MWD49 - On Fighting Back

even if it's just one weak, misguided punch at a time

Welcome to Midweek DinnerThere’s a whole story behind that name, something about the way Wednesday creeps up on you, and you have to cobble together a meal out of whatever you can scrounge from the fridge. And yes, sometimes there is talk of food in this place. But mostly it’s about what I’ve been reading, in print and online; or what I’ve been thinking, in clarity and confusion; or what I am hoping, in fear and in joy. And you are always invited to join in.

—— The best conversations take place around the dinner table. — —


There is no good way to stay the course, to send out a newsletter, stay on brand, continue a conversation about higher education or books or even, god forbid, religion or politics — no way to carry on when 100 or so miles from here a man bought a gun to shoot women, mostly Korean, women he saw as a threat to his power. There is no way to send out these links and thoughts, gathered in the days prior to his decision to take their lives, without seeming callous or indifferent. It is also true, however, that I don’t have the words for this. Not yet anyway.

My friend Garrett Bucks did. He wrote this beautiful and compelling piece yesterday morning, and though it is every-word good, the end is where the punches hit the hardest. Garrett is the founder and the heart of The Barnraisers Project, an organization working to equip white people to organize and mobilize other white people in the fight for racial justice. I feel truly fortunate to have gotten to know Garrett as part of the Barnraisers first training cohort, a ten-week journey which we just wrapped last week. If you are hurting about this tragedy (on top of all the other tragedies) and wishing for some way to act, I highly recommend joining the spring cohort, which will start the week of April 18th. It’s fully virtual and free to participate, and it will change you. If you’d like to learn more about my experience with Barnraisers, let me know.

But now, back to the gut-punches. In the close of his powerful essay, Garrett writes,

There was a tragedy last night. It deserves to be mourned. This isn’t a single weed that can be lobbed off, never to be seen again, however. Like everywhere white supremacy reveals itself, we’ve been allowing this root system to grow unimpeded for years. It’ll take far more than any of our individual acts of self-righteousness to dig it up. This isn’t the time for media-friendly awareness campaigns. It’s time to start passing out shovels.

It’s time to start passing out shovels.

Even if my own shovel is small and my yard is far from the heart of things. Even if I’m scared and tired and uncertain, there are weeds here, and I can dig them out. The process never ends, of course. Anyone who has ever been responsible for a yard or garden knows: there’s no bottom to the weeding. But if you never start, you’ll be overrun for sure.

I wrote this a few hours ago. Since then, I have been jolted out of this metaphor by the reminder that “allowing the root system to grow unimpeded” is only one part of the problem, one that assumes a certain passivity. There are, of course, people sowing the seeds of those weeds. I have to angrily and actively defend against such destruction.

I have a shovel, and I’m not afraid to use it.

And here, because grief and joy and curiosity and anger can snug up next to each other on the same church pew, here are the links anyway.


— One of the coolest things about being an adult (even a mostly inept one like myself) is getting front row tickets to my own evolution. In so many hilarious and crushing ways, I am the same girl I was in the 6th grade; in others, however, I am decidedly not. I’ve always been generally in favor of more support for those in poverty, but if you had asked sixth grade me if I thought people should just get money from the government with no strings attached, I would have thrown a resounding ‘no’ in the direction of your head. Now, however, it’s something closer to a hearty ‘hell, yeah and also have you read this article from Atlantic staff writer Annie Lowrey on the Stockton experiment?’

— A whole newsletter devoted to text games wherein my beloved Zork gets a close look? Things I did not previously know:

  • Zork was born the same month I was

  • It may have come to life because its developers weren’t ready to get jobs

  • Though lots of the game was born from previous text-based games, the developing team was the first to employ complex grammar in the commands

Wanna play? Click here.

— Anyone else 100 percent always on the lookout for the right piece of land upon which to form your own little commune? No? Just me and Anne Helen Peterson, I guess, because she wrote it, but I wish I had: “Consider the Quasi-Commune.”

— Saeed Jones, with a beautiful, hope-looking essay on all the things we will soon be able to do: “I’ll Meet You Anywhere.”


The Department of Unexpected Joy

A few nights ago, I watched this approximately 700 times in a row and cackled with laughter every time.


The Department of Shameless Self-Promotion

I found these stunning Modern Library copies of Camus at a thrift store awhile ago, and I guess I’ve gotten enough distance from this epidemic to read about that epidemic? However I got there, The Plague is very good and I’m still thinking about his take on the human response to things that upend our understanding of the world.

The Plague

I dipped back in to Kooser’s The Wheeling Year for some thoughts on March and Sunday Poetry.

Sunday Poetry - Ted Kooser

Back to The Plague for this week’s Lexicon. There were tons of dense, chewable words in this translation, and I struggled to choose, but landed on serried, in part because of something I didn’t even mention in the post - its usage to describe a jagged mountain range.

The Lexicon - Serried


Thanks as always for reading and thinking with me. If you have thoughts to share, just hit reply! I welcome your conversation and promise a response.