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The Imperial Citadel of Than Long in Hanoi is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its cultural, political, and architectural significance. Unlike other UNESCO World Heritage Sites I’ve been to, the citadel was kind of a disappointment to me. I thought I was gonna see much more than just one edifice of a bygone era.
Standing or sitting at the facade gave me an impression of its well-maintained domain. But, of course, I was wrong! Go up and you will find its outgrown sods.
I believe that there is more to this sole structure but they’re not showing it -yet? The brochure I had said about objects (coins, ceramics) that were excavated in 2004 but I didn’t see one.
Full Story at Keep Calm and Wander
Hanoi Gay Travel Resources
Extra! Extra! is back! It’s been a wild three weeks and sometimes the news becomes more than we can bear. But we’re back, and we’ll be moving to a biweekly schedule moving forward.
So much has happened, and in many ways it feels impossible for me to not look at everything through the lens of the insurrection in the U.S. Capitol. This is just one of those times where it’s as much as I can do to look at all the many ways America is, quite simply, falling apart right now. So this week’s Extra! Extra! is pretty much limited to American news: several angles of breaking down everything that’s horrifying about the insurrection, the Trump administration’s parting shots and how COVID continues to rage amid American incompetence. If there’s pressing international news we’ve missed please do share in the comments.
The Staggeringly Long List of Culpable Parties
Rachel: I agree with the overall thrust of this article, which is that the Republican party is beyond the point of no return in terms of its ability to publicly denounce the actions of its leaders that are objectionable even to their own stated values of country & party. I do, however, differ on the details of their analysis, which is that the failure of the GOP to join the Democrats en masse in impeaching Trump is “confirmation of how in thrall to Trump the Republican Party remains.” I don’t think the party or at this point almost any individual members of it are ‘in thrall to Trump;’ I don’t think Trump as an individual has had any real internal power for quite some time, even since before the election. All the internal sources say that Trump’s own staff has been avoiding him; now that he doesn’t have the carrot of future staffing in a second term to dangle, he has no leverage. The GOP is certainly in thrall, but it’s not to Trump; it’s to his base, and the critical mass of agitated white nationalists that he’s allied himself with. Multiple GOP members of congress said they received death threats related to their voting to impeach, something many progressive members of congress, especially representatives of color, are very familiar with. The GOP made a pretty literal deal with the devil to get the level of unchecked power they’ve had for so long, and the violent, ruthless groups they’ve made it with are open to turning on them at any time.
Natalie: This feels a bit like that Spider-Man meme, doesn’t it? The one where one Spider-Man is pointing at the other Spider-Man. Except here, it’s one set of accomplices to the insurrection is pointing fingers at another set of accomplices to the insurrection. After all, two Capitol police officers have already been suspended and many more are under investigation for their actions on Jan. 6th. This is a case of pot, meet kettle, if I’ve ever heard one.
That said: there seems to be prima facie evidence, at least, that some members of Congress aided the insurrectionists. A few of those arrested have pointed the finger at three members who helped organize the rally: Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar of Arizona and Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama. Both Biggs and Brooks have denied those allegations. The Buzzfeed piece notes allegations from Rep. Mikie Sherrill that some of her Republican colleagues led “reconnaissance” tours on the day before the insurrection and we know that Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado used her twitter feed during the insurrection to update her QAnon followers on the Speaker’s whereabouts.
None of it is conclusive yet — not by a long shot — but there’s a lot of smoke and where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.
Natalie: It’s unsurprising to me that the Squad — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib — have been as clear-eyed about the danger the insurrectionists — and those who enabled them — posed to the members of Congress. Since being labeled enemies of the far right, they have had to hire additional security and work under constant threat. They know danger when they see it.
What’s increasingly distressing — aside from the simple fact that these women are subjected to this treatment in the first place — is that the threat is coming from inside the House (literally). It’s not just the insurrectionists climbing through shattered windows that these members have to be scared of, it’s their fellow members of Congress. Frightening.
Himani: I knew a woman in college, once, who would talk idyllically of joining the army, going to Iraq and shooting up a lot of people (this was the final years of W. Bush, for context). As the only brown Asian person in our department, I was always extremely disturbed by this sentiment expressed by one of the few people who actually talked to me and otherwise treated me decently (which is really more than I can say for most of the other students or my professors in my department, but I digress). I think I’m going to upset a lot of people when I say that I’ve always felt it takes a certain amount of dehumanizing of other people to be part of military operations knowing that your job will entail going to a different part of the world you don’t actually know anything about and then coming up with justifications for murdering them. And then the leaks started coming out about a fraction of the atrocities committed by U.S. military personnel in Iraq, and another fellow student in my department who was formerly part of the military very much took the attitude of “yea, that’s not great that this was leaked” as opposed to “it is horrifying that U.S. committed these acts of torture and debasement.” So imagine my surprise at reading that there’s a problem of extremism within the U.S. military and among veterans and that it’s been largely ignored and dismissed.
