Welcome to Issue 11.4 of Digestable, your daily mouthful of real things happening in the world, minus alarmist pandemic news.
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Don’t forget to send in your questions for the debut of Caro’s Advice Column, which will be in your inboxes tomorrow. To submit, email email@example.com by noon today with the subject header "Dear Caro" and write your question in the body of the email.
Today’s news, fermented:
I’ve been thinking about etymology lately. Everyone, as a friend and I discussed recently, is consumed with the idea that one of the roots of ‘economy’ is ‘home.’ But today the roots of ‘apocalypse’ are on my mind.
This word, which has increasingly felt like the right word for these times, comes from Greek, and can be translated as ‘uncover’ or ‘reveal.’
Yesterday, protests in Minneapolis escalated further; buildings were burned, and someone was shot. One person explained that if people (read: people in power who benefit from upholding white supremacy) would only listen when a problem comes to their door, here it was, knocking on their doors.
This is one kind of revealing: our cities, long marked by zoning laws that segregated neighborhoods by racial identity and then by decay, can be peaceful for some and deadly for others. Another person on the scene said, “The whole city can burn down. They should all be out here protesting, not just people who care about black lives. Everybody. Burn it down. Make them pay. Maybe then they’ll understand.”
This too is revealing. While we may seek out justice for each individual Black person killed by white supremacist violence, this doesn’t set a precedent for future instances of violence, as one would hope. It keeps happening, no matter the consequences to the aggressors. That person was saying what so many of us are thinking: we cannot fix this system anymore—it is too broken.
Similarly, there are questions about if we can fix other systems that keep us alive, or don’t. In the revelation brought about by the pandemic, it has become clear that while some people are able to expect that water and energy are their right, others have not just continued to struggle to access these rights, but lost them entirely under new economic pressure.
In both cases, we need public service. For water and electricity, we need public services for the planet, as Johanna Bozuwa writes. And it seems that in the realm of seeking and maintaining justice, we need public servants for the people. My favorite chant at protests against police is, “Who do you serve? Who do you protect?”
I firmly believe in the abolition of law and order policing; furthermore, have any police departments proven they can protect people and property (which is their mandate) without causing irreparable damage to other people? I’d like to update my proposal from yesterday (that we replace police with trained cockatoos). If we had public servants making sure that people were safe, instead of a state-funded armed militia, we might have a chance of serving and protecting those who need and deserve this service.
Today’s last revelation is on the nature of public service and public good. While I, child of public servants, proud student of public institutions, once believed, and still want to to believe, that public = everyone, this is just not the case. As we saw earlier this week, this issue extends to public parks, which are so unquestionably good for mental and physical health, ecosystem wellness, gathering at distance, the list goes on.
But if Black people, particularly Black men, are seen as a threat, this potential follows them to public spaces, as it followed Christian Cooper to Central Park.
There’s been plenty of discussion about how Christian denies so many stereotypes of Black Americans; for one, he has a degree from Harvard, and for another, he’s a birder. J. Drew Lanham has written about birding while Black; you should read his words.
Brentin Mock writes that even Christian’s Ivy League Degree and membership in the Audubon Society do him no good as a Black man in public space.
“These titles have no sentinel function for black people if they have no reasonable expectation of equal protection under the law. With just one sentence and a phone, Amy Cooper was able to unfurl a whole U.S. history of police—and police wannabes —apprehending, hunting, and killing black people in open parks and streets to remind him that this was a space that he was not entitled to be in, unlike herself. The park rules? Those were for the birds.”
And there is the letdown: that the public good of parks is for some species, and people, but not others.
Here are some sweet birds. May we build a world in which we are all as free to move around space and expect kindness as these puffins.
Brought to you by the superb Latifah Azlan.
I’m not quite sure how many of my readers are interested and up to date on royal gossip, specifically gossip from the British Royal Family. Megxit/Sussexit is obviously one of the biggest stories of the year (sidenote: I absolutely cannot BELIEVE that this only happened in January of this year) but there’s lots, lots more where that came from – and the latest Tatler cover story on Duchess Kate promises to pack a lot of goss punch.
This week, the magazine Tatler dropped a cover story about the Duchess of Cambridge titled “Catherine the Great,” which was ostensibly commissioned as a puff piece on the Duchess. I say ostensibly because what dropped was not-as-friendly, to say the least. Considering that Kate is good friends with several editors and journalists over at Tatler, the tidbits shared in this story threw lots of shade on the Duchess. There’s a lot of talk on how Kate doesn’t want to work and feels “trapped” by her workload post-Sussexit, on her “ruthless survival instinct,” and on her mother Carole’s role behind the scenes. And if you’ve spent any time following BRF goss, these are alll odd things to focus on given that they are frequent criticisms of the Duchess and a point of comparison for the Cambridge and Sussex families.
Well here’s where it gets interesting! Shortly after the article dropped, a source from Kensington Palace promptly ran to the Mail to deny the claims made in the story… followed by a rebuttal from Tatler themselves stating that Kensington Palace knew about the story months ago and were asked to work together on it. WOW WOW WOW. Here’s the Mail’s rebuttal if you’re interested.
So what happened? There are several theories floating around as to how this puff piece quickly turned into a whole debacle. There’s the usual “Meghan Markle was behind this!” from the anti-Sussex crowd, which is implausible given that the piece also trashes Meg. Here’s a popular theory floating around: what if Rose Hanbury and the Turnip Toff are behind this disaster, either knowingly or unknowingly? A little refresher on this scandal for those who are not in the know but I must say this is my favorite theory of the bunch. High society drama interlacing itself into one another to derail a vanity piece about the future Queen of England – classy and sophisticated goss for the middle of the week. I’ll take it.