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Week 2/16/20

PUBLISHED: February 24, 2020

In an effort to better acquaint you, the reader, with the VQR staff, members of our team will share excerpts from our personal reading—The Best 200 Words I Read All Week. From fact to fiction, from comedic to tragic, we hope you find as much to admire in these selections as we do. 


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In 2020, 100 years after the 19th Amendment was passed, Iowa’s mothers are still effectively disenfranchised from caucusing.

Ana Escalante McClain wants to caucus, but bedtime for baby Aldo, who is 18 months, is 7:30pm and the caucuses start at 7. McClain is a small business owner and getting her baby to bed on time is important if she wants to sleep. She does have family in town, but her family is also caucusing. The solution she’s settled on for now is hiring a friend who can’t caucus because she’s an immigrant here on a green card. But it’s an expense not everyone can afford. Claire Davis plans to strap her baby into the carrier, bring a tablet for the four-year-old and get to caucusing. A lot of moms are bootstrapping it, bringing their kids with snacks, toys, games, and iPads and hoping for the best.

There are other issues too. A caucus is not a private vote. Women in politically divided marriages or in abusive situations may not feel safe casting a vote that will make their lives harder at home.

Art Director Jenn Boggs
Excerpt from “How Do You Caucus With a Baby?” in the Gazette


I think many positions assume that nonviolence involves inhabiting the peaceful region of the soul, where you are supposed to rid yourself of violent feelings or wishes or fantasy. But what interests me is cultivating aggression into forms of conduct that can be effective without being destructive.

How do you define the boundary of what is violence?


The physical blow cannot be the only model for thinking about what violence is. Anything that jeopardizes the lives of others through explicit policy or through negligence—and that would include all kinds of public policies or state policies—are practices of institutional or systemic violence. Prisons are the most persistent form of systemic violence regularly accepted as a necessary reality. We can think about contemporary borders and detention centers as clear institutions of violence. These violent institutions claim that they are seeking to make society less violent, or that borders keep violent people out. We have to be careful in thinking about how “violence” is used in these kinds of justifications. Once those targeted with violence are identified with violence, then violent institutions can say, “The violence is over there, not here,” and inflict injury as they wish.

People in the world have every reason to be in a state of total rage. What we do with that rage together is important. Rage can be crafted—it’s sort of an art form of politics. The significance of nonviolence is not to be found in our most pacific moments but precisely when revenge makes perfect sense.

Executive Editor Allison Wright
Excerpt from “Judith Butler Wants Us to Reshape Our Rage” in the New Yorker


Yale tried not to look at the clock above the counter. Despite the snow, despite Nora’s obstructive family: If this didn’t happen today, it would be his failure, his embarrassment. It was a magnification of how he felt when he was the one to pick the movie out of the listings: Although he couldn’t control the action on the screen, he was the one who’d set it in motion, and if anyone had a bad time, it was because of him. Instead of simply watching the movie, he’d watch it through Charlie’s eyes, glancing over for the reaction, listening for laughter. And right now he wanted Bill Lindsey thrilled. He wanted to give Roman the experience of a lifetime. He wanted these curious bank tellers to keep watching, with fascination, as art history was made.

Social Media Intern Dan Goff
Excerpt from The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai


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