Dear Friends and Readers,by Phong Bui
“All myths are based on prelingual gestures.”
– Sighle Kennedy on Giambattista Vico
“I look more Indian when I am serious.”
– Sherman Alexie
“March For Our Lives is created by, inspired by, and led by students across the country who will no longer risk their lives waiting for someone else to take action to stop the epidemic of mass school shootings that has become too familiar.”
– Cameron Kasky, survivor of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and co-founder of the student-led advocacy group Never Again MSD
It matters what Donald J. Trump has done to this nation since he was sworn in as our President on January 20, 2017. It matters how he has grossly and cleverly leveraged the whole ensemble of the GOP to compromise the integrity of our nation’s democracy for his personal gain. It matters how the lies, disguised by his loud delivery, are becoming an everyday fatigue. Whether we would credit him for having intensified the extremity of the “do-or-die” ethos of America’s old cowboy mentality, most of us have come to our senses that the boiling point is near, and have begun to heed Thomas Friedman’s suggestion to “watch his hands, not his lips.” Friedman in his New York Times Op-Ed column, Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting All of Us Now on February 20th, also wrote,
Think for a moment how demented was Trump’s Saturday night tweet: “Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign — there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!”
To the contrary. Our F.B.I., C.I.A. and N.S.A., working with the special counsel, have done us amazingly proud. They’ve uncovered a Russian program to divide Americans and tilt our last election toward Trump — i.e., to undermine the very core of our democracy — and Trump is telling them to get back to important things like tracking would-be school shooters. Yes, the F.B.I. made a mistake in Florida. But it acted heroically on Russia. What is more basic than protecting American democracy?
With the recent indictment of the thirteen Russians and three companies, charged by the federal grand jury, as Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing the inquiry said, “The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy.” Most of us are once again reminded of the determination and strength of Robert Mueller III in his steady and swift operation, evidenced in the gravity-baring wrinkles of his face. Mueller’s face is in fact similar to the leathery face and severe wrinkles of Samuel Beckett, both products of formidable seriousness. Perhaps Mueller’s wrinkles are due to his military service in Vietnam as a marine from 1968 to 1970, during which time he not only rescued a wounded fellow soldier under enemy fire, but also received a gunshot wound in his thigh, only to recover and return to lead his platoon for the rest of their call of duty. Mueller was given countless decorations and awards. Among them were the Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V", Purple Heart Medal, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals with Combat "V”, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with three service stars, Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal, and Parachutist Badge. We’re confident in Mueller’s serious face to reign in the chicanerous face of Donald J. Trump.
Similarly, we’re confident in the determination and bravery of the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida, who, in this month—on March 24, 2018—will take to the streets of Washington D.C. with one unified objective: To stop politicians from taking money from the National Rifle Association, and to unseat any candidate who does in the upcoming mid-term elections. All of our friends will be there to join force and strengthen our collective sense of solidarity.
In other shows of force, Sharon Corwin, the Carolyn Muzzy Director and Chief Curator at the Colby College Museum of Art, and Diana Tuite, the Katz Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, also at Colby, as well as Dan Mills, the Director of the Bates Museum of Art in Maine are working with us to share our exhibit Artists Need to Create On the Same Scale Society Has the Capacity to Destroy in the near future, dates to be announced. We’re in the process of encouraging our friends from elsewhere to undertake and curate their own version of the exhibition. We’re confident that artists of different disciplines will get behind this important and rare occasion, from lending their works, participating in panel discussions, poetry and non-fiction readings, music and dance performances, film screenings, etc., whatever it takes to restore the dignity and subtlety of our language and culture.
Just this past week, two good friends from Saint Paul, Minnesota, the artist Chris Larson, and his wife, a nurse and social activist Kriss Zulkosky officially created a nonprofit called Second Shift Studio Space, which is a 3,000 square-foot-space that offers a free studio residency for one year (inspired by the Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program) to emerging female artists and curators in an uninhibited environment with independence outside of the academic and commercial establishment. The building will also house the Third Shift, an experimental exhibition space that shares the collaboration between the artists and the curators with local viewers and beyond, along with programmed community-based events. I’m proud to have joined the board of trustees of Second Shift Studio Space. I urgently feel this is the time for artists and curators to work together in a timely manner to meet the viewer’s intelligence and sensibility. May clarity in language and swiftness in execution be the strength of our endeavors.
P.S. This issue is dedicated to the memory of Alyssa Alhadeff, Scott Beigel, Martin Duque Anguiano, Nicholas Dworet, Aaron Feis, Jaime Guttenberg, Christopher Hixon, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alex Schachter, Carmen Schentrup, and Peter Wang. We’d like to send our love and deep condolences to their parents, immediate family members, and friends.
PHONG BUI is the Publisher and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail.