This #100hardtruths, the form of #100questions, was given to me by my friend, AIDS activist and cultural worker, Theodore Kerr.

“I have been inspired by the immense amount of activism emerging in the face of the Trump Presidency. But also confused by it and how it relates to other Presidencies. I find myself wondering, what can we do to ensure that our resistance in the future is as intense as it is now, even if we like future Presidents? Below are 99 more questions:

  • What did it mean when Van Jones and others in the media praised Trump for appearing more Presidential during his Joint Session of Congress address? If he plays the part better, will we become less offended by his Cabinet? His vitriol? The money he is making off the Presidency? The money he is wasting? The millions of lives he is playing with and ending?
  • Is part of the reason we don’t like Trump is because of hubris? Would he be less offensive to us were he to be humble?
  • A 2011 Gallup poll named Ronald Reagan the most highly regarded president of the United States in history; How did that happen? How did Reagan go from mocked and hated to beloved and revered? Are all presidential reputations salvageable?
  • Are we mad at the Muslim Ban? Or are we mad that we couldn’t ignore the violence of the Muslim Ban because of the in-your-face that Trump rolled it out? Why aren’t airports being taken over now with the Second Muslim Ban Executive Order? Is the intensity of our activism in direct relationship to Trump’s bravado? The more low key he is, the more readily we accept it?

  • Do presidential portraits tell us anything about the president and the times he lived? What is on the white paper that Presidents Adams, Pierce, Van Buren, Mckinley, Coolidge, Nixon and Bush 1, are holding in their official portraits? What are they hiding? Why isn’t there at least one portrait where we can see blood on the President’s hands?

  • Why did Clinton’s approval rating go up after his impeachment? Why was he even impeached? Were columnists and citizens, news anchors and pundits happy to see punishment delivered? Is that all is needed? What would happen if Trump tweeted: “you all are right. I am bigly horrible”? Would his approval ratings go up? Would we more easily accept the gutting of schools and health care?

  • Where was the mainstream press coverage of Obama’s record on deportation? Where was the mass outrage over him not closing Guantanamo like he promised? How are we determining the level of violence we are willing to accept from a president? Is there a calculation that media outlets follow? What am I missing?

  • What do we want in a President? What do people think about when they think of the President?
  • How does one even become President? Can anyone become president? What does it take? Is it the suit thing? Did Celine Dion ruin her chances of becoming president when she wore a suit backwards? Could Janelle Monae become president? What about Willie Lowman?

  • Why didn’t Shirley Chisholm became President? Or Ross Perot or Jesse Jackson? Or David McReynolds? How would we treat them if they had made it to office? What level of critique would they experience? How much would reporters just ignore? What aspects of their lives would the media fixate on?
  • Why isn’t Romney President? Or Hillary? Or Paul Ryan? Or Laverne Cox? Or Assata Shakur? Or Leonard Peltier?
  • How did Trump become President? Or the Roosevelts? What about Carter? Taft? Washington?

  • Scholars and pundits often say that politics changed after the first televised debate, the one between Kennedy and Nixon; Is that true? Did a clammy face lose Nixon the race? If so, how was he able to win a few years later? Did he learn to sweat differently? Has media savvy—in relationship to available technology—always been a prerequisite to become President?

  • How often did people think about the Presidency before newspapers? Before radio? Before TV? Before the Internet? How did people learn about Hooverville?

  • When was the first Presidential news conference? Who was there? What was said? Who called it? What was the impact?
  • Why is the President of the United States most often in a suit? When did that start? When will it end?

  • Is it a man, sitting behind a desk? Saluting other men? Walking on and off airplanes with a wife close behind? Is a President a man standing with microphones? Donald Trump does those things, so why do we have such a hard time seeing him as the president?

  • Is it because he is horrible? But, he is not the first horrible man to be president, is he?
  • Is it because he and his administration are racist, sexist, transphobic, ablest, xenophobic, classist? What about other administrations, weren’t they those things too? If we hate those things why did Ellen recently have George W Bush on her show to talk about his art work? Wasn’t his administration terrible? Didn’t he start wars on false pretenses and take advantage of world wide sympathy? And for what? What about all the lives he ended and ruined? But now he gets a pass? What is it about Trump that has wanting to see the softer side of a war monger?
  • Do people know that Medium is an unedited platform created by Twitter for folks to share thoughts longer than 140 characters? If so, why in some lefty circles are Medium articles shared as if they are the gospel yet often these same folks decry the spread of fake news on the right? What is the difference? When is the difference?
  • What will it take for Trump to get on Ellen? Would we like him better if he work a better fitting suit?
  • How can we ensure that our level of resistance in the face of the Presidency into the future, even when we like the President?

Celine for President!

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I recently received an unexpected but timely invitation (from editor Catherine Halley) to write an article for JSTOR Daily.  Her email request arrived when indeed I had something pressing I wanted to say. I was not sure I could say it, or that the time was right, or what the ramifications of my writing it would be, but I did very much want to think critically (and in public) about why I wasn’t watching the viral live feed videos of black death that began circulating and multiplying last week.

With Halley’s close help, and that of many friends and colleagues, that article was published today: How Do I (Not) Look: Live Feed Video and Viral Black Death. My writing, and thinking, occurred in conversation, actual and in my head, with a great many friends and scholars who I’d like to point to here, in no particular order and most likely forgetting some, less for reasons of intellectual property and more to name that my/our understanding of momentous social, technological, personal mayhem and change occurs in communities of care and practice and thought: Natalie Bookchin, Gabrielle Foreman, Robert Reid-Pharr, Cheryl Dunye, Kemi Ilenanmi, Alisa Lebow, Jenny Terry, Roopali Mukherjee, Marta Zarzycka, Jen Malkowski, Lisa Cartwright, Marita Sturken, Nick Mirzoeff, Patty Zimmermann, Sam Gregory,  Deirdre Boyle, Safiya Noble, LaCharles Ward, Ellen Scott, bell hooks, Paola Bacchetta, Tina Campt,  Inderpal Grewal,  Caren Kaplan, Minoo Moallem, Susan Sontag, Henry Jenkins, Sherri Williams, Jodi Dean, Michael Gillespie, Stephen Winter, Theodore Kerr and Diamond Reynolds.

I write in honor of Reynold’s work and in the name of our shared witnessing of the death of Philando Castile and so many others.

I am sure my friends and colleagues above will not agree with all of my thoughts on this volatile and horrible matter, nor would I want them to, but I do hope they will understand how critical their voices (and long term work on issues of violence, visibility, video and racial injustice) have been for me during this time.