gold.
On Wednesday morning when I was checking the Occupy Wall Street website, I saw the announcement: “1,000,000 HOODIE MARCH FOR TRAYVON MARTIN,” over a photograph of a black teenage boy wearing a light-colored sweatshirt with a hood.
For a moment, the crowd that was constantly amassing around the painting singled out by the organizers of the MOMA’s Willem de Kooning retrospective as the masterpiece of his early period—Excavation (1950)—had dispersed. So my husband and I positioned ourselves in front of it to take advantage of what we knew was a rare moment of unobstructed viewing.
The night before the first big Occupy Wall Street rally at Foley Square in early October, I went to my local bookstore to hear Chris Lehmann speak about his new book, Rich People Things, which explores, with penetrating hilarity, the follies of the “one percent.” During the discussion, a number of us were struck by the way the obscenely wealthy few are proud to be an “elite” in contrast to the way the term, along with kindred ideas like taste, discrimination, and distinction, have been completely discredited—vilified—in matters of culture.
As I was watching the local New York City news coverage of Hurricane Irene before “she” made landfall, I was struck, as I have often been before, by the pleasure of the apocalyptic that the newscasters were so obviously experiencing as they reported on the storm: Potentially the first hurricane to make landfall in New York since the Norfolk and Long Island hurricane of 1821! The storm of a generation! The storm of a century!
With all the excellent commentary about what the criminal tactics of employees of the Murdoch media empire reveal about tabloid journalism and its cozy relationship with politicians and police, there has been a notable silence concerning the more fundamental question of what can rightly be called the tabloidization of our world.
As we headed toward the Cherry Esplanade at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden so that we could take in one of the great joys of spring in New York—cherry trees in full, glorious bloom—we entered a path between a double row of youngish oak trees that were now beginning to attain the height and fullness that will eventually give them the stately architectural elegance of an allée. I was asking my husband if he remembered how forlorn they had looked as saplings when we noticed a bronze plaque at the foot of a tree just filling in with deep green leaves.
When the inspiring images of hundreds of thousands of Egyptian men and women demanding their freedom at enormous personal risk first appeared and everybody was talking about whether that revolution would spark similar revolutions in nearby countries, I found myself saying to friends, "What about here? Maybe the example of their courageous actions will shake the American people out of their long apathetic stupor." Inevitably I was met with laughter. Sometimes I felt a friend's laughter was conspiratorial—the exhilaration of imagining together that things could be different from what they are.