And as for the police, well — there really isn’t any more to say about that. The problem of white supremacy having a stronghold over police organizations is so well-established and has been reported on so, so many times that really I think it came as a surprise to no one when a video was posted showing Capitol police officers practically holding the door open for the heavily armed and violent mob.
In an interview linked further down, a Sri Lankan writer says “And, the violence of your culture, which has always been projected outward, is now falling in.” I’ve been thinking about this a lot because he is completely correct. See, this is the slippery slope of justifying all those civilian deaths abroad and all those Black lives cut short at the hands of law enforcement and their accomplices. The definition of who can hold power, who is human, — simply who is allowed to live, becomes infinitely narrower, and it’s only a matter of time before you, too, end up on that list of people it’s better to just kill rather than to reason through disagreements with. Which, as the insurrectionists are being prosecuted, it’s become undeniable that is exactly what they were there to do.
Natalie: So, I come to the table with a bit of a different perspective on military service than Himani…in part because so much of my family’s served and my existence literally would not have been possible without it…but we’ll save that conversation for another day.
But this does harken back to something I’ve talked about in EE before: a 2009 report called “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment”, released by Obama’s Department of Homeland Security.
Republicans lost their shit about it, Democrats folded like cheap suits and the report was shelved…but now it feels like something we should’ve listened to, right?
Natalie: I thought it was interesting that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is certainly no friend of the president, spoke out in defense of him keeping his social media accounts. Via a spokesman, she called Trump’s removal from Twitter “problematic.” France’s Finance Minister chimed in too, saying, “The regulation of the digital world cannot be done by the digital oligarchy.”
I understand the concern about a “digital oligarchy” and, certainly, that’s something I’d want to guard against…but the thing with Trump and other right-wing users that have seen their accounts banned in the last week: TWITTER AND FACEBOOK ARE PRIVATE ENTITIES — THERE’S NO FREE SPEECH GUARANTEE HERE — AND THEY’VE ALLOWED TRUMP TO VIOLATE THEIR TERMS OF SERVICE FOR YEARS.
Sorry, I’m a little mad about that.
Himani: In some ways, this particular bit of news and all the follow up with Amazon Web Services finally dropping Parler and Twitter blocking several QAnon Accounts has angered me far, far more than pretty much any other thing I’ve read. Plain and simple, this is too little, far too late.These are empty gestures now as everyone is trying to distance themselves from the wreckage they had a hand in creating. And the emptiness of those gestures becomes increasingly apparent as other sources show how Capitol protesters are still able to fundraise through… Amazon and, completely unsurprisingly, Paypal.
And yet somehow, amazingly, in spite of everything, Republicans continue to whine about “infringement” on their First Amendment rights.
Per Natalie’s comments above about the response from European leaders, a lot of people want to act like this is going to herald in a new era of censorship on the internet. But the internet is already censored. It’s just not censored for straight, white, cis people who hold jobs we haven’t demonized.
Natalie: In my home state of North Carolina, the governor has mobilized 350 National Guard members to assist law enforcement in Raleigh, where Inauguration Day protests are expected, and sent another 200 headed to Washington, D.C. to support the federal efforts. These are 550 national guardsmen that could be spending their time helping the state effectively distribute the COVID vaccine to North Carolinians who qualify for it.
The lies and incompetence of this current administration continues to negatively impact us all.
And… They’re Still in Power
Natalie: They’re going to try to do so much damage over the next few days, just because they can.
Natalie: Five words: Get. Rid. Of. The. Filibuster.
The Hypocrisy, It Burns
Himani: And in his final sweep, Pompeo is hard at work to do as much irrevocable damage to non-white people around the world as he can. These actions would be egregious in any context, but they’re particularly hard to bear witness to right now, given that terrorists raided the U.S. Capitol last week with the intent of killing countless numbers of people but hey they aren’t really “terrorists” because they’re not brown, right?
As William Saletan wrote for Slate this week, “Republicans are tough on terrorism until the terrorists are Republicans.”
Natalie: Since you brought up Pompeo, I couldn’t help but flag this story about him packing up his ball and going home after Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn called Pompeo’s boss “a criminal, a political pyromaniac who should be sent to criminal court.”
