Tea With Chris: The Past Isn’t Past

Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Thursday. Here are a few of our favourite things from the Internet this week:

Chris: These photos of abandoned suitcases from an insane asylum in New York state exist somewhere between social history and a thoroughly depressing short story.

Carl: Somebody this week (apologies, I’ve lost track of who) reminded me of this 2004 column by Josh Kun about diasporic Uruguayan-Jewish musician Jorge Drexler, who wrote a song imagining himself Polish in the Holocaust, and then when that song was misappropriated by Israeli nationalists, wrote another imagining himself as an Arab in Israel. It’s a little bit as if, after Ronald Reagan tried to ride the tails of Born in the U.S.A., Bruce Springsteen had responded by writing a new one called Born in the Republic of Cuba. Josh wrote:

Milonga del moro jud’o would have been provocative at any point in the Israeli/Palestinian past, but with lines like ‘I didn’t give anyone permission to kill in my name,’ it has an added urgency in the wake of the Sharon administration’s assassination of Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin in the name of ‘self-defense’ and ‘the war against terrorism.’ Both justifications are misnomers. Self-defense is hard to argue in a fight between aggressors set on each other’s decimation. And Sharon’s war is less a war against terrorism and more a war of terrorism, of terror begetting terror, blood begetting blood, of living and dying by a sword that you won’t let go of. …  When he sings, ‘There’s no death that doesn’t also hurt me,’ it’s not the vitriolic condemnation of a politician but a poet’s sad statement of what ought to be a self-evident truth.”

Sadly, change the names in that paragraph and the sentiment is equally applicable to this week. Here is the song.

This manifesto from a group of infuriated, frustrated young people in Gaza is much less gentle in tone but equally alive to self-evident truths. (The Guardian has some background.)

Healing balms are to be heard in this vocal bath from Isla Craig, or in these Basement Tapes (with ukelele, found sound and vocals) from Karinne Keithly. (Help her make more here.)

Meanwhile, on the much-more-minor-skirmishes front, a lot of people in my Internet bubble were frustrated with the tired, well-meaning but wrong-headed piece by Princeton professor Christy Wampole in the New York Times last week about “hipsters” and “irony.” Hardly worth talking about except for this generous, broad-minded response from (who else?) Ann Powers. A highlight:

“Beyond economics, the thrift-store lifestyle and its more recent booming variant, artisanal culture, forges a link with history for young people with shaky cultural family ties. Snicker as you bite into the lovingly prepared poutine you bought from a truck, but also recognize that learning hands-on stuff, like food preparation or knitting or even mastering a fixed-gear bike, offers people a path out of the maze of chain stores and cold cubicles that dominates our daily lives. That path can lead to a mirage: Romanticizing the past is a convenient way to avoid its long-embedded problems, from racism and sexism to the drudgery of many working people’s days. But insofar as these activities involve the body — moving in time-honored ways as you try a classic dance step or chop some wood — they can fix an alienated relationship with tradition, forging a link that’s personal and real.”

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Filed under carl wilson, chris randle, linkblogging, margaux williamson

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