Muckraking 2017: Local Authors Get Head Start Prepping for Shallow, Mediatized Prez
The Brooklyn literati was in full effect this Sunday on the steps of the New York Public Library. Leading writers of great intellect held a reading series titled, Writers Resist, in opposition to the manipulative and divisive President-Elect’s upcoming inauguration. Sponsored by PEN America, Brooklyn’s Jeff Eugenides, Jacqueline Woodson, Monica Youn, Moustapha Bayoumi, Michael Cunningham, and Siri Hustvedt projected their readings to hundreds of attendees from a small podium.
Despite a few flippant signs courtesy of the rallygoers, the bulk of the day’s speakers came in the form of moving moments, for instance Siri Hustvedt quoted from Emma Lazarus’s “New Colossus,” and Rosanne Cash read lyrics from Leonard Cohen’s “Democracy.”
PEN America, an organization devoted to protecting writers and editors around the world, invited speakers to peacefully express their disagreement with the incendiary rhetoric against free speech that has been used by the president-elect. Poems were read by former U.S. Poet Laureates Robert Pinsky and Rita Dove, also an erstwhile Honorary Chair at Medgar Evers College in central Brooklyn.
Some members of the protest in an emotional, knee-jerk manner marched over to Trump Tower where they were met with a massive police presence. Suzanne Nossel, PEN’s executive director, unsuccessfully attempted to cross fifth avenue to deliver a petition to the president-elect containing roughly 165,00 pledges to take a stand against any attempts to smother free speech and critical discourse.
Personally, while civil disobedience isn’t my bailiwick of expertise, the protest seemed to reach its goal of not turning concern, atrophied, to anxiety. But to turn it into actionable resistance for the well-being of writers in this country. As Woody Allen said, “eighty percent of life is just showing up.”
All in all, there’s too much negativity for someone regular and normal to invest their time in politics. We’re now living in a strange and painful country to observe, particularly in that the trouble that has arisen seems to be partly the fault of a manipulated body politic and partly the fault of external forces. Are we in a pre-dictatorship United States? Or has an inverted police state of the Brave New World been here for some time now starting on November 22, 1963? Is the only way to forget about the whole psychiatric-industrial complex to read Brooklyn’s own Dan Millman’s forthcoming novel, The Hidden School? All that said, it was important that writers turned out and educated themselves about all the variables that way they’re not resisting blind. Michael Moore warned us in July, we lose when we don’t turn out because the other side will fight and scream and cheat. Nuclear war? Opening up libel laws in order to sue journalists? Never say never.