What My Great-Grandfather Taught Me About Trump and the Press

Longreads is teaming up with The Stranger to cover the inauguration and protests. Great first dispatch from Sydney Brownstone…

Longreads

The StrangerLongreads has teamed up with The Stranger’s Sydney Brownstone and Heidi Groover, along with photographer Nate Gowdy, to cover the presidential inauguration and protests. Below, a dispatch from Brownstone, on her way to D.C.

My great-grandfather was a man of few words. I never met him, but I understand he had a thick accent from growing up speaking Yiddish in a shtetl in what is now known as Moldova. The shtetl no longer exists, and neither does the deli my great-grandfather opened in Brooklyn after fleeing to America a hundred years ago.

My great-grandfather also had a thing about TVs. He had never owned one, and my dad assumed that was because he couldn’t spend the money. As a gift, my dad bought my great-grandfather his first television set. But when my father visited him not long after, he noticed something strange had happened to the TV.

It…

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‘For eight years Barack Obama walked on ice and never fell.’

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Photo via barackobamadotcom

Obama was born into a country where laws barring his very conception—let alone his ascendancy to the presidency—had long stood in force. A black president would always be a contradiction for a government that, throughout most of its history, had oppressed black people. The attempt to resolve this contradiction through Obama—a black man with deep roots in the white world—was remarkable. The price it exacted, incredible. The world it gave way to, unthinkable.

-From Ta-Nehisi Coates’s history of the Obama presidency, in The Atlantic.

‘With Child’: Kiera Feldman on a Pregnancy in South Dakota

Ashley arrived for her prenatal appointment at Black Hills Obstetrics and Gynecology, in Rapid City, South Dakota, wearing a black zip-up hoodie and Converse sneakers.1 To explain her absence from work that morning — a Tuesday in April 2015 — she had told a co-worker that she was having “female issues.” She was twenty-five years old and eight weeks pregnant. She had been separated from her husband, with whom she had a five-year-old son, for the better part of a year. The guy who’d gotten her pregnant was someone she’d met at the gym, and he’d made it abundantly clear that he wanted nothing more to do with her. Ashley found herself hoping that the doctor would discover some kind of fetal defect, so that her decision would be easier. She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. “Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.”

-In Harper’s, Kiera Feldman reports from Rapid City, South Dakota, one of the most restrictive states in the country when it comes to ending a pregnancy.

Words Matter!

When you are a leader, your words will be heard.

Your followers will be emboldened by those words, and they will act on them.

These followers will have good and bad intentions.

All the more reason to choose your words wisely.

Facts also matter.

If you take care to traffic only in real things, you build credibility for your words and your actions.

If facts don’t matter to you, then it makes it hard for anyone to believe you!

Nothing you say will hold any weight.

Followers will interpret your words as they please.

Detractors will assume the worst.

You must live with those consequences when facts don’t matter to you.

The rest of us have to live with those consequences, too.

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Photo by jessmercer

‘Believe the Autocrat’

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Photo by gdbrekke

Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization. This will happen often: humans seem to have evolved to practice denial when confronted publicly with the unacceptable. Back in the 1930s, The New York Times assured its readers that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was all posture. More recently, the same newspaper made a telling choice between two statements made by Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov following a police crackdown on protesters in Moscow: “The police acted mildly—I would have liked them to act more harshly” rather than those protesters’ “liver should have been spread all over the pavement.” Perhaps the journalists could not believe their ears. But they should—both in the Russian case, and in the American one.

At New York Review of Books, a frightening must-read essay by Masha Gessen on what it’s like to live in an autocracy, having lived in and reported from Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

A Letter From My Daughters, and a Letter to Myself

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Photo via hillaryclinton

It’s shortly after 5 am PT. In the other room, my daughters, already awake, are writing a letter to Hillary Clinton, thanking her for inspiring them and millions of others. I am in the dining room, staring at apoplectic headlines from publications that I trust, knowing that millions of Americans in other cities don’t read or believe the same words.

I live in a city that’s booming economically, and nearly everyone in my peer group — both in my city and in my industry — supported Hillary Clinton. We fretted about the disastrous consequences of a Trump victory, but perhaps I still did not take it seriously, with polls putting the odds of victory at 70%. I shared Facebook posts and tweets and expected that everything would work out okay. The polls favored Hillary, and so did common sense.

As it turns out, not even common sense is guaranteed in America. Continue reading “A Letter From My Daughters, and a Letter to Myself”