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Culturally Progressive is my blog where I write about literature, culture, and politics and share work of mine that has been published elsewhere. Scroll down for new posts. If you want to read more about me, click About Tanya, or click on appearances for upcoming and past events. To subscribe to my awesome newsletter, click here. Thanks for stopping by!

On August 31, 1999, a handmade bomb exploded in a popular Moscow shopping mall. I was there, and watched rubble, dust, and screaming erupt around me.

Read more about the event and my changing understanding of this experience in an essay over at Pacific Standard.

Two important things I’ve learned since the piece was published:

  • Leaflets from a radical anti-consumerist organization were discovered near the site of the explosion. They read: “A hamburger not eaten to the end by the dead consumer is a revolutionary hamburger. Consumers: We don’t like your life style. And it is not safe for you.” (Any links to that organization have since been refuted.)
  • The video arcade where the bomb went off was called дунамитor “Dynamite.” Oof.
I am having trouble making sense of it all, so I point you to a few things I’ve been reading:
The National Guard arrived in Ferguson last night presumably to keep calm in the streets. Would it not send an even more powerful message for those officers to guarantee the safe passage of thousands of children to school?
Grand juries nearly always decide to indict. Or at least, they nearly always do so in cases that don’t involve police officers.
The grand jury decision on the Ferguson case was in keeping with a longstanding pattern: Police officers rarely face prison time after a fatal shooting, as the Los Angeles Times reported last week. One reason is that intent is hard to prove ‘beyond a reasonable doubt,’ prosecutors tend to see police as allies, and jurors are inclined to be sympathetic to law enforcement.

Readers,

I’ve started a newsletter so you can receive monthly updates on my writing life, snarky commentary on what I’m reading, and photos of my dog. If you’re already a WordPress subscriber to my blog, this might be a better way to follow what I’m up to.

Join me! tinyletter.com/tpaperny to subscribe to “A Healthy Mix of the Sacred and Profane.” Or click here to view the first letter I sent out yesterday.

In The Origins of Totalitarianism Hannah Arendt argues that totalitarian rule is truly possible only in countries that are large enough to be able to afford depopulation. The Soviet Union proved itself to be just such a country on at least three occasions in the twentieth century—teaching its citizens in the process that their lives are worthless.

From Masha Gessen’s exploration into the causes of Russia’s extremely high mortality rates. Read the whole thing at The New York Review of Books blog.

People want to call abusive men—men like the man I used to love, and men like Ray Rice—“monsters.” But that term, with its connotations of the unnatural and uncontrollable, absolves the abuser of the responsibility for being human. It also makes it easier for people to blame women like Janay Rice — who admits to loving a man who has abused her — for staying in a relationship with someone “inhuman.”

– From this brave article by Lacy M. Johnson at GOOD about why we should stop calling abusive men “monsters”

[Adrian] Peterson isn’t a monster. Nor are the millions of parents who spank their children every day. Raising kids can be frustrating. You try so hard to make them behave, but they just don’t listen. You hope a spanking will get their attention, and it does. But they’re not listening to your words. They’re listening to the switch, or the belt, or the sting of your palm. With every blow, you’re losing contact. Remember that the next time you raise your hand.

– From William Saletan’s brave piece about corporal punishment (and his own experiences with it) over at Slate

There’s not much difference to me between the adjunct crisis in higher education and the labor conversations that fast food and other low wage workers are having. It’s just that we like to see ourselves as different. We like to see our destinies as different. But they’re the same thing.

— Excerpt from an interview between inequality scholar Tressie McMillan Cottom and reporter Carla Murphy of Colorlines.

I appreciate that McMillan Cottom talks about structural change for vulnerable workers across class lines. I recently left academia after three years as an adjunct professor, where I struggled with voicing my concerns about adjunct exploitation.

But McMillan Cottom reminds me not to fall into the myth of scarcity — there is room to talk about all these injustices. Exploitation is exploitation is exploitation. Read the fascinating interview here — it touches on feminism, labor protests, and reparations.

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