Chauncey DeVega called me up a few weeks ago to talk about the Newtown murders, and in particular about the deep historical connection between white masculinity and firearms ownership. We also talked about why Americans can have very different perceptions of physical safety, their own rights, and American history itself. In any case, you can eavesdrop on our conversation: it’s available here at We Are Respectable Negroes and at the Daily Kos as well. You can also access the interview here directly and either listen to it or download the mp3. As you will hear, Chauncey is a very smart guy, and I struggled to keep up with him intellectually. I had a great time, and will eagerly listen to all of the interviews he’s podcasting on his blog.
In other news: Gerda Lerner, the pathbreaking women’s historian, died yesterday at age 92 (h/t to cgeye on the blog and Indyanna via a private e-mail for tipping me off.) I for one am glad that her connection to Communism is right there on page 1 of her New York Times obituary–Betty Friedan might be rolling over in her grave about the prominent discussion of the CP, but can’t we be okay already with the truth of the historical connections between Communism and other mid-twentieth century Progressive movements like Civil Rights and feminism? Like most people born in the 1960s, the Cold War shaped my childhood but I outgrew it, just like my big hair, my Duran Duran albums, and other relics of the 1980s, thank goodness.
Lerner wrote a fascinating and perceptive essay that I blogged about a few years back on the subject of aging and death–here’s a link. What a fascinating life–she didn’t get her Ph.D. in history until she was in her mid-40s, after escaping Nazi Austria as a Jewish teenager, making her way to the U.S., marrying a fellow communist, moving to Hollywood, working as a political activist, enduring her husband’s blacklisting, and writing a novel. Only then did she decide to become a historian, and to work to make women’s history a professionally sanctioned field.
As I write, it looks like Tenured Radical is probably (finally!) wrapping up her 8 p.m. Presidential plenary session tonight at the opening of the American Historical Association’s annual meeting on the topic of “The Public Practice of History in and For a Digital Age.” Apparently Notorious Ph.D., Girl Scholar is there this year too, as is Jonathan Rees of More or Less Bunk, which almost makes me regret not being there. But then, I have to confess that there are few musical genres I like less than Dixieland jazz. (I also hate Klezmer music–it must be all of those damned wailing clarinets, a key irritation in both genres. I’d rather wake up to the sounds of fighting alleycats.) I used to live in a town that played jazz music overnight on the local NPR station, and when my alarm clock went off at 5 a.m. in the dark it was almost invariably blaring Dixieland jazz, thus answering the question, “what’s worse than having to wake up at 5 a.m. in the dark?”