Emily Dickinson, "As willing lid o’er weary eye" (1050)

...the evening would not be the evening, nor the day the day, if we did not labor and require rest.

Emily Dickinson, "As willing lid o’er weary eye" (1050)

About that Trump Town Hall

On the one hand, we shouldn't talk about the abusive and insurrectionist former President getting a massive platform on live television to spread lies and incite rage. Just to talk about it risks bolstering this disgraceful spectacle:

Neil Stenhouse observes that Trump's time on CNN was a "success." "[H]igh ratings, massive online engagement, & something to show Republican elites this is a new Republican-friendly CNN." Here I am, writing about this on the internet. I'm part of the problem, no?

On the other hand, ignoring the normalization of authoritarianism is not a good thing. A number of people from all walks of life spoke of their disgust for CNN on account of this behavior. They added to the "buzz," the "massive online engagement," but I don't think CNN or Trump "won" as a result. The moment is more complicated than it was before. Something is changing in America.

Before, we weren't as familiar with the playbook or who was empowered. Yeah, there was a flood of trash media agitating racist uncles. A few voices expressed their concern about this. They saw elements of one party become radicalized. But it didn't quite feel like a national conversation. I remember years ago seeing Chris Christie shut down someone who had questions about Barack Obama's citizenship. Even now, Fox News does not have a particularly large number of viewers.

But I believe two things are happening now. First, fascist terrorism is reaching new heights. Fascists are very open about their desire to take over the government and use it as a means to genocide. One of the mass killings that recently made headlines featured a Neo-Nazi shooter visiting his target to determine peak shopping times. Most of us can name, without straining, multiple atrocities done for the advance of white supremacy: the Tree of Life shooting, the El Paso shooting, etc. The American public is much more aware that the degeneracy of cable news isn't just rotting brains but aiding something far worse.

Second—and I could be wrong here, I'm guessing about a vibe—media literacy seems to be increasingly valued. Part of media literacy is shutting down conspiracy theories without wasting half a breath on them. Here's leon doing a PSA on how racist conspiracy theorizing makes you look like a giant idiot:

More to my point, here's Kat Abughazaleh tearing apart the logic behind the Trump town hall with an allegory about a tiger in a hospital:

A lot of people I run into think the media is this massive, mysterious force with godlike power. I'm tempted to dismiss their opinion as lazy thinking, because, well, their opinion is lazy thinking. However, a way to fix lazy thinking is to demonstrate how things actually work. Abughazaleh does this incredibly well. She shows how CNN executives don't just want ratings and buzz, but also want specifically conservative viewers to choose their channel. It's weird to note that CNN is locked into a more traditional idea of how things work. They do believe they are competing for viewers and therefore advertisers. They've got no idea that they're competing for radicals who really do want the network to burn down whether Don Lemon is there or not. Chris Licht is treating the overthrow of the US government as part of a game. He's not terribly distant from the most ignorant viewer of the garbage he puts on TV.

Emily Dickinson, "As willing lid o’er weary eye" (1050)

Dickinson gives us our day in simile: As willing lid o'er weary eye / The Evening on the Day leans. She doesn't just see night replacing day as nature slowly closing a giant, cosmic eye. She sees human beings as the heart of the matter. "[W]illing lid o'er weary eye" is more than personification. We exhaust ourselves and we need to sleep. Is this behavior of ours mirroring nature, or constituting it? In a way, the evening would not be the evening, nor the day the day, if we did not labor and require rest.

As willing lid o'er weary eye (1050)
Emily Dickinson

As willing lid o'er weary eye
The Evening on the Day leans
Till of all our nature's House
Remains but Balcony

With that in mind, "weary eye" comprehends all the different types of work. Work is not only an activity of humans; it defines the world. Because I'm job hunting, I readily recall being unemployed. That was an incredible amount of effort and stress. You couldn't possibly do enough to better yourself or present well, but the structure and resources needed are not always visible or accessible. There's a lot of flailing. A lot of doing things you believe correct but are actually useless. This little poem has me reflecting on how that period of not-work was so much work. Being unemployed is one of the worst jobs you can have.

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"[W]eary eye" also brings us to a strange but fundamental question. What does it mean to take in all these images? To be a creature dependent on our conceptions of the world? The "weary eye" makes the "Day." It takes in "nature's House." We're not living in a concrete, tactile world as much as the world we picture. Hard labor and the anxiety of wondering if you have anything to say are connected. Both are about getting a grip on reality, whether that entails a physical product or knowing your words describe an object accurately.

It is a relief when the sun goes down. The poem in full: As willing lid o'er weary eye /  The Evening on the Day leans /  Till of all our nature's House / Remains but Balcony. It is a relief to have only the "Balcony" left, to not have to be bombarded by images. The quiet romance of this lyric depends on appreciating that time. A time not to work, not to see everything, but just be on that balcony.