The View from Outside: “A First World Shithole Country”
Himani: Patrick Gathara spares no words for how badly American democracy has failed and he is absolutely, undeniably correct. As he writes: “[America’s] election system was an anachronistic mess long before the storming of the Capitol. Its imperial presidency is still the stuff of third world nightmares and its sycophantic legislature is reminiscent of our daytime realities. It may have more stuff and bigger guns, but at heart the west is simply a richer version of the rest.”
Himani: This is probably the best perspective I have read on the events that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol last week. For me, as I was in some amount of denial and numbness to the news that was coming in, reading this interview with Sri Lankan writer and podcaster Indi Samarajiva really communicated the severity of the situation in the U.S. right now, and his palpable frustration with American exceptionalism is something I can deeply relate to. But perhaps the most poignant part of the interview, for me, was this observation:
“You guys have been inflicting all of this trauma on the world and now the chickens have, to a large degree, come home to roost. … I don’t mean that the rancor is coming home to roost. I mean, that’s sort of the militarization of your society, the violence of your society. A lot of the people who would have attacked your Congress, they might have been serving in Afghanistan or Iraq, causing God knows what problems to the people there. The militarization has come to your borders. Your militarization at the edges of your society has come home to roost. And the violence of your culture, which has always been projected outward, is now falling in.”
Nevertheless, They’re STILL Contesting Election Results…
Oh, And Stay Tuned for Further Disenfranchisement Out of Wisconsin
There Is No More Denying Disparities in Policing
THREAD: powerful people want you to think this is a serious investigation into and pursuit of accountability for the capitol mob. it’s not. (1) https://t.co/zDHjYuTyw3
— Alec Karakatsanis (@equalityAlec) January 14, 2021
Rachel: This lawsuit is an unprecedented step, the first time in history a state AG has sued a police department; AG James’ statement is pretty scathing: “There was ample ability and opportunity for the city and N.Y.P.D. leadership to make important changes to the way that officers interact with peaceful protesters, but time and time again, they did not… They did not train, they did not supervise, they did not stop officers who engaged in this misconduct. …And they did not discipline them either. Instead, they failed the people of the City of New York.”
However, at the same time, it’s hard not to feel like in material terms, this isn’t enough. From the NYT: “If Ms. James is successful, a monitor would join another already keeping watch over how the city implements changes to its stop-and-frisk policy. In 2013, a federal judge appointed a monitor after finding that officers targeted and stopped Black and Hispanic people without sufficient legal reason in violation of their civil rights.”
So, even if this lawsuit is granted, the outcome is… a monitor? In addition to the already existing monitor, which clearly hasn’t worked? In addition to being ineffectual, a new monitor would be one more avenue through which money and resources are actually being routed into policing, and another office that’s invested in the continued existence of police (and in fact, their misconduct) so it can keep funding. This isn’t a dig at AG James’s office; it’s just a reflection of how limited the options are in terms of ‘reforming’ this institution.
Things That Happened Before the Insurrection That Already Laid This Bare
Oh, And We’re Still in a Pandemic
And Other Areas America Is Struggling…
Things Are Really Grim Right Now, But Here’s a Little Uplifting News
Rachel: Both this news and the protests in Poland have been so affirming and uplifting to me; very moved and heartened now and always by the power of the people working together to change things!
Four days after my mom’s funeral and eleven after her death, I went to my very first pride parade. I spent the night with one of my best friends (who is also queer) to have a mini getaway from all the turmoil. The day of the parade, we spent the morning and early afternoon getting ready and choosing our outfits, getting ready with the rest of our queer friends over FaceTime. My friend’s mom dropped us off a couple blocks away from the actual parade. We piled out of the car and poured into the streets with the rest of the crowd, instantly swept into the pulsating party. Queer men were wearing crop tops and shorts while holding hands with their partners. Queer women strolled across the street, limbs interwoven and eyes gazing upon their partners lovingly. Large groups of friends chatted excitedly. My ears were happily set abuzz as I overheard non-binary and gender non-conforming people correcting or introducing others to their pronouns, and receiving kind responses. As soon as I set foot in the parade, multiple rainbow-colored beads were adorned across my neck. A few moments later, I was pulled into a warm embrace of free hugs from volunteers, the first of many which were set up all along the festivities.
