Posts Tagged ‘sarah schulman’

Quote of the day: LIBERATION

August 15, 2021


The Gay Liberation Front that was founded after Stonewall named itself after liberation movements that were its contemporaries around the world, anti-colonial movements that were resisting European control. And what the word liberation meant was re-imagining the world so that the ways that we relate to each other were liberatory instead of oppressive. And that meant that sexual relationships, economic relationships, racial relationships, interpersonal dealings, identifications of gender, ways that we expressed ourselves politically and emotionally — that we had a dream, a utopian dream that they could be more open and so that human beings could be more individuated and yet more within a collective, and that the purpose of the collective is to create more space for the individual voice.

–Sarah Schulman, interviewed by Ezra Klein


April 15, 2017


“Email, Texts, and Negative Escalation”

In our contemporary time, email and texts are so often the source for tragic separations of potentially enriching relationships. First of all, email and text are both unidirectional and don’t allow for return information to enhance or transform comprehension. We must speak to each other, especially when events or feelings are fraught. I wish that all the people of the industrial world would sign a pledge that any negative exchange that is created on email or text must be followed by a live, in-person conversation. And clearly we have a responsibility to encourage our friends and colleagues to not make negative judgments based on email or texts. So many relationships are ruined by the artificial nature of these obstructive walls, especially when one party makes a negative power-play by refusing to speak to the other in person. They then create the false problem of whether or not the two conflicted parties will speak at all, which makes addressing and progressing to the real source of anxiety impossible. Refusing to communicate has always been one of the main causes of false accusation as it guarantees negative fantasy about the other, especially in arenas that are particularly loaded like sexuality, love, community, family, materiality, group identification, gender, power, access, and violence. Email and texts don’t allow us to go through the human phases of feeling that occur when we actually communicate face to face.


Email creates repression and anxiety. No one is seen and no one is affirmed. The only way to recreate the normal human cycle of response is to send even more short emails or texts in a row, each with an evolved position. The next one assures you that I understand, as I am afraid that you are misconstruing me. And the final one wishes you a good trip. And, sadly, I have only made it all worse by now being in the arena of what I know is going to be simplistically called “too much” when in reality it is frankly and literally not enough. Five texts are culturally stigmatized as excessive, but they only cover a minute or two of conversation. And people need interactive conversations, even short ones, in order to understand each other.

Most Americans have cell phones now. They can return phone calls on the walk from the subway station to their apartment buildings, from the car to the mall. There is no reason why people do not return phone calls except for the power-play of not answering. It certainly does not save time. It is tragic that we have evolved a social custom that people need to email in order to ask for permission to make a phone call. Just call! Emailing to ask for permission to speak privileges the rage, Supremacy, and Trauma of withholding over the human responsibility to communicate and understand. I say, let’s get back to the first one hundred years of telephone culture, where people looked up each other’s numbers and called. The now “forbidden” ten-to-twenty-minute phone conversation could save the subsequent months or years of misplaced bad feeling. All this terrible loss, for nothing.

–Sarah Schulman, Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair

Quote of the day: FORGIVENESS

June 5, 2016


In Christianity, I believe, one is supposed to forgive others whether or not they know they did something wrong, whether or not they stop doing it. Jewish forgiveness is not this way. Maimonides wrote in the late twelfth century:

Repentance and Yom Kippur only atone for sins between Man and God. Sins between one man and his fellow are never forgiven until one pays up his debt and appeases his fellow. Even if he returns the money he owes he must still ask for forgiveness. He must appease and beseech until he is forgiven. If his fellow refuses to forgive him then he must bring a group of three of his friends (presumably the injured party’s friends) and go to him and ask him [for forgiveness]. If he still does not forgive him he must go to him a second and third time (with a different group of three people). If he still refuses to forgive him he may cease and the other is the sinner. If [the injured party] is his teacher (rebbe) he must go to him even a thousand times until he is forgiven. It is forbidden to be cruel and difficult to appease, rather, a person must be quick to forgive and difficult to anger and when the sinner asks for forgiveness he should forgive him willingly and wholeheartedly.

