MyAmericanFuture

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MyAmericanFuture

Saturday, December 30, 2017

December 30-31, 2017: December 2017 Recap



[A Recap of the month that was in AmericanStudying.]
December 4: Reconstruction Figures: Alexander Crummell and Frederick Douglass: A Reconstruction series starts with an impromptu but telling debate between two titans.
December 5: Reconstruction Figures: The Fisk Jubilee Singers: The series continues with two vital legacies of a cultural and historical artistic project.
December 6: Reconstruction Figures: Albion Tourgée: Two distinct but interconnected ways to remember a seminal 19th century figure, as the series rolls on.
December 7: Reconstruction Figures: Andrew Johnson: Three telling stages in the life and career of one of our worst presidents.
December 8: Reconstruction Figures: Yung Wing?: Whether and how to remember the pioneering Chinese American educator as a Reconstruction figure.
December 9-10: Reconstruction Figures: P.B.S. Pinchback: The series concludes with three stages in the unique life of the first African American governor, on the 145th anniversary of his taking office.
December 11: Fall 2017 Reflections: America in the Gilded Age: A fall semester recap series on Teaching under Trump starts with the limits and possibilities of unspoken contexts in a historical course.
December 12: Fall 2017 Reflections: Mark Twain Seminar: The series continues with reading and thinking about a long-past author as a contemporary commentator.
December 13: Fall 2017 Reflections: First-year Writing I: How a culminating writing assignment can help us engage with the world around us, as the series rolls on.
December 14: Fall 2017 Reflections: Adult Learning Classes: Three benefits for life in Trump’s America from my semester’s three adult learning classes.
December 15: Fall 2017 Reflections: Intro to Speech: The series concludes with not intervening in political discussions, and whether I should have.
December 16-17: Spring 2018 Previews: Looking ahead to three Spring semester courses and one big writing project—share your spring plans in comments, please!
December 18: Longmire Lessons: Gab and Mandy: A series on the recently concluded, truly wonderful Longmire starts with the distinct lessons offered by two young Native American characters.
December 19: Longmire Lessons: Malachi and Matthias: The series continues with one character who generally reinforced cultural stereotypes, and one who wonderfully revised them.
December 20: Longmire Lessons: Cowboy Bill: A mysterious character who embodied first Western mythos and then realities, as the series streams on.
December 21: Longmire Lessons: Hector and Henry: An iconic but mythic Native American character, and a flesh-and-blood one who took a different path.
December 22: Longmire Lessons: Walt and Cady: The series concludes with a couple final takeaways from the wonderful story of the multi-generational Longmire family.
December 23-24: An AmericanStudies Wish: My shortest but sweetest blog post yet!
December 25: Reviewing Resistance: Empathy: A reviewing the year in resistance series starts with the continued and vital need for empathy.
December 26: Reviewing Resistance: Late-night Comedy: The series continues with three distinct and interesting ways late-night hosts have challenged Trump.
December 27: Reviewing Resistance: Judges: One of the worst parts of Trump’s first year and an ironic but crucial counterpoint, as the series rolls on.
December 28: Reviewing Resistance: Twitter: Three Twitter accounts that exemplify three forms of social media resistance.
December 29: Reviewing Resistance: Fitchburg State University: The series concludes with three inspiring conversations taking place on my own campus.
Next series starts Monday,
Ben
PS. Topics you’d like to see covered in this space? Guest Posts you’d like to contribute? Lemme know!