I walked around downtown staring in awe at a gazillion rainbow flags and the most beautiful and most queer faces I’d ever laid eyes on. A mix of many emotions flushed through my mind — relaxed, energized, comfortable, overwhelmed, safe, fun, celebratory, defiant, and most of all affirmed. I was in the midst of thousands of people and I wasn’t thinking about whether they were going to accept me for who I was. It was like being around a group of friends that I haven’t gotten to know yet. My friend and I made our way to the main stage as the vocal stylings of various pop stars their way into my eardrums. The two of us ended up standing next to a group of butch and stud lesbians that danced with my friends and I, one of which I cheered on as she got twerked on by my friend. We backed away from the main stage, and a group of drag queens flashed me a reassuring smile and head nod. As the sun dimmed and the moon began to show its face, we saw old classmates and friends who congratulated me on this milestone. We closed out the night, by grabbing some turkey legs from one of the various food trucks available. As we walked back and waited for my mom’s friend, my eyes found their way to a group of friends dressed up in BDSM attire. My eyes made their way up to the overhanging street sign which read, “Stonewall.” I was home.
My mom passed away in August of 2019. Two months after my high school graduation; one month before my nineteenth birthday; two weeks before I began my first semester of college, four days before that pride parade. She had stage two breast cancer, but was cancer-free thanks to a double mastectomy. Her doctors had suggested preventative chemo as a precautionary measure. My mom wasn’t feeling very well one morning and called in sick to work. A couple of hours later on her way back to bed she laid down on the floor. ‘’I don’t know what’s going on with me today, sweetie.’’ She asked me to let her lay down on her floor for a few minutes before helping her back into bed. I thought the request was odd, but obeyed. I went to go help her up five minutes later and noticed she was shaking uncontrollably, mouth open, unable to speak, and her eyes bleeding and fixated on me. I called 911 and started to do compressions. 45 minutes later, when the paramedics came down the steps of my house to tell me that despite their best efforts, my mom had passed away, I felt as though that my entire world was crashing down at lightning speed. I had no parents left. My dad had passed away ten years earlier. 3827 days. Or ten years, five months, 25 days apart. But who’s counting.
I was no longer anyone’s baby girl. No one’s pumpkin. As my mom drew her last breath, my safety net exited through her lungs, and my sense of security vanished with the very last rise and fall of her chest. My mother took our language. Our inside jokes. Our songs. Stories and anecdotes about my adolescent and her own that became running gags for years to come. We built a language together. A special rhythm with its own ebbs and flows. A rhythm that showed me a reflection of a young woman who was capable and strong. I feel hollow in her absence. Without the person that brought me into this world, I do not know if I have a place in it. No one will ever love me unconditionally and only ask for my own happiness in return. I will never put that pure sparkle in anyone’s eye again.
When you lose a parent in your teens, you immediately imagine all the milestones you’ll hit without them: graduation, a first job, first apartment or house, a wedding. Every day since the day my parents died, I am one day further away from them. It enrages me that I will have to recycle my childhood and teenage years like a broken record for the rest of my life in order to have my parents present in my life. Most people are saddened by the ending of their adolescence because adulthood brings responsibility. I am sad because that is where my parents are frozen for eternity. On the bright side, I’m also one day closer to my most authentic and most queer self. I could finally consider getting the bisexual bob™. But even that’s a double double edged sword. I started to realize that at some point, as years of my life went on… my parents might not even recognize me anymore, because of who I’d become.
I am queer. I identify as both bisexual and pansexual. This is something that I’ve always known about myself since the age of five, thanks to a friend from kindergarten named Jasmine who I obsessively slept next to during nap time and played with during recess — what I realize now was a crush — to the beautiful dentist assistants from my dentist office that made my heart palpate in my chest. Plus, of course, my very first and most beloved celebrity crush… Tessa Thompson, whom I first fell in love with while watching her play a badass 1930’s masculine-of-center lesbian on an episode of Cold Case.
In the years to follow, there would a cycle of taking “Am I gay or bisexual” quizzes, reading Autostraddle, and watching The L Word and Pariah on illegal sites before quickly deleting my search history.
I would discuss my opinion on topics concerning the LGBT community with my mom but always making sure to distinguish myself as an ally. She would often say that I was “changing her mind about gay people” and seemed to actually be unlearning her homophobia and transphobia.
My mom and I were inseparable from the moment I was born. That only intensified after my dad’s death. We did almost everything together, FaceTiming each other throughout the day when we were separated during work and school, having heartfelt discussions about our respective days and knowing that neither of us would be judgmental. We shared clothes, cooked together, had dance parties to my curated playlist as we drove during road trips or to the grocery store. She had this infectious playfulness, style, and spunk that drew everyone to her. I always knew that my mom and our home was a consistent safety net where I could let my burdens go and be myself.
