We are all still reeling from the 6 January violent seditious assault on national legislators in the US Capitol. When asked, most would dutifully say violence has no place in politics. Yet it continues to show up. Our guest, Melvin Bray, would argue that violence is the linchpin of common forms of political discourse—like racism, sexism, queerantagonism—that he often refers to as “social addictions”.
- What is so addictive about violence?
- Are there forms of Christianity that enable this addiction?
- What sort of interventions or treatments might result if we thought about human violence this way?
… violence is the linchpin of common forms of political discourse
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To prepare for our conversation, Melvin recommends reading this reflection on the history of racial violence in America from Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. Also well worth the read is Glaude’s book, Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and its Urgent Lessons for Our Own available here from independent booksellers. Melvin points out that first half of chapter 7 is particularly relevant for our discussion.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER – James Baldwin grew disillusioned by the failure of the civil rights movement to force America to confront its lies about race. In our own moment, when that confrontation feels more urgently needed than ever, what can we learn from his struggle? NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY CHICAGO TRIBUNE AND ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE WASHINGTON POST AND TIME – Shortlisted for the Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice – “A powerful study of how to bear witness in a moment when America is being called to do the same.”–Time We live, according to Eddie S. Glaude Jr., in a moment when the struggles of Black Lives Matter and the attempt to achieve a new America have been challenged by the election of Donald Trump, a president whose victory represents yet another failure of America to face the lies it tells itself about race. From Charlottesville to the policies of child separation at the border, his administration turned its back on the promise of Obama’s presidency and refused to embrace a vision of the country shorn of the insidious belief that white people matter more than others. We have been here before: For James Baldwin, these after times came in the wake of the civil rights movement, when a similar attempt to compel a national confrontation with the truth was answered with the murders of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. In these years, spanning from the publication of The Fire Next Time in 1963 to that of No Name in the Street in 1972, Baldwin transformed into a more overtly political writer, a change that came at great professional and personal cost. But from that journey, Baldwin emerged with a sense of renewed purpose about the necessity of pushing forward in the face of disillusionment and despair. In the story of Baldwin’s crucible, Glaude suggests, we can find hope and guidance through our own after times, this Trumpian era of shattered promises and white retrenchment. Mixing biography–drawn partially from newly uncovered interviews–with history, memoir, and trenchant analysis of our current moment, Begin Again is Glaude’s endeavor, following Baldwin, to bear witness to the difficult truth of race in America today. It is at once a searing exploration that lays bare the tangled web of race, trauma, and memory, and a powerful interrogation of what we all must ask of ourselves in order to call forth a new America.