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..."The Trayvon Generation" by Elizabeth Alexander: My wife is black and so are my three kids and this week I kept thinking about Alexander's essay. The poet, academic and mother to two young black men captures so much here. At certain points it's like she's crawled inside my mind:

Can I protect my sons from being demonized? Can I keep them from moving free? But they must be able to move as free as wind! If I listen to their fears, will I comfort them? If I share my fears, will I frighten them? Will racism and fear disable them? If we ignore it all, will it go away? Will dealing with race fill their minds like stones and block them from thinking of a million other things?

It's just—wow. Please read the whole thing.

...This essay on Susan Neiman's Larning from the Germans: Race and The Memory of Evil: Michael Gorra published the piece last year in the New York Review of Books, but I came across it over the weekend. It's fascinating on its own and also speaks to this moment, where more Confederate statues are being torn down and more Americans support their removal. To which I say: Happy Juneteenth indeed.

Work remains, though, and that's the point of Gorra's piece and the book that inspires his essay. Learning from the Germans focuses on one of those impossibly long German words, Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung, which fuses past with work into a larger idea, something Susan Neiman describes as an unfinished task that remains vital because it can never be completed. The process is the point, and Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung applies to German society reckoning even now, and forever, with the Third Reich. 

There are no statues of Hitler or even Rommel in Berlin. Germany has taught itself to recoil, Neiman writes, "from the thought of honoring men who fought for the right to eradicate other human beings." What makes Neiman's narrative about modern Germany so interesting is her own story. She was born in Atlanta. “I began life as a white girl in the segregated South, and I’m likely to end it as a Jewish woman in Berlin." The contrasts she sees between modern Berlin and her native South—contrasts Gorra expands upon in the essay—make for electric reading. "As a matter of value," Neiman writes, "we should recoil from a monument to honor men who fought for the right to own them."

Tearing down Confederate statues are but the start. So often in the last few weeks I've heard black activists say white people need to do the "work" of interrogating their own beliefs. What those activists are talking about, in other words, is Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung. 

...Da Five Bloods: "All wars are fought twice," the Pulitzer-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen once wrote. "The first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory." It's an idea Spike Lee explores in his latest film. To his credit it's not the only idea. Da Five Bloods is, yes, a story about five Vietnam vets returning to the battle site as old men, recalling the days that keep recurring, but the film is also a meditation on the other wars they've fought: As black men demanding dignity in their professional lives; as fathers who sometimes fail to see the love their children have for them; as friends who came to Vietnam to honor their brotherhood  only to be torn apart by the ghosts that have haunted them all this time.

If that sounds like a lot for one movie, it is. Da Five Bloods is a war movie, a buddy movie, a caper, a political statement and, at the end, an action-adventure flick. It mostly holds together. Lee's ambition alone, to show the sweep of lived experience across 50 years, makes the film worth your time. 
...Wordscapes: I didn't get it, why my wife and mother-in-law played this game so much. It looked like a crossword puzzle but instead of puzzle clues, you saw a circle of letters at the bottom of the screen. Your job was to figure out, anagram-style, how many words you could find within that small circle of letters. Every new word fit into the puzzle above. Simple. Stupid.

Addictive. Every puzzle, every level, gets harder. Sonya and I are on, like, level 267 now. Solving some of these puzzles takes up to 45 minutes. And still we play on, level up, start again.

Have a great weekend. I'll be back next Friday.

And if you want to hang out next month and learn some stuff, sign up for my course. Here's more information about it

Paul

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