But I will never know what her stance would’ve been had it been her own daughter. So often we hear stories about struggling to be queer because immediate family is unaccepting, especially in communities of color. So much about blackness across the diaspora, but especially for us as African-Americans, is about community. Being in close contact or proximity with family members other just your nuclear family, having aunties and uncles that aren’t blood relation, coming together and screaming at the top of our lungs at graduations. The flip side of that close-knit community is that when you’re queer, you’re often collectively discarded. The pain is just as difficult when you’ll never truly know what the outcome would be had they known.
I often have dreams about reuniting with my parents and bringing them up to speed with what has gone on in my life. My mom welcomes me with open arms and holds me close with one of her warm and maternal hugs. She coos, ‘’There’s my baby girl.’’ My dad, in his true fashion, is more laid back but just as excited to see me, quietly smiling and nodding before pulling me in for a hug of his own. I tell them about my writing, my friends, and therapy. They smile proudly and are engrossed in everything I have to say. Then I bring up or introduce them to a non-cishet male partner and their expressions visibly morph into disappointment. In other dreams, they walk right past me and don’t recognize me at all. I wake up each time discouraged and disoriented. On top of the expected layer of grief that washes over me, there’s an extra layer that is inevitable as a queer person: disguising your true self or burying any reminiscence of self for acceptance, and having the experiences of self-discovery customary to cishet teenagers as a young adult.
Those feelings are ever-present. At that pride parade, I felt relaxed and affirmed walking the streets with my queer friends, as I wore my blue, purple, and pink beads, watched a beautiful group of butches and drag queens in awe as they smiled at me, a baby gay, knowing. It hit me, as I watched a vogue competition on the main stage of the parade. How would my parents feel right now if they knew I was here? Would they come to accept it in time? My exuberance faded. In that moment I felt the happiest I’d honestly ever been, and neither of them would ever experience this with me. They not only lost the opportunity to see me into adulthood, but to see me in my totality.
This knot in my stomach came again as I finally attended a meeting for my college’s pride alliance club. I was welcomed in and accepted instantly; everyone shared their pronouns openly. There was no judgement. I hung out with them after the club meeting ended. We exchanged social handles and phone numbers. As I ordered an Uber home, I felt salty tears running down my cheeks. I was standing in the same part of campus that I walked with my mom a couple of months earlier as she helped me sign up for classes. Where she had shared her excitement about watching me embark on this next chapter. Little did she know what this next chapter would include.
Two hundred and four days after my mom’s death, I met with the program associate of my local pride organization. As we sat in a cafe, I opened up to her about realizing I was not straight at five, consuming queer media in secret, and now finely trying to venture out to create chosen family and queer community after my parents (particularly my mothers) passing. I discussed my fears about moving through the world as an out black queer person means. We locked eyes. She listened to me intently; I asked her about her journey. She explained that like me, she at one point feared being out, but also like me, began to explore in her freshman year of college. She understood the struggles I was facing as a black queer femme, ressurred me that I would find my tribe, and that she’d be there along the way.
A couple of days later, I spoke about the meeting with my wellness coach, another black queer femme. She echoed the same excitement, told me how proud she was for taking the leap to find queer activites. As looked into her eyes and thought about all the black queer femmes I’d connected with in the wake of this tragedy, I felt genuine love and support, acknowledgement and acceptance for all that I am. That moment brought one of my favorite Alice Walker quotes to mind: ‘’I think mothers and daughters are meant to give birth to each other, over and over; that is why our challenges to each other are so fierce; that is why, when love and trust have not been too badly blemished or destroyed, the teaching and learning one from the other is so indelible and bittersweet. We daughters must risk losing the only love we instinctively feel we can’t live without in order to be who we are, and I am convinced this sends a message to our mothers to break their own chains, though they may be anchored in prehistory and attached to their own great grandmothers’ hearts.’’
I have slowly started to build a new home. I will forever long for and crave the one I lost, but I must find the strength within myself to be myself, without longing for a definitive answer from the person I most want to make proud, because she has left this realm. I have to find some kind of comfort in this life without either of them, that will involve building a queer future and striving for a better world. A queer world for myself and my fellow black and brown queer people. Fighting for health care, anti-policing, housing, mutual aid, labor with dignity, and resisting state sanctioned violence. Speaking out against the systems that harm and kill queer Black people, people of color, and the most vulnerable in our community. While I hope to live a life alongside a chosen family, have a partner (that may not be a cishet man), engrave tattoos and piercings on my body that they may have not understood, and make art that may have confused them. It will be a world that won’t involve my parents. At some point, I will be okay with that.