America’s current political climate is full of closed-mindedness and division, perhaps more so than any time in the nation’s history. Tribalism, the evil possibility of factions that James Madison outlines in Federalist №10, has reached a new height with groups denouncing the other as, at best, crazy, and at worst, evil; currently, arguments are judged, not on the basis of the truth of their premises or logic, but by the identity of the person making it. …


It’s true. Lashana Lynch will be portraying the new Agent 007, with the “James Bond” acting in a retirement role. How you react to the news determines how closely you’ve been following the 57-year-old film series and how well you understand the actual character and its place within Cold War culture.

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Lashana Lynch

Indifferent at worst. That’s my reaction. At best, I’m glad to see it’s finally over and done with. The idea of a female Bond — let’s be honest about what’s happening — has been toyed with as early as the 1990’s. And it’s a wonderful idea. …


In the last nine months, I have had 1,043 and one-half conversations about college. 387 people have asked me where I’ll be next fall — aunts, teachers, friends, people whom I don’t know but nonetheless follow me on Instagram, little league coaches, Chick-Fil-A employees (they insisted it was their pleasure to ask), and a ripped man named Antonio who spotted me for one struggle of a set at the gym. You might be wondering, how does one have “one half” a conversation about college? …


My family played a card game two hours after we put grandma in the cold Oregon ground. To be specific, we played Cards Against Humanity — a party game for horrible people, as it says on the little black box. I think that’s a fair description — of my family that is. We don’t have any criminals or abusers or perverts; well I take that back, Uncle Tommy did get into a fight with two Jehovah’s Witnesses and spent the night in a prison cell once. I guess what I’m trying to say is that my family isn’t the type of horrible that makes for interesting television like Hannibal Lecter or the Kardashians. It’s one of those indescribable things like how certain people just make the skin between your knuckles itchy and humid. It’s that kind of feeling that words can only diminish. …


A few years ago, I had the honor of attending a writer’s workshop led by Jane Unrue and Shahriar Mandanipour. Professor Unrue, director of Harvard’s Scholars-At-Risk program, and Mandanipour, perhaps the most accomplished Iranian writer of the 20th century, passed along many tips and lessons on the art of storytelling. In the wake of the Christchurch tragedy, after viewing an edited version of the Christchurch shooter’s live-stream video, all I could do was think back on what Shariar told me one day after the workshop:

There are some events that are so traumatic, so influential, that words seem meaningless and even disrespectful as an attempt to describe them or their impact. It is not until a writer reaches some amount of emotional distance from that event, that they can begin to understand and form…


“Where’s the white wrapping paper?” yelled my mother, as she helped me finish wrapping the presents before my coach arrived. Every year, my team does a “Basketball-Christmas Giveback” where we take presents to underprivileged families in Austin, Texas. My coach arrived, I loaded the gifts into his van, and we rode off to do our best Santa impression. …


One of the great problems in the world is also one of the most invisible, because — by its nature — it asks to be hidden and saps our ability to spot its symptoms. But to generalize grossly, few things so undermine human well-being as the sickness of shame.

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The guilty feel bad for something specific they have done; the shamed feel wretched simply for being. The affliction lacks borders. As shamed people, we don’t connect the myriad of ways in which our behavior and feelings are driven by a base conviction of our own abhorrence. …


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In the aftermath of the Florida shooting and many other shootings that have followed, many have demanded that the government solve the problem, whether that be through stricter gun control or mandating increased security measures. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we as a populous are in effect “putting the ball” in the government’s “court” with these demands. While there certainly needs to be a reevaluation of the regulations, background checks, and other mandates around this issue, the government is not and should not be held completely responsible for this problem and for its solutions. Our society has fallen into a trend of “pointing the finger” far too much; instead of attempting to find ways we as individuals and communities can combat the problems that ail our society, many look to the government or other outside forces to solve our troubles. …


To lay claim to any respectability or competence, we know that we must keep up with the news. That is why we have rigged the earth with satellites and created a legion of networks to inform us of every event to have unfolded in the last few moments. We even keep tiny devices to track every possible story in close to real time.

Modern man has a ringside seat to the second by second flow of history. As a result, we see a lot more. And at the same time, we see a lot less. …


I love Halloween. It’s the one time of year everyone wears a mask, not just me. People think it’s fun to pretend you’re a monster, but me, I spend my entire life pretending I’m not one. Brother, friend, harmless co-worker, all a part of my costume collection. But tonight, one very special person will get to see who I really am. Jonah Taylor will get to see behind the mask.

Jonah shares my passion for Halloween, albeit for different reasons. These different reasons are why I picked the lock on his back door and currently hide in his coat closet. What an interesting fellow, he keeps his ties in his coat closet. One more reason I need to be here. I feel his assortment of work and festive ties, all silk. I’ll admit I’m slightly jealous. …

About

R.A. Dewan

R.A. Dewan is a writer and culture critic from Austin, Texas. Find out more about him at radewan.com

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