Back and Forth with The Back Row Manifesto

As you might imagine, us left-leaning bloggers all hang out, wearing our silk smoking jackets and puffing on pipes while swirling snifters of brandy, discussing Marcuse, and listening to Gang of Four. (Secret handshake optional.)

Among that club, one of my very great friends, Tom Hall, writes the trenchant blog The Back Row Manifesto. Last week in his post “Trauma” (January 19), he called for a public acknowledgment of our shared national trauma, writing:

The battle for how we remember, process, understand, and overcome the trauma of Trumpism will define how we triumph over it. The first and most crucial step in the formalization of post-traumatic collective memory is to invest in transparency and truth.

No truer words.

That call also included a critique of Biden on that point:

Transparency begins with Joe Biden, and yet his calls for unity and the focus on his agenda has frustratingly ignored the lingering impact of the trauma of the Trumpist years. Biden has laughed off Trump and ignored every ridiculous indignity, instead focusing on building his own transition process with seriousness and determination…..I’m not sure he understands how deeply the nation has been injured. We need to be heard, to be understood, and to share in the validation and legitimization of our experience….

Tom also raised fears the Biden will “appease a movement hell-bent on establishing authoritarian, anti-democratic power in the hands of Trumpist Republicans,” and that he seems to share the Trumpist call to “put the past aside, to forget and move on.”

While I am in agreement with the main point about the need for reckoning, I had problems with this preemptive critique. I would not say that Biden has failed to understand or acknowledge the nation’s wounds, nor do I think he is pursuing a policy of appeasement, or asking us to forget the past and move on — even though there are strong forces that would like him to do so. In any event, it’s far too early to render that verdict.

But I do think he’s walking a tightrope.

No one is more open-minded and ready to have a dialogue than Tom, so I wanted to discuss it with him. But rather than confine our conversation to the bloggers’…

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Robert Edwards / The King's Necktie

Writer, filmmaker, and veteran — blogging at The King’s Necktie @TheKingsNecktie