In other words, justice requires that the person causing the pain say that he caused it, take actions to undo it, and start an amends process. He must directly ask the harmed person for forgiveness three times. Like a lot of things in traditional Jewish culture, justice requires frank, truthful acknowledgement, recognition, and overt accountability on the part of the person who caused the pain. This is in strong contrast to a culture of passive forgiveness. “Father, they know not what they do,” Jesus said. The desire to “let things go and move on” because accountability is uncomfortable, troublesome, and difficult is very goyishe. This stark contrast proves, yet again, that the idea of “Judeo-Christian culture” is a fantasy. Jewish and Christian cultures are distinct, and they are motivated by very different value systems.

–Sarah Schulman, Israel/Palestine and the Queer International


May 21, 2012

No book has rocked my world in recent times more than Sarah Schulman’s “The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination.” Schulman borrows from urban housing development the concept of gentrification — in which complicated, racially and culturally mixed, financially marginal neighborhoods are eradicated and replaced by areas that are more bland, sterile, upscale, and/or culturally homogenous — to explore the impact of AIDS on the gay world and by extension on American life. The book lays out how difficult, messy, tragic truths have been replaced by falsehoods that are convenient or flattering to the dominant culture.

Schulman is the kind of brave writer and thinker who’s not afraid to exaggerate at the risk of going off the rails, so she does sometimes. But I respect her commitment to writing the way she wants others to. Early on, she lets readers know how she’d like us to consume “The Gentrification of the Mind”: “As a reader myself, I have always most enjoyed books that I can be interactive with. I like to fiercely agree with one idea — and fiercely disagree with the next. That kind of dynamic relationship requires a lot of ideas coming at once, from which the reader can pick and choose. Nothing bores me more than the one-long-slow-idea book, and I promise to never write one.” If you’re not arguing with her, you’re not reading the book right.

To read my review in its entirety on, click here.


Quote of the day: GENTRIFICATION

May 14, 2012

“The Gentrification of AIDS” (excerpt)

I am talking about the Plague…the years from 1981 to 1996, when there was a mass death experience of young people. Where folks my age watched in horror as our friends, their lovers, cultural heroes, influences, buddies, the people who witnessed our lives as we witnessed theirs, as these folks sickened and died consistently for fifteen years. Have you heard about it?

Amazingly, there is almost no conversation in public about these events or their consequences. Every gay person walking around who lived in New York or San Francisco in the 1980s and early 1990s is a survivor of devastation and carries with them the faces, fading names, and corpses of the otherwise forgotten dead. When you meet a queer New Yorker over the age of forty, this should be your first thought, just as entire male generations were assumed to have fought in World War II or Korea or Vietnam….

81,542 people have died of AIDS in New York City as of August 16, 2008. These people, our friends, are rarely mentioned. Their absence is not computed and the meaning of their loss is not considered.

2,752 people died in New York City on 9/11. These human beings have been highly individuated. The recognition of their loss and suffering is a national ritual, and the consequences of their aborted potential are assessed annually in public. They have been commemorated with memorials, organized international gestures, plaques on many fire and police stations, and a proposed new construction on the site of the World Trade Center, all designed to make their memory permanent. Money has been paid to some of their survivors. Their deaths were avenged with a brutal, bloody, and unjustified war against Iraq that has now caused at least 94,000 civilian deaths and 4,144 military deaths.

The deaths of these 81,542 New Yorkers, who were despised and abandoned, who did not have rights or representation, who died because of the neglect of their government and families, has been ignored. This gaping hole of silence has been filled by the deaths of 2,752 people murdered by outside forces. The disallowed grief of twenty years of AIDS deaths was replaced by ritualized and institutionalized mourning of the acceptable dead. In this way, 9/11 is the gentrification of AIDS. The replacement of deaths that don’t matter with deaths that do. It is the centerpiece of supremacy ideology, the idea that one person’s life is more important than another’s. That one person deserves rights that another does not deserve. That one person deserves representation that the other cannot be allowed to access. That one person’s death is negligible if he or she was poor a person of color, a homosexual living in a state of oppositional sexual disobedience, while another death matters because that person was a trader, cop, or office worker presumed to be performing the job of Capital.

— Sarah Schulman, The Gentrification of the Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination

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