Friday, December 29, 2017

December 29, 2017: Reviewing Resistance: Fitchburg State University



[Whether we like it or not—and it likely goes without saying that I don’t—2017 has been defined by Donald Trump. So for this year in review series, I wanted to AmericanStudy five forms of resistance to all things Trump. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the year, Trumptastic or otherwise, in comments!]
On three inspiring conversations taking place on my campus and the challenges they offer Trump et al.
1)      Feminist Conversations: Started by a group of wonderfully engaged and passionate undergrads, including Blynne Driscoll and Seferine Baez, FemCon has been an inspiring new presence on campus for a couple years now. But I would argue that the club took its activism to another level when it brought 30 students and two faculty members to January’s post-inauguration Women’s March on Washington. Feminism is of course in no way limited to the political realm, and over the last couple semesters the group has continued to sponsor and host conversations about a wide range of social and cultural topics. But at the same time, there’s a reason (well, a million reasons) why women have been such a dominant presence in the resistance to Trump, starting well before that amazing march and continuing throughout the subsequent year. And on the FSU campus, FemCon has pioneered and led those efforts, and I’m quite sure will continue to do so in 2018 and beyond.
2)      Inclusive Dialogues: Like FemCon, the FSU Center for Diversity and Inclusiveness long pre-dates and transcends the Trump administration. Similarly, the Center’s Inclusive Dialogues events series, created by the Center’s wonderful Director Jamie Cochran, is in no way limited to overtly political topics. But having had the chance to moderate and participate in one such Inclusive Dialogue this past semester, on the topic of “Free Speech on Our Campus,” I would argue that they nonetheless represent an exemplary form of resistance to all that Trump is and embodies. They don’t do so through any particular political perspective, but rather through modeling a multi-vocal, informed, nuanced, democratic, well-read, and truly inclusive conversation and space. If that sounds like it describes the ideal college campus overall, well, that’s the point and the goal, and the Inclusive Dialogues, like the Center for Diversity and Inclusiveness itself, are helping FSU move closer toward becoming that more perfect university.
3)      Climate Change: The ideal college campus also includes lots of innovative and important research and scholarship, of course, and FSU has featured plenty of such work in the past year. Here I want to highlight a vital new book co-authored by two of my colleages, Benjamin Lieberman and Elizabeth Gordon. Ben (a historian) and Liz (an earth scientist) created and have team-taught the interdisciplinary, cross-listed course “Climate Change and Human History” for many years, and this fall published a co-authored book on the subject, Climate Change in Human History: Prehistory to the Present. As that subtitle suggests, the book is interested in histories and questions far more long-standing and far-reaching than those limited to the Age of Trump; but at the same time, I don’t know that there’s any subject more important to our moment than climate change (and I know Ben would say definitively that there is not). Am I suggesting that researching, writing, and sharing historical and scientific analyses and syntheses represents another form of resistance to Trump? You’re damn right I am, and I’m proud to have Ben and Liz as colleagues in that fight.
December Recap this weekend,
Ben
PS. What do you think? Other 2017 stories you’d highlight?

Thursday, December 28, 2017

December 28, 2017: Reviewing Resistance: Twitter



[Whether we like it or not—and it likely goes without saying that I don’t—2017 has been defined by Donald Trump. So for this year in review series, I wanted to AmericanStudy five forms of resistance to all things Trump. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the year, Trumptastic or otherwise, in comments!]
On three Twitter accounts that exemplify three forms of social media resistance.
1)      Ted Lieu: The conversation about elected officials using (or abusing) Twitter has to start with the current occupant of the Oval Office, of course. But while Trump may have pioneered that consistent use of the social media platform (Obama Tweeted very sparingly from his official presidential account while in office), that doesn’t mean that all elected officials who Tweet regularly have to do so in such aggressively awful ways. And I would highlight California Congressman Ted Lieu as a model of a very different form of political Tweeting. Lieu certainly seems to revel in a form of social media celebrity that is not unlike what Trump enjoyed in the years before his presidential run, and that’s a complicated identity for any political leader to inhabit. But to my mind, Lieu uses his Tweets most consistently not to self-aggrandize, not to attack or demean, and not to gain attention for its own sake, but rather to attempt to shape and move the conversation in ways that will be both opposed to Trump’s narratives and productive for our civic community. Those are vital goals for any political Tweeting in 2018, to me.
2)      April Reign: I’ve written a good bit about hashtag activism in this space, and April Reign, creator of #OscarsSoWhite and co-creator of #NoConfederate (among other hashtag movements), is one of our most prominent such social media activists. In that role, I’d say she’s using Twitter for even more important and enduring—and more innovative—causes than resisting Trump. But at the same time, I would also argue that Reign—like the three young women who started the #BlackLivesMatter movement, like Shaun King and Deray McKesson and many other figures who have achieved their prominence and power online—is a leading voice in a 21st Century, digital Civil Rights Movement. Such a movement itself represents a potent alternative and antidote to Trump and the white supremacism for which he so consistently stands (especially in his Tweets and online presence). Moreover, Reign’s Tweets and voice, while of course unique and individual to her, also represent one of our most important social and political communities (as we just witnessed in the Alabama special election for Senate), and a group that is at the forefront of the resistance: African American women.
3)      Stephen King: While both political engagement and hashtag activism are key elements to Twitter, I think it’s fair to say that one of the platform’s most enduring features remains the chance to hear from celebrities in a more direct way than offered by most other media. Over the last year, numerous such figures have used their accounts to offer pointed critiques of Trump: George Takei, J.K. Rowling, Ron Perlman, Alyssa Milano, and many many others. But I’ve been particularly interested to see how Stephen King, one of the best-selling and most beloved authors of the last few decades, has done so. To my mind (and I’ve been reading King since I fell in love with The Dark Tower series and The Bachman Books in early high school), King has never been an overtly political writer; indeed, I would say that he is primariliy interested in fears and flaws that plague us all, regardless of any particular affliations or allegiances. So to see how fully Trump has pushed King to overt online political engagement, and then to follow the thread of King’s blunt and powerful Tweets, makes plain just how much none of us can remain neutral or voiceless in this moment. The resistance is all of us, and King, like these other Twitter voices, is helping fight the good fight.
Last review tomorrow,
Ben
PS. What do you think? Other 2017 stories you’d highlight?